Florida Gators

Sunshine Saturday

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Here’s a Florida College football fan’s guide to this week’s games as the 2020 college football season is on its way into Week 12.

Last Saturday, Florida showed no signs of hangover from the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, by trouncing Arkansas 63-35.

Senior Quarterback Kyle Trask keeps breaking SEC records with his sixth game with four or more touchdowns.

The Gators travel to Nashville to take on the Commodores of Vanderbilt. Florida opens as a 31.5 point favorite.

Can Kyle Trask continue to play at an All-American level? Can the Gators put the game away early and rest some starters? My predictions: Trask throws for 5 touchdowns and they roll Vandy 45-13.

Last Saturday, FSU fans got a glimpse of their future. Chubba Purdy started the contest versus the North Carolina Wolfpack. Purdy played well, going 15 for 23 for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns, but it still wasn’t enough as the Wolfpack dominated the Noles 38-22.

FSU hosts number four Clemson at noon in Doak Campbell Stadium and the Noles are a historic underdog in the contest.

The Tigers open as a 32.5-point favorite over the 2-6 Seminoles. FSU was a 26-point underdog to Clemson last season, which was believed to be the largest point spread in school history.

Clemson suffered their lone loss two weeks ago to Notre Dame without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Their signal caller is expected back and that means bad news for the Noles. Clemson is a national powerhouse and Florida State is a national landfill.

In my opinion, this is the worst Florida State team in program history! Clemson 52 FSU 20.

Last Saturday night in Orlando, UCF manhandled Temple 38-13.

The Knights opened the game with a strip sack and never looked back. The Knights offense did not look like it was clicking until the start of the 3rd quarter, when Dillon Gabriel found Marlon Williams for an air mail touchdown.

For UCF, standards this season have been disappointing. The Knights are 5-2 after being picked by many to win the AAC conference.

The Knights and Bearcats renew their revere on Saturday in the Bounce House. With very limited capacity, the Bounce House during the 2020 season has not provided their normal home field advantage.

The Bearcats come into this game looking to remain unbeaten and take another step towards a potential playoff spot.  Cincy opens as a 4-point favorite.

This is a battle between UCF’s offense and Cincinnati’s nationally ranked defense. The Bearcats are outscoring their opponents 212-57, with an average margin of victory of 31 points per game.

Those numbers are against quality offenses like Memphis, Houston and SMU.

UCF will score points, but Cincinnati is too legit this year. Give me the Bearcats 48 Knight 38.

The Miami Hurricanes game against Georgia Tech has been postponed due to COVID.

The Canes are coming off an impressive come from behind victory over Virginia Tech last Saturday.

D’Eriq King led a second half comeback to keep the Canes in the mix for the ACC title game. King makes Miami the U again.

So, sit back, buckle up and enjoy some college football this weekend.

If you are a Knight expecting a battle in the Bounce House, a Seminole praying for a miracle, a Gator witnessing a massacre or a Hurricane just waiting to troll the other fan bases, live college football offers us an escape during these stressful times.

The Heisman Race

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Normally this time of year means the college football regular season is almost over.

Due to the pandemic, the season was delayed for several conferences like the Big Ten and Pac 12. I’m going to take a look at the top five Heisman Trophy candidates.

Kyle Trask/ Florida: I feel like he should be the hands down favorite at this point. It’s hard to believe this guy was sitting on the bench behind Feleipe Franks.

Earlier in the season I said he’s this year’s Joe Burrow. I don’t think anybody can match Burrow’s video game like stats from 2019 but I’m talking about the drastic improvement he made. Also, both of them were not expected to play at that level going into their final season.

They have had the LSU game postponed due to several players on the team having COVID. I hope that game can get played in December so Trask can play the maximum amount of games.

He led the Gators to a win over No. 5 Georgia that they desperately needed. The defense is not very good, so they basically have to outscore their opponents. Trask is basically good for at least four passing TD’s every game.

Trevor Lawrence/ Clemson: He’s the clear consensus as the best quarterback and number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, he had COVID and had to miss two games.

One of them was at No. 4 Notre Dame and that could have been his Heisman moment.

The Tigers like to run the ball with All-American running back Travis Etienne so that takes away from Lawrence’s stats.

If he plays well against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship that could catapult him to the top of the Heisman list.

