WHERE MISSOURI IS VULNERABLE
On paper it would seem that Missouri’s porous defense – 12th in the SEC, giving up 419.3 yards per game – is the cure for Florida’s plod along offense but closer examination shows that the Tigers aren’t bad against the run and that’s Florida’s offensive strength. Missouri ranks third in the league against the run (126 yards per game). It’s the passing game where the Tigers struggle but even those stats can be deceiving. The Tigers do indeed give up 293 passing yards a game and they have been torched for 11 touchdown passes but they’ve also picked off 13, which leads the SEC and is tied for first nationally, and they’ve sacked the quarterback 17 times, which is second in the SEC. Georgia found most of its running success against Missouri with draw plays and misdirection. The Tigers’ deep zone kept the ball in front of the safeties and picked off Aaron Murray twice.
WHAT THE GATORS NEED TO DO
Florida is going to have to establish running backs Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor early in the passing game to help negate the rush. One way to kill a blitz is to flip it over the top of a linebacker to a running back who has green grass in front of him. Georgia got a touchdown pass and 11 completions to its tailbacks last week. If Missouri insists on loading the box whenever Taylor is in the game – his weakness is pass protection – then Florida is going to need to sneak him out of the backfield or run a wheel route with him. There are ways to compensate for a back who can’t or won’t pass block. Missouri’s linebackers have size and strength but other than weakside Kentrell Brothers, have problems in coverage. Trey Burton and the tailbacks will be isolated on linebackers for most of the game.
SMART EXPANSION/DUMB EXPANSION
If you are grading the wave of conference expansions that have changed the college football landscape, give the SEC an A+, the Big Ten and the ACC incompletes, the Pac-12 a C for not really adding much, the Big 12 a D- for contraction and the Big East an F- for failing to figure out that it was going to fall apart. I had my doubts about Missouri in the SEC, but not only did the league add an academic powerhouse, it’s stretched its footprint well into the Midwest. As for Texas A&M, it’s thriving outside the shadow of the University of Texas. It’s a great school academically and it is going to be a contender in just about every SEC sport. I have to think that Texas is wondering what the hell it was thinking when it turned down a chance to join the SEC.
SMART EXPANSION/DUMB EXPANSION, PART II
Rutgers and Maryland bring nothing of real value to the Big Ten on the playing field. I can imagine how Maryland fans will groan when they realize they’ve traded an easy drive to Chapel HIll for a trip to Michigan State or Nebraska. I do believe the ACC helped itself particularly for basketball by adding Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame. Although Notre Dame won’t compete for the football title, it will play five ACC opponents a year, a plus when it comes to TV ratings. As for the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big East, put a dunce cap on whoever is in charge of those leagues. The Pac-12 gained nothing from Colorado and Utah, the Big 12 contracted and lost its national appeal and the Big East imploded. The folks who run those three leagues must have paid attention to that old saying, “Aim low enough and you’ll probably hit your target.”
STADIUM EXPANSION PLANS IN THE SEC
LSU is expanding Tiger Stadium to 101,000 capacity … Missouri has immediate plans to expand to 77,000 and wants to add another 10,000 seats soon after phase I is complete … At Texas A&M, Kyle Field is going to be expanded from 84,000 to 102,000 … Mississippi State’s renovated stadium will seat 62,000 next year … Ole Miss is enclosing its north end zone to add another 7-8,000 seats to increase capacity to around 68,000, plus is building a brand new basketball arena … Arkansas is expanding football to seat 77,000 and is building a 5,000-seat arena for gymnastics and volleyball … Georgia has plans on the drawing board to expand Sanford Stadium to 102,000 … South Carolina is going to expand Williams-Brice Stadium to 88,000 … Kentucky is spending $100 million to renovate Commonweath Stadium although capacity will only be increased to about 70,000 … Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn and Vanderbilt have no stadium expansion plans at present.
FINALLY AN ACC GAME WITH NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS
The football faithful in the Almost Competitive Conference are downright giddy because they finally have a conference game that actually has national championship implications on their hands with #5 Florida State traveling to #3 Clemson Saturday in a battle of unbeatens. Although no one in the league will admit it outright, the powers that be are pulling for Clemson to beat the Seminoles and go unbeaten in the regular season and for 10th-ranked Miami to knock off the Seminoles on November 2 and finish the regular season unbeaten. That would set up a nationally important ACC Championship Game between Clemson and Miami that could possibly propel the winner squarely into the national championship game picture.
WHY THE ISSUES WITH CONDOLEEZA RICE?
I find it humorous that David Pollack and Pat Dye have such issues with Condoleeza Rice being on the selection committee for the national championship game. As the provost at Stanford, she oversaw one of America’s great universities, which has, by the way, a truly outstanding athletic department. Her dad was a football coach and she can X and O you all day long, plus she understands the football economy. She will be the smartest person in the selection committee room, too. Maybe that’s what bothers Pollack and Dye so much.
HELPING OUT THE CHEESEBURGERS
At Kansas Charlie Weis has demoted himself and promoted a couple of his assistants. Translation: he’s letting his assistants coach and he’s going to oversee the dreadful Cheeseburgers as they try to avert finishing the season on a nine-game losing streak. You have to wonder what happened with Charlie. He directed the New England Patriots offense for three Super Bowl titles so it’s not like he was devoid of a coaching brain, but somewhere along the way Charlie lost it and lost it in a big way. He needs to find it in a hurry or else he will be down on the farm in Ocala … for good.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
On the way back from acupuncture treatment on my back today, I popped in the “Speaking of Now” CD by the Pat Metheny Group. “As It Is” is the lead track on a terrific CD that won the Grammy Award in 2003 for best contemporary jazz album. One of the things I’ve always liked about Pat is the way he incorporates sounds and musical influences from all over the world into his songs. On “As It Is” there is some very cool work on the marimba by Dave Samuels (formerly of Spyro Gyra) that reflects a strong southeast Asian influence and some incredible keyboard work by Lyle Mays (longest fingers you’ll ever see on a piano player). I love the vocals, which are typical of a Pat Metheny song – they sing the notes but no words.