THE BIG UGLIES WILL DECIDE THIS ONE
There isn’t all that much difference in the styles of Arkansas coach Brett Bielma and Florida coach Will Muschamp, which means that tonight’s matchup between Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC) and Florida (3-1, 2-0 SEC) has all the makings of an old-fashioned street fight the way both coaches are committed to running the ball between the tackles. This will be a line of scrimmage game, decided by which team’s offensive line can impose its will on the other. I like Florida to win this one something like 24-10. I can’t see the Arkansas offensive line being able to move Jon Bullard and Florida’s other defensive tackles out of the gaps and when the ball bounces outside, I like Florida’s speed advantage to bottle up the Arkansas runners. Arkansas will have to throw into the nation’s best secondary so that’s advantage Florida. Offensively, I think this is a game that Florida’s three bigs in the middle of the line will come up big. I do like Jonnothan Harrison, Max Garcia and Jon Halapio to take turns bashing away at the middle until it gives. I think this is a game where we see the Gators cut loose for big chunks of yardage in the second half because I think Florida’s O-line can beat up on the Razorbacks. I think this is also a game when we see Tyler Murphy connect on a couple of deep balls off play-action. As long as the Gators don’t give the ball away, they will move to 3-0 in SEC play.
FLORIDA-ARKANSAS FLASHBACK 2006
The Razorbacks faced the Gators in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, a game that Florida had to win impressively to keep its national championship hopes alive. With all the media hyping a rematch between #1 Ohio State and Michigan, the Gators lost all their first half momentum in the third quarter when Arkansas rallied from down 17-0 to take a 21-17 lead and had the Gators pinned back on their own 15 with fourth and 10 when Urban Meyer pulled off the gamble of his career. Meyer called for a fake punt – a reverse that Eric Wilbur flipped to Jemalle Cornelius for a 17-yard gain — and that one play changed an entire game. Although the Gators got a fresh set of downs, they couldn’t move the ball so Meyer elected to kick it back to the Razorbacks. With Riley Cooper and Wondy Pierre-Louis bearing down on him full speed, Reggie Fish lost track of where he was on the field and fumbled Wilbur’s towering punt into the end zone where Pierre-Louis scored the only TD of his career on a night when his mama was there from Haiti to see him play. The Gators went on to win this one 38-28 with Percy Harvin delivering a 67-yard touchdown run and Tate Casey catching a 5-yard touchdown pass from Bubba Caldwell to cap a championship-clinching 80-yard drive that sealed a trip to Glendale and a date with Ohio State for Florida.
WILL THIS BE UPSET SATURDAY?
A lot of people have circles around Ohio State at Northwestern tonight, believing this is a game that is ripe for an upset. The Buckeyes have won 17 in a row under Urban Meyer and if Northwestern doesn’t knock them off, they might not have a chance to lose again until they go to the Big House the last weekend of the regular season. The Buckeyes will have to go unbeaten and run up the score as often as possible to have a chance to make the national championship game. If Alabama goes unbeaten that’s one team in the national championship game and if Oregon keeps on at its present pace, that will be team number two. The only way the Buckeyes will trump the Ducks is to win more impressively and I don’t know if that’s possible.
WILL THIS BE UPSET SATURDAY? PART II
Keep a close eye on these three games, also, because a lot of people seem to think upsets are possible. I am not sure that it would be that big of an upset if #15 Washington knocked off #5 Stanford. Washington might be as underrated a team as there is in the country. I haven’t been as impressed with Stanford as I thought I would be. A lot of people seem to think #25 Maryland has a chance at Doak Campbell against the #8 Seminoles. While I don’t necessarily believe the Terps can spring the upset it will be interesting to see if their high pressure defense can create any cracks in the façade of Jameis Winston. The other game to watch is Georgia Tech at #14 Miami. I do like this as a potential upset if Georgia Tech can control the clock with its running game.
IF YOU BELIEVE THAT WHERE THERE IS SMOKE THERE IS FIRE …
If that is the way you view life, then you are looking at what is going on in Tuscaloosa right now with a great deal of skepticism. This latest escapade involving safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might be just as it’s being spun – a kid who wanted to go home so bad that he borrowed a few hundred dollars from a benevolent assistant strength and conditioning coach who has a big heart and nothing more. If you believe in something more sinister hiding in the shadows, then you take a look at the recent revelations that D.J. Fluker played an entire season at Alabama while on the take and you think if there are two Bama players who the agents have gotten their hooks into then there must be more.
ASSUME THE WORST FOR A MOMENT
Or the best if you are already tired of Nick Saban and wish he would move on … but if Alabama indeed has been seriously infiltrated by agents, there could be problems with the NCAA. I know it sounds far fetched. After all, Nick says we comply, play by the rules and have nothing to hide, but Steve Spurrier got whacked at the knees when he discovered just how far Tank Black’s tentacles extended into the Florida program. That set the Gators back a couple of years. Would Saban risk seeing something like agent infiltration ruin what he’s built at Alabama or would he take the next train out of town? I tend to think that this will be blown over by the NCAA, but if you are the type to assume the worst might happen, then consider this for a second. When Saban left Michigan State it had everything to do with NCAA sanctions that weren’t of his doing. Would he do it again? Time will tell.
FINEBAUM SAYS …
A lot of people seem to think that Paul Finebaum has become the public relations arm of Alabama football, but Friday night on the College Football Live show on ESPN, Finebaum said he feels the stress of trying to three-peat is starting to get to Nick Saban. “I think Nick Saban is the best coach in college football right now,” Finebaum said, “but I think the pressure of trying to three-peat is starting to wear on him because he’s not managing his football program very well right now.” Finebaum went on to say that he wouldn’t be surprised if something else happens to Alabama. Is that a foreshadowing of things to come?
THE FEARLESS FORECAST
Besides Florida over Bill and Hilary Clinton State U, I like Alabama over Georgia State, the Georgia Poodles over Dollywood USA, Auburn over Ole Miss, LSU over Mississippi State, South Carolina over The Basketball School Up North, and Misery over Gloria Vanderbilt.
Last week: 7-1; Season: 48-4
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of the things I’ve always appreciated most about Eric Clapton is that he has always paid tribute to the great blues singers and guitarists who helped shape the music that became rock and roll. This is one of my true favorites, the old Howlin’ Wolf classic “Goin’ Down Slow.” Clapton nails the guitar as you would expect, but these are some serious vocals that go with it.