Travis Etienne/ Clemson: I know this has become a quarterback award but he really deserves consideration.

He’s a true dual threat running back and his number are very good.

Mac Jones/ Alabama: He has the Crimson Tide undefeated (6-0) and he’s playing very well. Jones has thrown for 2,196 yards (8th), 16 TD’s (tied-13th), 2 interceptions with a 95.6 QBR (2nd).

He’s on the best team and I think Bama will finish undefeated. His stats are impressive because Alabama is another team that likes to run the ball. Najee Harris has over 700 yards rushing.

The LSU game has been postponed due to a Coronavirus outbreak in the program. We don’t know if that game will actually get played but that would be an easy win for Bama.

The only challenge should be against Florida in the SEC Championship.

Justin Fields/ Ohio State: The Buckeyes have only played three games because the Big Ten started the season late and the Maryland game was canceled.

Fields only has 7 games to make a case as the best player.

The Matchup

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Even though the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is being severely curtailed due to Covid-19, the game that accompanies The Party still has significant meaning.

The winner of the Georgia-Florida shootout will likely win the Southeastern Conference East title and take on Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

The winner of the match-up against Alabama will win the SEC title and secure a spot in the College Playoffs for an opportunity to win a National Championship.

Florida had two games postponed because of a Covid outbreak, including head coach Dan Mullen testing positive, and couldn’t even take the practice field for twenty-one days. But all of that seems to be in the rearview mirror, at least for now.

Mullen has returned Florida to national prominence, going 21-5 in his first two seasons, but has not found to way to beat Georgia. Mullen’s Gators lost to the Bulldogs 37-26 in 2018, and 24-17 last year.

In Athens, Kirby Smart took over as Head Dawg in 2016 and had compiled a 44-12 record going into this Covid-plagued year, including three feasts on Gator tail with only one loss.

Florida opened the season with convincing wins over Mississippi 51-35 and South Carolina 38-24, before falling to Texas A&M 38-41.

Georgia rolled to three consecutive wins to start the 2020 season, beating Arkansas 37-10, Auburn 27-6, and Tennessee 44-21, before running into an Alabama buzzsaw 24-41.

The debacle in Tuscaloosa notwithstanding, Georgia’s defense has looked good for the most part.  On the other hand, the Gator D has been porous at times.

The high-powered Gator offense is forcing maintenance crews to change a lot of light bulbs on scoreboards, averaging over 42 points per game, but the Bulldogs offense hasn’t done too shabbily either, putting up 33 points per contest.

A huge key to any game, of course, is the play of the quarterback, and it says here that Kyle Trask gives Florida the advantage over Stetson Bennett and the Dogs in the QB Dept.

Through three games, Trask has thrown 14 touchdown passes with only one interception, averaging well over 300 yards passing per game.

In four outings, Bennett has 7 TD passes and 3 interceptions, while averaging about 240 yards passing per game.

Having quoted all those stats, I don’t believe Florida has faced a defense as good as Georgia’s. If you take away the Alabama game, which you can’t, of course, the Dawgs are surrendering fewer than 13 points per game.

Trask’s task is to avoid pressure from the Georgia defense, and I just don’t see that happening.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two local players now wearing the Red and Black for Georgia: former Brunswick High offensive lineman Warren McClendon and former Glynn Academy kicker Jack Podlesny.

Podlesny is having a sterling season for the Dawgs, converting 14 of 14 extra points and eight of 10 field goals, including a 51-yarder.

McClendon (Willie’s nephew), a redshirt freshman, is arguably the best offensive lineman ever to come out of Glynn County, certainly the best I’ve seen in my 18 years of broadcasting Brunswick High football.

Final score for the 2020 Georgia-Florida game: Bulldogs 33; Gators 30.

Podlesny kicks a last second field goal to win the game. McClendon, of course, makes the key block.

 

Out Of Sorts

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators might be the team that embodies this strange 2020 season the best.

The Gators stopped all football activities Oct. 13 after a coronavirus outbreak spread through the team.

Head coach Dan Mullen and two assistants also tested positive, with at least 26 players positive since that time.

“Everybody’s really excited to get back to football and get back playing,” Mullen said. “I think that’s something that is big within the team right now is that ability to get back out on the field.

