THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; NOVEMBER 21, 2018
PLAYOFF POLL ADDS MORE INCENTIVE FOR UF
The fact that Florida (8-3) has lost five straight to arch-rival Florida State (5-6) should be all the motivation the Gators need to play like life depended on coming home with a win Saturday afternoon. Tuesday night, as if the Gators needed even more incentive, the College Football Playoff pollsters moved Florida up two spots to the #11 position. A Saturday win will all but assure the Gators of making the top 12 in the final CFP Poll which means they will be playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game, which carries significantly more prestige.
You can’t underestimate what an accomplishment it would be for Dan Mullen to get the Gators into a New Year’s Six bowl in his first year on the job. When the season began, most experts pegged the Gators as a 7-8 win team during the regular season so to get to nine regular season wins with a tenth possible in an upper tier bowl game would be a clear sign that Mullen has the Florida rebuild ahead of schedule.
It should be noted that Florida is the only team among the top 19 teams in the CFP poll that posted a losing record in 2017 and didn’t make it to a bowl game.
Of course, to make that New Year’s Six bowl, the Gators will have to beat a Florida State team that has to feel as if its back is to the wall. None of those Seminoles wants to go down in history as part of the team that posted the first losing season since 1975 and the first non-bowl season since 1981. It will also be Senior Day at Doak Campbell Stadium and FSU doesn’t have a single senior that has ever experienced losing to the Gators.
What all of this means is there can be no excuse for Florida to show up flat Saturday in Tallahassee. There is incentive piled onto incentive for the Gators to play their best game of the season and if they are fully engaged emotionally and physically, there is no question they will walk away from this one with a win.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS
For the third straight week there was no change among the top eight teams but losses by last week’s #9 West Virginia and #12 Syracuse caused some shuffling with the biggest beneficiary unbeaten UCF (11-0) from the American Athletic Conference. The Knights jumped #10 Ohio State into the ninth spot while Florida jumped two places to #11. Moving to #12 was Penn State.
Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan occupy the top four spots and remain the odds-on favorites to be the four teams that make the 2018 playoff but the potential for chaos is strong if, for example, if Ohio State beats Michigan this weekend. How many teams would the Buckeyes jump if they beat the Wolverines and then win the Big Ten Championship Game? If Alabama or Clemson lost their conference championship games, would they still make the playoff and if they did, would that shove a one-loss Big Ten champ out? Another question. Suppose you have three unbeatens at the top (Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame) and there isn’t a one-loss team still standing (entirely possible)? Would the committee pick a 2-loss team from a power conference over an unbeaten UCF with a 25-game winning streak?
1. Alabama 11-0
2. Clemson 11-0
3. Notre Dame 11-0
4. Michigan 10-1
5. Georgia 10-1
6. Oklahoma 10-1
7. LSU 9-2
8. Washington State 10-1
9. UCF 10-0
10. Ohio State 10-1
11. FLORIDA 8-3
12. Penn State 8-3
13. West Virginia 8-2
14. Texas 8-3
15. Kentucky 8-3
16. Washington 8-3
17. Utah 8-3
18. Mississippi State 7-4
19. Northwestern 7-4
20. Syracuse 8-3
21. Utah State 10-1
22. Texas A&M 7-4
23. Boise State 9-2
24. Pitt 7-4
25. Iowa State 6-4
QUESTION OF THE DAY: If there are no 1-loss teams remaining and UCF is unbeaten with a 25-game winning streak, should the Knights be given a spot in the College Football Playoff?
GATORS FACE OKLAHOMA IN BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS
The face on the other sideline will be all too familiar to Gator fans when Florida (2-1) squares off with Oklahoma (3-0) in the first round of the Battle for Atlantis basketball tournament in The Bahamas (12 noon, ESPN). Oklahoma is coached by Lon Kruger, who led the Gators to their first final four in 1994. Kruger bolted a couple of seasons later, claiming it was impossible to recruit at a level high enough to win big consistently at the University of Florida. That myth was dispelled by Billy Donovan who won two NCAA championships (2006-07), had an NCAA runner-up (2000), another Final Four team (2014), three Elite Eight teams (2011-13), 14 NCAA Tournament teams and six SEC championships. In his three years at Florida, Mike White has taken the Gators to two NCAA Tournaments and a 2017 Elite Eight. He has landed a top eight recruiting class for 2019. So much for impossible to recruit to Florida.
If the Gators win today, they’ll face either Stanford or Wisconsin on Thursday.
Florida will be looking to shake out of a slump from the 3-point line that has seen the Gators hit only 17 of 62 shots (26.2%) in the first three games. Overall, the Gators are hitting 46.3% while holding opponents to 39.7% from the field overall and 32% from the 3-point line.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
(College Football Playoff Rankings)
#1 ALABAMA (11-0, 7-0 SEC): Running back Damien Harris is going through concussion protocol but is said to be making good progress toward being okayed to play Saturday against Auburn … Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is a finalist for the Maxwell Trophy.
Saturday: vs. Auburn (7-4, 3-4 SEC), 3:30 p.m., CBS
ARKANSAS (2-9, 0-7 SEC): After seeing fan reactions to the suspension of two players for fraternizing with Mississippi State spirit squad members before last week’s game, defensive lineman Randy Ramsey tweeted, “Don’t try an act like that’s why we lost Saturday. We 2-9, not 10-1.” It must be noted that Arkansas has never lost 10 games in a season.
