THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, JULY 30, 2019
A LIST OF EIGHT WHAT IF QUESTIONS FOR TUESDAY
1. What if Florida’s O-line exceeds expectations?
Even with all the question marks on the offensive line, the Gators are still picked as a top ten team and the one with the best chance to end Georgia’s two-year run at the top of the SEC Eastern Division. Athlon rates Florida’s O-line #10 in the SEC while Phil Steele has the Gators at #9. Lindy’s gives Florida a measure of respect, rating UF #6, which would mean middle of the pack in the league. Considering the lack of starting experience on the O-line, middle of the pack isn’t a bad place to begin the season but what happens if the Gators exceed all expectations? It’s not out of the question. The Gators were predicted to have one of the worst O-lines in the SEC last season and all they did was cut their sacks in half (gave up 37 in 2017, gave up 18 while playing one more game in 2018) and average almost a full yard per carry (5.27) more than 2017 (4.3). If John Hevesy gets these guys functioning at a high level, an SEC East title isn’t out of the question.
2. What if Georgia can’t find any decent receivers?
With all of last year’s productive receivers either gone to the NFL or dismissed, this is the big question for Georgia heading into the 2019 season. With an O-line that ranks among the best in the country and a dynamic runner in D’Andre Swift, you have to figure the Poodles will lean heavily on the running game and bring the receivers along slowly but what happens if some smart defensive coordinator stacks the box, stuffs the run and forces Jake Fromm to rely on receivers who aren’t ready for prime time? We may have some answers to that question on September 21 when Notre Dame comes to Athens. The Irish have a pair of fierce rushers off the edge and an experienced, aggressive secondary that gave up only 5.6 yards per pass attempt in 2018.
3. What if Justin Fields turns out to be a bust at Ohio State?
The folks in Columbus are counting on Fields to be the savior, but what if the reason Kirby Smart used him so sparingly in big games last year at Georgia was maybe he’s not as good as the hype? When he was the offensive coordinator last year, Ryan Day went top heavy with a downfield passing game featuring Dwayne Haskins. That was what Georgia did last year with Jake Fromm and Fields couldn’t begin to match Fromm for accuracy and decision-making. If Fields is a bust, the Buckeyes could be in deepest and darkest linguine.
4. What if Jalen Hurts develops as a serious passer at Oklahoma?
Baker Mayfield had to walk on at Texas Tech then at Oklahoma and he turned into a Heisman Trophy winner. Kyler Murray was better known as a runner when he transferred in from Texas A&M. Lincoln Riley turned him into a Heisman winner, too. Will the Riley magic work for Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts? We know Hurts can run but at best, he’s always been an adequate passer. If Riley develops Hurts into a dynamic thrower, it’s entirely possible he could be the third straight Heisman winner at OU. One school has produced back-to-back Heisman winners three times in the history of the award but it’s never been done three straight.
5. What if Gus Malzahn has a quarterback who can run and throw?
Gus Malzahn begins the season on the hot seat, which is nothing new. To get off the hot seat and endear himself to Auburn fans once again, he desperately needs a quarterback who is a good passer and a strong runner, something he hasn’t had since Nick Marshall, who passed for 34 TDs and ran for 23 in the 2013-14 seasons. Auburn has the defense, a good set of wide receivers and a fine running back in Boobie Whitlow. If either redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood or true freshman Bo Nix can be that dual threat, Auburn is going to be VERY good.
6. What if Florida State endures a second straight losing season?
Conventional wisdom says the Seminoles couldn’t possibly be as bad as they were last year but September has a couple of potential losses in Boise State and a roadie to Virginia. Two losses in September would not bode well for the rest of the season, which includes a road trip to Clemson, back-to-back games with Syracuse and Miami and then the season-ender with the Gators in Gainesville. Oh, and by the way, the O-line doesn’t look any better than it was last year. Even if the Seminoles have another losing season, they don’t have the cash to buy Taggart out but he will be on a very short leash for 2020.
7. What if UCF runs the regular season schedule for a third straight year?
At some point someone from the Group of Five is going to crash the College Football Playoff party. UCF has run the regular season table the last two years and has been denied although it did get a New Year’s Six bowl game. If the Knights go unbeaten in the regular season a third straight year it’s going to be even harder for the playoff committee to omit them. I don’t care of your schedule includes convents and homeless shelters, three straight unbeaten regular seasons is a real feat and will put the pressure on the committee to prove they are fair-minded.
8. What if the Pac-12 and Big Ten miss out on the playoff again?
It is entirely possible there won’t be an unbeaten team in the Pac-12 by the time October 1 arrives. As for the Big Ten, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State are all in the same division so the odds favor none of them will escape unbeaten. If Notre Dame and/or UCF run the table it could mean a second straight year without two prominent Power 5 conferences shut out of the playoffs. If you’re into expanding the playoff, then this is the scenario you want and need because the commissioners of both the Pac-12 and Big Ten aren’t going to take this lying down. They’ll demand expansion to at least six teams.
GATORS 8TH IN SPORTING NEWS REVAMPED TOP 25
Sporting News has revamped its preseason top 25. The top three teams (Alabama, Clemson and Georgia) are pretty much the same top three in every other preseason poll. Ohio State is an interesting choice at #4 with Oklahoma at #5. I would have Oklahoma at #3 and I darn sure wouldn’t have Texas at #6. I think LSU at #7 and Florida at #8 are probably just about where they should be for the preseason. There are seven SEC teams in the top 25.
