THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; NOVEMBER 7, 2018
CAN THE GATORS PREVENT A FREEFALL?
Considering the way the Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) have lost their last two games, it’s somewhat of a surprise they only dropped to #15 when the second College Football Playoff Poll came out Tuesday night. Florida was ranked #9 when the first poll came out last week but when the Gators were virtual no shows in every phase of the game in a 38-17 blowout loss to Missouri a much larger tumble was expected. Are the Gators worthy of a #15 ranking? Can they reverse course from what they’ve shown in losing to Georgia and Missouri to stop a potential freefall and finish the regular season at a very respectable 9-3?
This is a week when most eyes will be on the quarterback situation, and rightly so since Dan Mullen is pondering a change in the tenth week of the season, but as poorly as Feleipe Franks played in those last two games, the defense didn’t do the Gators many favors. They showed what they’re capable of doing when they made one of the great goal line stands you’ll ever see against Georgia, but since that shining moment it seems the wheels have come off the defense.
Take a look at the numbers in the losses to Georgia and Missouri.
Rushing defense: Georgia ran for 189 yards (4.61 per carry) and one TD; Missouri ran for 221 (5.26 per carry) and two TDs.
Pass defense: Georgia was 17-24 for 240 yards and three TDs; Missouri was 24-32 for 250 yards and three TDs. Florida had zero interceptions in the two games.
Sacks: The Gators got one sack in each game
Florida gave up 74 points, scored only 34, gave up 410 rushing yards (three rushing TDs) and 490 passing yards (six touchdowns). For all practical purposes, the Gators got zero in the way of pressure on the quarterback.
If the offensive line will show up and block somebody, the Gators can win Saturday against South Carolina whether Franks gets another start or Mullen elects to turn the team over to Kyle Trask. Not all the offensive problems begin and end with the quarterback. Some of the finger pointing for stagnation on that side of the ball has to go toward an offensive line that hasn’t delivered whether in the running game or in pass protection. If they don’t get the job done Saturday, it won’t matter who’s at QB.
Even with average quarterback play, the Gators are capable of beating South Carolina if the defense can revert back to the team that totally shut down Mississippi State in Starkville. In that game, the Gators held the Bulldogs to 104 rushing yards and just 98 through the air. A week later, the Gators got the job done against LSU, picking off two passes and keeping the Tigers out of the end zone (UF gave up one TD and four field goals).
To beat the Gamecocks, the Gators first have to stuff the run (South Carolina averages only 161.63 yards per game rushing) to make Jake Bentley one-dimensional. Bentley is at his best when the running game is enough of a threat that play action works. In the last three games – a 3-point loss to the Aggies and come from behind wins over Tennessee and Ole Miss – he’s thrown six TDPs while being picked just twice.
The Gators will also have to find a way to dial up pressure that’s been missing since combining for 11 sacks in the wins over Mississippi State and LSU. Since then, Florida has managed only three sacks in three games, only one of those from Jachai Polite, who was practically unblockable in the first seven games of the season. The Gamecocks have protected well, allowing only 12 sacks in eight games so the Gators are going to have to figure out a way to bring the heat or else Bentley is capable of picking them apart.
This is a very winnable game for the Gators even with a change at QB, but not if the offensive line and defense don’t play at a much higher level than we’ve seen the last two weeks. A freefall is possible but certainly preventable.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF POLL
1. Alabama 9-0
2. Clemson 9-0
3. Notre Dame 9-0
4. Michigan 8-1
5. Georgia 8-1
6. Oklahoma 8-1
7. LSU 7-2
8. Washington State 8-1
9. West Virginia 7-1
10. Ohio State 8-1
11. Kentucky 7-2
12. UCF 8-0
13. Syracuse 7-2
14. North Carolina State 6-2
15. Florida 6-3
16. Mississippi State 6-3
17. Boston College 7-2
18. Michigan State 6-3
19. Texas 6-3
20. Penn State 6-3
21. Iowa 6-3
22. Iowa State 5-3
23. Fresno State 8-1
24. Auburn 6-3
25. Washington 7-3
BAD OPENING NIGHT FOR FLORIDA HOOPS
Call what happened to Florida’s basketball team Tuesday night a whole lot of teaching moments for Mike White. In dissecting the video of the Gators’ 81-60 blowout loss to 17th-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee, White will have plenty of flaws to point out and correct. Against FSU, the Gators missed far too many wide open shots, struggled with FSU’s defensive pressure which caused them to turn the ball over far too many times and they couldn’t defend the Seminoles either from the perimeter or inside.
The Gators hit just 6-24 from the 3-point line and 20-54 overall (37%). The Gators turned the ball over 16 times and mishandled the ball often enough that they couldn’t get into any kind of offensive flow. The Seminoles shot 11-23 from the 3-point line, 7-14 in the second half when it seemed they got any shot they wanted.
The Gators will have a couple of days to work out the first game kinks before they take on Charleston Southern Friday night at the O-Dome in what should be a far easier opponent than the one that beat them in every phase of the game Tuesday.
NON-FLORIDA SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
(Rankings based on College Football Playoff Poll)
#1 ALABAMA (9-0, 6-0 SEC): Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who was in on 10 tackles with 2-1/2 sacks in Bama’s 29-0 shutout of LSU last week, has been honored as the National Defensive Player of the Week by the folks who vote for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award. For the season, Williams has been in on 43 tackles with 12 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 pass breakup and 9 quarterback hurries … Alabama is a 24-1/2 point favorite over #16 Mississippi State this weekend.