This year’s been a unique year like no other, with stops and starts and different schedules. Our guys have handled everything extremely well throughout the year. I think they’re going to be really excited to get back out there on the practice field.

“I don’t expect us to come out there and have our sharpest, most crisp practice of the year, but I expect us to have great energy, excitement and enthusiasm to be back out there to get going as we build up to Saturday.”

During the two-week quarantine period Florida had to postpone games against LSU and Mizzou. That was much needed time to gain experience and try to get better against outside competition. They also were not able to work out during this time.

Through the first three games quarterback Kyle Trask looked like a Heisman Trophy frontrunner. He’s thrown for 996 yards, 14 touchdowns, 1 interception while completing 72% of his passes.

His favorite target is another Kyle, tight end Kyle Pitts. Pitts has 17 receptions, 274 yards and 7 TD’s. UF looked like one of the best offenses in the nation.

The Gators were ranked No. 4 in the last game they played at Texas A&M. They were upset by the Aggies and lost 41 – 38. I think the team’s confidence was shaken after that loss then they have not had the opportunity to build it back since the last two games were postponed.

The defense has been atrocious. They’ve given up an average of 495 yards per game and 33 PPG. I don’t think that’s something they can flip a switch and fix quickly.

Before the teams COVID outbreak they had one advantage going into the Georgia game, which was a bye week. That week was used to reschedule the Mizzou game.

No matter how hard they try, game shape can only be worked on by playing games. I think the team will struggle in this game. Also, if there are any injuries, they will be in jeopardy of missing the following game against UGA.

Florida will be at a disadvantage going into the November 7th showdown. Their defense can’t stop anybody without any of the things we talked about factored in.

At this point we do not know what we are going to get out of them. The offense might be out of sync now with the layoff.

Worth The Hype

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Some rivalries are formed due to their close proximity to each other. Some rivalries are forged on the field or court due to memorable games, indelibly ingrained in your mind for years. Other rivalries come about because both programs have sustained a level of excellence unmatched by most programs.

What makes a rivalry special is when you can combine all three of these aspects; something Georgia and Florida have come close to achieving in the past, it has just never quite gotten there.

Location has never really been the issue, not because the schools are all that close to each other, but because the game is played in Jacksonville every year.

Normally, I’m not a fan of playing an entire series at a neutral location, but in this case it works.

Whether it’s allowing an equal number of Georgia and Florida fans to attend on a yearly basis, or making it easier to attach a moniker like “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”, the central location in Jacksonville has really enhanced the game and rivalry.

As for the games themselves, there have been some really great ones, the problem is most of them took place years ago.

Recently, the games haven’t been all that competitive or memorable. There also hasn’t been a ton of parity between the two teams.

By that I mean in most cases the rivalry has been dominated by one team or the other. It’s been a little better in recent years, but even looking at the past twelve seasons the programs have just alternated three-year winning streaks.

Part of the reason the dominance has see-sawed back and forth is even though both teams have seen some level of sustained excellence, rarely have they both experienced it at the same time.

Over the last twenty years, only three of games were played with both teams being in the Top 10. (Two of those games have taken place in the last two years, so that’s at least a sign things might be changing.)

That’s not to say the games can’t be great unless they’re both ranked in the Top 10, but if you’re trying to attract a national audience, which is needed if you want it to be considered a top tier rivalry, having something on the line certainly helps.

Miami and Florida State is a perfect example. Their games from the mid-80’s through the early 00’s were some of the most memorable in college football and almost always had national title implications.

Regardless of where you lived, or what teams you rooted for, that was the game you tuned in to watch.

Now that neither team has been relevant for years, outside of Jameis Winston’s tenure in Tallahassee, the game is merely a blip on the college football radar.

As I alluded to briefly, if you desire the rivalry to be perceived as one of the best in the nation, the future looks promising.

Both teams have excellent coaches, who don’t seem to have ambitions of leaving their respective schools to go along with top of the line sports facilities and strong recruiting pipelines- all important attributes to not only reach the pinnacle, but to stay there.

The Georgia/Florida game has all the makings of becoming a great, nationally recognized rivalry.

The last two years have been a good start; could this year’s game be the one to put them over the edge?

Leading In

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s been a weird year, which isn’t news, but it keeps coming up with ways to feel new bouts of weirdness.