(1) Alabama; (2) Clemson; (3) Georgia; (4) Ohio State; (5) Oklahoma; (6) Texas; (7) LSU; (8) FLORIDA; (9) Notre Dame; (10) Michigan; (11) Texas A&M; (12) Penn State; (13) Oregon; (14) Washington; (15) Auburn; (16) Army; (17) Utah; (18) Syracuse; (19) Mississippi State; (20) Iowa State; (21) Wisconsin; (22) Stanford; (23) Washington State; (24) UCF; (25) Nebraska
FLORIDA FLASHBACK: A COMBINATION IS BORN
Steve Spurrier was looking for consistency when he gave Rex Grossman the start against LSU on October 7, 2000. Jesse Palmer was a senior and Spurrier wanted Palmer to be the unquestioned #1 quarterback but something was lacking. The week after the Gators were smacked around by Mississippi State in Starkville, Spurrier turned to Grossman but for much of the first half, it looked as if the Head Ball Coach might have to put Palmer in to finish out the game if the Gators were going to beat the Tigers.
Leading 10-3 with 2:10 remaining in the second quarter, the Gators got the ball on the LSU side of the field thanks to a nice punt return by Keiwan Ratliff. Five plays later, UF faced 3rd-and-9 at the LSU nine when Spurrier called time out and dialed up a slant pattern to Gaffney, who had UF’s only touchdown in the first quarter on a 26-yard corner route to finish off a 99-yard drive.
The dialed up slant never materialized because David Jorgenson snapped the ball high over Grossman’s head. Retrieving the ball off the bounce, Grossman wheeled and set his feet at the 24, unloading a pass to the northwest corner of the end zone just before he was drilled by two LSU rushers. Gaffney, who had reversed his field when he saw the ball go over Grossman’s head was there to make a leaping grab that gave the Gators a 17-3 haltime lead. On Florida’s second possession of the second half, Grossman and Gaffney connected again, this time for 59 yards and a third TD that gave Florida a 24-3 lead. Palmer got into the game in the fourth quarter but it was for mopup duty. Grossman threw for 276 yards while Gaffney caught eight passes for 128 yards and three TDs. Grossman and Gaffney would connect for three more TDPs the following week when Auburn came to town, part of a 5-TDP game for Grossman. From that improv play at the end of the first half, the Gators became Rex Grossman’s team and Grossman and Gaffney became the hottest pass-catch combo in the country.
SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY
From Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic, Maryland coach Mike Locksley reflects on three years at Alabama and what he learned about Nick Saban and the football program:
“What makes it tick and makes them successful is the alignment piece of it. Everybody at the university is in alignment, whether it’s the athletic department, the academic community, supporters, they’re all pulling in the same direction, and they get that no one part is more important than the other … When you dive into the football program, it starts with a clear, concise vision. You know what the standard is when you walk in the door, because it spells it out really clearly. Then he has the ability to quality control it to ensure that the standards of what he wants to be is how we’re doing it … The strength of Nick Saban is quality control.”
From the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Panthers safety Eric Reid on why he will continue to kneel during the national anthem:
“If a day comes that I feel like we’ve addressed those issues, and our people aren’t being discriminated against or being killed over traffic violations, then I’ll decide it’s time to stop protesting. I haven’t seen that happen.”
From the Hartford Courant, UConn athletic director David Benedict, whose program is swimming in $40 million of red ink, tries to justify the $17 million exit fee the school will have to pay the American Athletic Conference. The exit fee, by the way, is much more than the fees Louisville (to the ACC) and Rutgers (to the Big Ten) paid to leave the Big East:
“We all understood that there was a minimum exit fee that we were aware of in our bylaws. And the additional money over and above that, when you look at the grand scheme of things, we’ll be able to recover that money in short order based on the cost savings in travel as well as the increased sales we’re going to have, and all of the indirect benefit we’re going to receive.”
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF
Former Clemson running back Tavien Feaster is transferring to South Carolina. The grad transfer ran for 1,330 yards and caught 23 passes in his Clemson career. He started 11 of the 41 games in which he played.
After losing Kerry Blackshear Jr. to Florida, Kentucky basketball fans are on suicide watch as they await a decision by N’Faly Dante (6-11, 230, Bamako, Mali/Wichita, KS Sunrise Christian Academy), who is expected to reclassify to 2019. Most experts think Dante will decide between Kentucky and Michigan State.
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward is ending a program that has allowed the athletic department to donate millions of dollars to the university’s general fund. From 20012-17 the athletic department donated $50 million even though it had agreed only to donate $36 million.
Alabama and Wisconsin will play a home-and-home in 2024-25. Alabama will visit Camp Randall Stadium in 2024 and Wisconsin will return the favor by visiting Tuscaloosa.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: St. Thomas Aquinas is ranked 8thin Sporting News preseason high school football poll. The QB for the Raiders is Brady Dean, son of former Gator QB Terry Dean … Training camp isn’t even a week old and already the Miami Dolphins have fired offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and replaced him with Dave DeGuglielmo … Keith Lincoln, who helped the San Diego Chargers win the AFL championship in 1963, died Monday at the age of 80. Lincoln was the MVP of the AFL championship game win over the Buffalo Bills … US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro says the US Women’s National Team actually made more money than the US Men from 2010-18. The women were paid $34.1 million in salary and bonuses compared to $26.4 million for the men.