ARKANSAS (2-7, 0-5 SEC): Although the Razorbacks have had their issues stopping the run (given up 200+ yards in the last three SEC games), they’re doing a very good job getting pressure on the quarterback. The Hogs have registered 11 of their 23 sacks on the season in the last three games. Saturday they’ll be going against an LSU team that has allowed 23 sacks … Arkansas is a 13-1/2 point underdog against LSU.
#24 AUBURN (6-3, 3-3 SEC): Okay, it’s official. Even with a buyout of $32 million, he’s in trouble at Auburn. How do we know? We know because athletic director Allen Greene gave Gus a vote of confidence Tuesday and said he will be “our coach of the future.” Translated into real terms that means if someone came up with the $16 million in hard cash that would be owed Gus within 30 days of his termination, he’d be gone already but since nobody has volunteered to pony up, Auburn will have the same coach next year. Auburn is a 14 point road dog at Athens this weekend.
#5 GEORGIA (8-1, 6-1 SEC): Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker apparently is a candidate for the vacant job at Maryland. Tucker’s only previous head coaching job is as the interim for the Jacksonville Jaguars back in 2011 … Georgia is a 14 point favorite over Auburn this weekend.
#11 KENTUCKY (7-2, 5-2 SEC): Given that Tennessee only managed 14 points against Charlotte last week, it’s a bit of a surprise that the Wildcats are only favored by 5-1/2 points this weekend at Neyland. The Wildcats average 199.56 rushing yards per game and they’ll be going against a Tennessee defense that has given up more than 200 yards on the ground in each of the last two games.
#7 LSU (7-2, 4-2 SEC): Safety John Battle (ankle) and defensive lineman Breiden Feheko (arm) both missed practice on Tuesday and are questionable for Saturday’s game at Arkansas. Also wide receiver Derrick Dillon was seen wearing a gold non-contact jersey … The Tigers are favored by 13-1/2 points.
#16 MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-3, 3-3 SEC): This is what you call respect. Mississippi State is going to Tuscaloosa this weekend and the Bulldogs are ONLY a 24-1/2 point road dog. If the Bulldogs weren’t so good defensively, the spread would be at least 40.
MISSOURI (5-4, 1-4 SEC): Missouri has turned things around defensively the last two games, holding Kentucky and Florida to a combined 32 points and 708 total yards … The Tigers, who need one win to become bowl eligible a second straight year, are a 17 point favorite at home Saturday against Vandy.
OLE MISS (5-4, 1-4 SEC): How big is getting the NCAA ban on unofficial visitors to campus to Ole Miss? Head coach Matt Luke said, “Now you’re not recruiting with one hand behind your back anymore. Now you can go out and recruit … That’s a huge victory” … The Rebels are 12 point underdogs on the road at Texas A&M this weekend.
SOUTH CAROLINA (5-3, 3-3 SEC): Injuries have depleted the secondary so much that starting safety Jaylin Dickerson said, “None of us can get hurt.” Corner Steven Montec said, “Nobody get no targeting, no flags, get kicked out of the game” … The Gamecocks have been established as 6-1/2 point underdogs in Gainesville this weekend.
TENNESSEE (4-5, 1-4 SEC): The Vols haven’t run the ball very well all year and they’ll have a really tough time against the Kentucky run defense. The goal for Saturday will be to protect QB Jarrett Guarantano from UK edge rusher Josh Allen, who has 10 sacks in nine games … It’s surprising the Vols are only 5-1/2 point underdogs.
TEXAS A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC): Kellen Mond will be facing one of the worst defenses in the country in Ole Miss Saturday, which is a good thing considering he’s had two below par games. Mond is just 39-78 passing in the last two games for 452 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions … The Aggies are favored by 12 to beat Ole Miss Saturday.
VANDERBILT (4-5, 1-4 SEC): Vanderbilt has suspended safety Zaire Jones for the remainder of the season for an unspecified violation of team rules. Jones missed the first two games of the season after he was charged with assault back in August. The assault charge was eventually reduced to misdemeanor reckless endangerment … The Commodores are 17 point underdogs on the road this weekend in Missouri.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Laken Litman of Sports Illustrated writes a piece that begs the question what the hell was the Big Ten thinking when it added Maryland and Rutgers? At least with Maryland it got good basketball and lacrosse with both men and women. With Rutgers the Big Ten got a bottom feeder in every single sport. Neither Maryland or Rutgers fill up their football stadiums and when they’re on the road they’re the game where there are plenty of tickets to be had cheap … Speaking of the Big Ten, Michigan’s defense is dominating every team in the league. The Wolverines lead the country in total defense (216.2 yards per game) and pass defense (122.3 yards per game) and rank fifth in scoring defense (13.6 points per game) … Believe it or not, Alabama wasn’t a unanimous #1 in the coaches poll. Someone had the audacity to vote unbeaten Clemson in the top spot … Gardner Minshew was a graduate and determined to leave the dumpster fire that is East Carolina. He was all set to become a backup at Alabama, sort of a hedge in case Jalen Hurts decided to transfer, when Mike Leach called from Washington State offering Minshew a chance to be a starting QB instead of someone’s caddy at Bama. Obviously that was a wise choice because he’s led Wazzoo to an 8-1 record while hitting 329-417 of his passes (70.8%) for 3,517 yards (7.6 per attempt) and 27 touchdowns (7 interceptions) … The rumor that former LSU coach Les Miles might become the head coach at Kansas seems to be growing legs … It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen a Kentucky team lit up the way Duke did Tuesday night. Freshmen R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson were just way too tough for the Wildcats to handle … The Dallas Cowboys are off to a 3-5 start causing former QB and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman to say wholesale changes need to be made in the organization. I have a brilliant idea: Jerry Jones could hire a real general manager.