THE NUMBERS DO LIE SOME OF THE TIME
When the Florida Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) travel to Lexington Saturday for their first SEC road game with Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPNU), the Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 SEC) will feature an offense that is ranked #25 nationally (490 yards per game) and a defense that is ranked #49 (giving up 367). It all sounds good until you actually look at two of the three games the Wildcats have played – Western Kentucky and Miami of Ohio. Those are stat-padder games. The Wildcats did manage 376 yards against Louisville, but the Cardinals got bored after taking a 27-6 lead. This is a Kentucky team that isn’t nearly as good as its stats but because of a rash of Florida injuries, Saturday’s game might be closer than your typical UK-UF game through the years. Florida is likely to go very conservative, not so much because Tyler Murphy can’t handle the offense but more likely because Will Muschamp is going to try to play some defense with his offense by grinding out first downs and controlling the clock to make up for the loss of Dominique Easley. This is a game that sets up well for the Gators to come away with more than 250 rushing yards. It might be just what the doctor ordered for Matt Jones, who has struggled to get untracked so far. I also look for Kelvin Taylor to get some significant playing time. UF would not have burned his redshirt if there wasn’t a plan in place to cut him loose at some point. This might be the game.
HOW WILL THE INJURY AFFECT EASLEY IN THE NFL DRAFT?
There is no way Dominique Easley will be ready for the NFL Combines so he might not go in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft. Most draft experts had Easley pegged as the #3 defensive tackle in the draft and likely to go in the final third of the first round. If he is a fast healer, he might be aided by the NFL’s decision to move the draft back a month from April to May. That would give Easley 6-7 months to rehab and perhaps get in workout shape. Even if he can’t work out for teams, don’t expect Easley to drop any further than the second round.
SHOWDOWN IN ATHENS
When LSU travels to Athens Saturday to face Georgia it’s a game that could effectively stamp LSU as a legitimate national championship contender. Although the Tigers lost something like 14 players to the NFL Draft, they’re better this year than they’ve been in 10 years on offense and the defense, while young, is very talented. If LSU can go into Athens and beat Georgia, it will be great prep for that showdown in Tuscaloosa with Alabama the first weekend in November. With their revamped offense under the direction of Cam Cameron, this is a team that has weapons all over the place, which doesn’t bode well for Georgia’s porous defense, which has given up 86 points in three games and ranks #93 against the pass. Odell Beckham has to be drooling at the thought of wearing out those Georgia corners.
AVOIDING THE DOUBT
Oddsmakers have pegged Ole Miss a 14.5-point underdog when the Rebels travel to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama this weekend. If this were last year, those 14 points would seem rock solid, but unlike the last two seasons, this Alabama team looks very vulnerable. The Tide has trouble running the ball and the defense got torched for more than 600 yards and 42 points by Texas A&M a couple of weeks ago. Now, Bama is still unbeaten and until someone knocks the Tide off the throne, still the king, but this team reminds me of Tiger Woods. Tiger is still very good, but he doesn’t have that fear factor which used to be worth at least four shots per tournament. This Bama team is very good, but doesn’t seem to have the fear factor. If Ole Miss isn’t afraid and can avoid the doubt that tends to creep in when 100,000 Alabama fans who have been drinking all day start roaring, then the Rebels might have a chance to spring the upset. If the doubt creeps in, however, it’s all over.
A BIT HYPOCRITICAL
For Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald to say they’re disappointed that some of their players wrote the initials APU (All Players United) on their wrist tape last Saturday just reeks of hypocrisy. Johnson is paid $2.7 million and Fitzgerald makes $1.3 million. Both have all kinds of benefits and they get cushy buyouts if they are fired. College football players are on one year scholarship contracts and for all practical purposes they can get fired if the coach elects not to renew their scholarships. If they are dumped, players have to sit out a year. If a coach is dumped or decides to head for more pay somewhere else, he doesn’t have to sit out. To hear coaches say they are disappointed that their players support an organization fighting for such things as medical benefits for injuries – particularly concussions – that linger beyond their playing days is absolutely ridiculous.
BRIDGEWATER CAN’T HAVE A BAD DAY
Teddy Bridgewater is putting up Star Wars numbers – 79-110, 1214 yards, 14 TDs, 1 pick – for seventh ranked Louisville and he’s on everybody’s Heisman list. What’s going to hurt him is a weak Louisville schedule that includes no ranked teams. A loss and you can almost forget about Bridgewater winning the Heisman. A bad day will have the same effect. He has to continue to put up the huge numbers and Louisville has to go unbeaten for Bridgewater to win the Heisman. Bridgewater is an exceptional quarterback but he is handicapped by the fact Louisville won’t join the ACC until next year.
WAS ARIAN FOSTER LYING?
Former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer and his former offensive coordinator, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, think Arian Foster is lying about the claims he made that he took money when he was playing at Tennessee. Fulmer went so far as to say that he and his staff took great pride in being NCAA compliant and reporting any violations no matter how trivial. Now, I don’t doubt for a second that Foster took some money while at Tennessee, but is he perhaps embellishing his story? Probably. Did Fulmer and Cutcliffe cheat while they were at Tennessee? We don’t know that for a fact, but I also don’t doubt that they perhaps turned a blind eye. There were just too many stories about what went on in Knoxville in those days and where there is smoke there usually is fire.
FREEMAN BENCHED AT TAMPA BAY
Greg Schiano stood by Josh Freeman all of last year and the first three weeks of the 2013 but the Tampa Bay Bucs’ coach has finally seen enough. Freeman is being benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon for Sunday’s game against Arizona. Freeman threw for 30 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards last season, but in the Bucs’ 0-3 start he’s hitting only 45.3% with more interceptions than touchdowns. Allegedly, the benching has as much to do with a rift with Schiano caused by Freeman pouting ever since wasn’t elected team captain than three bad games. I’ve never liked Freeman. I think Freeman can play in the NFL, but I don’t think you can ever win a championship with him.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Since catching her for the first time on the “Live from Daryl’s House” television program, I’ve become a big fan of Diane Birch, who writes some incredibly good material for herself. She’s got great range and the kind of voice that sticks with you. She reminds me a lot of a young Carly Simon. This is “All the Love You Got” which will be one of the featured tracks on her new album “Speak a Little Louder” that will be released October 15.