Friday: at Missouri (7-4, 3-4 SEC), 2:30 p.m., CBS
AUBURN (7-4, 3-4 SEC): Auburn got some good news on the injury front for Saturday’s Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa. Defensive end Nick Coe (wrist) and running back JaTarvious Whitlow (ankle) will both be ready to go. Wide receiver Eli Stone (knee) is practicing and could play.
Saturday: at #1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC), 3:30 p.m., CBS
#5 GEORGIA (10-1, 7-1 SEC): Offensive lineman Cade Mays (shoulder) is limited in practice and is questionable for Georgia Tech. “I don’t know that we’re going to be able to clear him before the game,” UGa head coach Kirby Smart said.
Saturday: vs. Georgia Tech (7-4), 12 noon, SEC Network
#15 KENTUCKY (8-3, 5-3 SEC): Linebacker Josh Allen ranks first nationally in forced fumbles (5), third in sacks (13) and 10th in tackles for loss (17.5).
Saturday: at Louisville (2-9), 7 p.m., ESPN2
#7 LSU (9-2, 5-2 SEC): Leading receiver Justin Jefferson (45-725, three TDs) missed practice for a second straight day. Nose tackle Ed Alexander also missed practice as did corner Kelvin Joseph. Corner Kristian Fulton is expected to miss Saturday’s game with Texas A&M.
Saturday: at Texas A&M (7-4, 3-4 SEC), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
#18 MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-4, 3-4 SEC): The Bulldogs are the top ranked defense in the SEC and they rank #4 nationally, giving up 275.6 yards per game. The Bulldogs rank second in scoring defense, giving up just 12.8 points.
Thursday: at Ole Miss (5-6, 1-6 SEC), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
MISSOURI (7-4, 3-4 SEC): With 107 yards Saturday against Arkansas, running back Larry Rountree III will give Mizzou a 1,000-yard rusher for the third straight season. Rountree has carried 169 times for 893 yards (5.28 per carry) and 10 touchdowns.
Friday: vs. Arkansas (2-9, 0-7 SEC), 2:30 p.m., CBS
OLE MISS (5-6, 1-6 SEC): The Rebels are near the top in NCAA stats offensively and near the bottom defensively. On offense, the Rebels rank fifth (out of 130 Division I teams), averaging 539.7 yards per game. Defensively, the Rebels rank #123, giving up 489.2 yards per game.
Saturday: vs. #18 Mississippi State (7-4, 3-4 SEC), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
SOUTH CAROLINA (6-4, 4-4 SEC): Defensive lineman Aaron Sterling (knee) could return for the Clemson game in a limited capacity while running back Ty’son Williams (broken bone in his hand) might also get some playing time. Defensive back Jaycee Horn (ankle) will definitely play.
Saturday: at #2 Clemson (11-0), 7 p.m., ESPN
TENNESSEE (5-6, 2-5 SEC): Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, knocked out of the Missouri game in the first quarter last Saturday, is practicing and is expecting to play Saturday at Vanderbilt.
Saturday: at Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5 SEC), 4 p.m., ESPN
#22 TEXAS A&M (7-4, 4-3 SEC): Quarterback Kellen Mond’s improvement from 2017 has been substantial. Last year, Mond threw for 1,375 yards (6.1 per attempt) for eight TDs with six interceptions. This season he has thrown for 2,680 yards (7.9 per attempt) and 17 TDs with eight picks.
Saturday: vs. #7 LSU (9-2, 5-2 SEC), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
VANDERBILT (5-6, 2-5 SEC): Derek Mason is calling on Vanderbilt fans to show up in force for Saturday’s game with Tennessee. Even though it will be Vanderbilt’s home game, expect to see as many or more folks in the Tennessee creamsicle orange than in Vandy’s black and gold.
Saturday: vs. Tennessee (5-6, 2-5 SEC), 4 p.m., SEC Network
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator and Valdosta State head coach Kerwin Bell will face Bowie State Saturday in the second round of the Division II NCAA Playoffs. Valdosta State is a perfect 10-0 this season … The Washington Wizards could be trading former Gator Bradley Beal to the Charlotte Hornets. Beal is averaging 21.5 points pergame this season … Maybe my SEC bias is showing, but Auburn got jobbed by the officials in their loss to Duke Tuesday night. In the first half, Duke shot 18 free throws. Auburn shot ZERO. For the game, Duke shot 34 and Auburn shot 9. That’s impossible in a game that physical at both ends of the floor. Duke won 78-72 … I continue to be disgusted with the alternating possession rule in basketball. Make them jump it up and end this excuse that the zebras can’t toss it up correctly … I know I’ve said this before, but if Beth Mowins is doing play-by-play, I turn off the sound and go closed caption on my television. She might be the nicest person in the world, but her voice is the equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard … Andy Kennedy is great on SEC Network basketball but I hope he gets a head coaching job next year. I think Ross Bjork had the brain fart of brain farts when he fired Andy at Ole Miss and hired Kermit Davis … If Jeff Brohm leaves Purdue to become Louisville’s head coach, former Tennessee coach (now Alabama offensive analyst) Butch Jones is expected to be on Purdue’s short list … UMass has fired football coach Mark Whipple. Whipple won the 1998 Division IAA championship during his 1998-2003 run as the HBC. He came back to coach UMass in 2014 after the school stupidly tried to jump to Division I. UMass was 6-18 in two years as a member of the Mid-American Conference and has gone 10-26 the last three years as an independent … After 21 seasons in the Major Leagues, Adrian Beltre is hanging up his spikes. Next stop the Hall of Fame. Beltre finished his career hitting .286 with 477 homers and 1,707 RBI.