The newest odd sensation was a sense of lacking where it doesn’t belong. Halloween came (with sadly few trick-or-treaters, at least in our neighborhood), Halloween went.

That old familiar football showdown between the University of Georgia and the University of Florida – traditionally positioned closer to All Hallow’s Eve – was nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the game was pushed back a week and will now take place on November 7th. However, even that day won’t feature the same, familiar pomp and circumstance and it makes me wonder…if it isn’t a big, drunken, hate-filled party on the beach and at the stadium, is it really Georgia/Florida?

I think the answer is both kind of and kind of not. I’ve been down to Jacksonville for the game, and it is an atmosphere unlike most anything else, particularly for what is always a mid-season game and doesn’t always feature two evenly matched teams.

This is a rivalry that runs very, very deep, and the partying and pageantry is a massive part of that tradition; without RV City, the Bold City Bash, the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame luncheon, and, perhaps most notably, no tailgating, can this Georgia/Florida week feel like Georgia/Florida week?

Mercifully, the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs have done their respective parts to make this a game worth investing in, even if the investors, aren’t sipping brews in northeastern Florida all day long.

Instead, this year’s game is a big one because the SEC East will be hanging in the balance. So, while TIAA Bank Stadium will only be at 25% capacity, all fans across the Southeastern United States will be hanging on to every snap.

And it should be a contest worth watching. Both UGA and Florida rebounded from their first losses of the season last week, with Florida smacking Missouri around 41-17 and Georgia, who has been ranked higher but won less impressively, beating Kentucky 14-3.

UGA’s not-so-pretty win might foreshadow troubles they could have against Florida.

Their defense held the opposition to 3 points, but quarterback Stetson Bennett was intercepted twice and passed for just 131 yards.

Coach Kirby Smart said after the game that he is going with Bennett against the Gators on Saturday.

That offense is going to have to step up in a huge way if they want to match up with Florida, who has put up at least 40 points in 3 of their last 4 games.

Their defense also looked to have turned a corner after an embarrassing showing two weeks ago; more bad news for the Bulldogs.

There’s also the issue of Florida’s blood being up. There was a matter of a late hit on their quarterback on Saturday, which led to a brawl with Missouri that saw two Gators get ejected.

Now, that might sound like it doesn’t affect their game against UGA, but they’re hungry and they’re probably pissed about being ranked below Georgia in weeks when they don’t feel like they should be.

This game could be a statement for a team that has players willing to get ejected for fighting.

With a quarter of the fans in the stadium and the normal pomp and circumstance that surrounds this game is absent this year.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this game won’t feel like the hard-hitting contest that fans are used to.

However, the rest of the context, and particularly the SEC East crown hanging in the balance, means that this one is going to be about football in a way that it isn’t always. And it should be very good football.

Gator Outbreak

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators didn’t play LSU and they won’t play their scheduled game against Missouri until October 31. A COVID-19 outbreak on the team took care of that.

On Saturday, head coach Dan Mullen announced that he tested positive for COVID. Last week, athletic director Scott Stricklin met with the media and shared that 21 football players had also tested positive.

On Monday, October 19th, The University of Florida updated the results, which indicated a total of 25 positive tests since last week.

In result the Gators have paused all football activities as of October 12th. That means no practice and no in person meetings. Players are allowed to gather on their own accord and workout.

With only three games in, on a 10-game schedule consisting of all SEC teams, the Florida Gators have a lot of football to play in this crazy season!

Coming into the season there were plenty of things we thought we knew about the remainder of the schedule.

I would say that Florida has a strong passing game. Kyle Trask has thrown 14 touchdowns in the first three games. The defense has not been as expected in the preseason. On the other hand, the Gators ‘defense looks confused and soft.

Here is a look at the Gators last seven games.

October 31 vs Missouri: Eliah Drinkwitz came to Missouri with an aggressive offensive coaching style. The Tigers are currently sixth in the SEC with 335 yards per game passing which is up over 100 yard per game from a year ago.

November 7 vs Georgia:  The Bulldogs have the best defense in the SEC.

Georgia gives up just 65.5 yards per game on the ground.

On offense, Stetson Bennett’s numbers are not gaudy, he is currently eighth in the conference with 238 yards per game.

The Bulldogs offensive line are road graders and have been opening holes for a strong trio of backs. The question is who will be the starting quarterback in Jacksonville? I really don’t think it matters!

November 14 vs Arkansas:  The Hogs passing offense and defense have been a surprise so far this season.

Feleipe Franks (Florida’s starting quarterback 2018-2019 until injury took him off the field) is 61-94 for 730 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Under first year head coach Sam Pittman, the offensive line has played extremely well compared to last season. New defensive coordinator Barry Odom has the Hogs playing well on that side of the ball.

November 21 at Vanderbilt: Derek Mason has the hardest job in the SEC.

The premiere academic school in the toughest football conference. Vandy is at or near the bottom of every category in the SEC.

November 28 vs Kentucky:  The Wildcats lead the SEC after four games in rushing.

They average 206 yards per game and a solid 4.76 yard per carry.

Kentucky plays a very physical style of ball on both sides. The Wildcats allow just 106 yards per game and just four rushing touchdowns.

December 5 at Tennessee:  After all the preseason hype, the Volunteers are back to the middle of the pack at 2-2.

They fired defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh. Like every year it is a hot mess in Knoxville. Tennessee being Tennessee. Nothing unusual here folks.

December 12 vs LSU:  The Tigers are a mirrored team with the Gators.

Very strong passing offenses and borderline non-existent defenses. If you enjoyed the UCF vs Memphis game then you should enjoy these offensive fireworks to end the regular season.

Killer Gator

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The SEC football season starts on September 26th.

Millions of college football fans, like me, in the South have that day circled on the calendar.

SEC football junkies tune into the SEC network to soak up all of the information we can regarding the upcoming season.

The SEC Network talking heads are asked their opinion on a variety of topics and one of those topics I heard recently was ‘who was the best returning quarterback in the SEC going into the 2020 season?’

That question was raised this week on the network and the answer given by one on the talking heads was Kellen Mond of Texas A&M.

I raised up in my chair and said ‘no way, can that be true’ because the obvious answer to that question from my perspective is Kyle Trask from the University of Florida.

Let’s do some stat comparisons from 2019:

 

Kyle Trask:

CMP: 237

ATT: 354

YDS: 2,941

CMP%: 66.9

TD: 25

INT: 7

 

Kellen Mond:

CMP: 258

ATT: 419

YDS: 2,897

CMP%: 61.6

TD: 20

INT: 9

 

As you look at the stats on paper you will see that the yards were similar between the two starting quarterbacks.

You will notice that Trask had a much higher completion percentage than Mond.

The most glaring stat is that Trask threw for more touchdowns 25 to 20 on 65 less passing attempts.

The thing that separates Trask right now from Mond, in my opinion, is confidence.

Confidence is a quality at the QB position that brings calm to the rest of the football team.

You could see it in Trask when he came off the bench last September when he led a huge 4th quarter comeback against Kentucky in Lexington after Feleipe Franks went down with a season ending leg injury.

Other than the 2018 classic seven overtime win over LSU, you haven’t seen that confidence in Kellen Mond in his entire Aggie career.

Mond is a pretty good QB, don’t get me wrong, but when the big games on the schedule roll around he just doesn’t seem like a confident QB in those games.

Mond led the Aggies to an 8-5 record in 2018 with a Texas Bowl win over Oklahoma State.

Trask led Florida to an 11-2 record that included an Orange Bowl win over Virginia.

Even in the two losses against LSU and Georgia, Trask handled the pressure of those two games well.

Yes, we know the SEC West is a better division than the SEC East currently.

Florida travels to Texas A&M on October 10th to play the Aggies. This game will match up the two top returning QB’s from 2019.

This will be a huge road game for Florida as the Gators deal with high expectations in the SEC East for the first time in 4 years.

Dan Mullen is building this thing back at UF and this game in College Station will be a huge measuring stick as to where they are.

The Aggies have to take the next step in 2020 or the heat may begin to build under Jimbo Fisher. I expect this to be a classic game.

Let me leave you with this question about this contest. With the game on the line in the 4th quarter, which QB do you want under center Mond or Trask? Give me Kyle Trask please.

Kyle Trask is the best returning QB in the SEC.

Here come the Auburn fans whining about how I have disrespected Bo Nix.