TIME TO CUT KELVIN TAYLOR LOOSE
If there is a ray of light to be found in Florida’s 17-6 loss to LSU it is the emergence of Kelvin Taylor as a factor in the running game. Taylor carried 10 times for 52 yards and showed a measure of explosiveness that has been missing from the other backs. Taylor hits the hole hard and instinctively runs to open space, something that can’t be taught. Tyler Murphy gives the Gators a quarterback who can buy some time and make some plays with his feet and Solomon Patton is showing playmaking skills at wide receiver. The only thing missing is that guy at tailback who is a threat to eat up huge chunks of yardage. Kelvin Taylor is that guy. It’s time to cut him loose.
THE GATORS CONTROL THEIR OWN DESTINY
The loss to LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC West) might hurt the Gators (4-2, 3-1 SEC East) as far as the national championship picture – there’s no way a two-loss team is going to make it to the championship game this year even if it is from the SEC – but the Gators can still get to Atlanta and win the Southeastern Conference championship by going on a four-game winning streak. They get a Missouri (6-0, 2-0 East) team that will be without star QB James Franklin for at least a month next week in Columbia, then Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC East) in Jacksonville followed by Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3 SEC East) in Gainesville and South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 SEC East) in Columbia. With Georgia felled by injuries and Vanderbilt playing the Gators in The Swamp, that game against South Carolina right now looms as the game that should decide who goes to Atlanta for the Alabama Invitational, aka SEC Championship Game.
PIECING A CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENSE TOGETHER
Remember how Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC West) gave up a bazillion yards and 42 points to Texas A&M a month ago? Since then Alabama has given up 16 points in four games and since bringing in Kenyan Drake to be the lightning to go with T.J. Yeldon’s thunder, the Alabama running game is starting to look formidable again. Okay, so the Crimson Tide hasn’t exactly faced a murderer’s row in Colorado State, Ole Miss, Georgia State and Kentucky, but these scrimmages – hate to call them games – have served the very useful purpose of allowing Nick Saban a chance to find the right combinations. The Tide gets two more warmup games (Arkansas and Tennessee) before a bye week prior to the showdown with LSU on November 7. Maybe the only team that can give Alabama fits is Oregon and if that game happens, Saban will have an entire month to prepare. Right now I wouldn’t bet against Alabama making it three national titles in a row.
WASHINGTON “SLOWS DOWN” OREGON
Sort of. Oregon (6-0) didn’t crack the 50-point barrier for the first time all season, but the Ducks racked up 631 yards in their 45-24 win over Washington with quarterback Marcus Mariota throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns while running for 88 yards and another score. With 1,358 passing yards and 14 TDPs to go with 338 rushing yards and seven more touchdowns, you’d have to rate Mariota as the midseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. You’d also have to rare Oregon as the hands down favorite to face Alabama in the national championship game. Even with an “off game” offensively, the Ducks are still averaging 58 points and more than 630 yards per game.
IF I HAD A VOTE IN THE POLLS …
My top 25 tomorrow would be (1) Alabama; (2) Oregon; (3) Ohio State; (4) Clemson; (5) Florida State; (6) Texas A&M; (7) Louisville; (8) LSU; (9) UCLA; (10) South Carolina; (11) Stanford; (12) Miami; (13) Georgia; (14) Baylor; (15) Texas Tech; (16) Missouri; (17) Florida; (18) Virginia Tech; (19) Oklahoma; (20) Fresno State; (21) Washington; (22) Nebraska; (23) Oklahoma State; (24) Michigan State; (25) Michigan.
MACK BROWN LIVES TO COACH ANOTHER DAY
Texas’ 36-20 win over Oklahoma accomplished two things. First, it ensured that Mack Brown will survive at least until the Baylor game, which is December 7. That’s Pearl Harbor Day and it might feel like a day that will live in infamy if Baylor does what it can do. The second thing that was accomplished by the Texas win was eliminating Oklahoma from any chance that it will embarrass itself in another national championship game. Now that the Sooners have a loss under their belts, they don’t have to worry about another chance to lay a giant egg on the national stage.
IS CLEMSON READY TO TAKE A FALL?
Clemson (6-0) stayed unbeaten but not before the Fighting Addazios gave the Tigers a scare. Clemson had to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to eke out a win over Boston College (3-3). That was a prelude of things to come for Boston College, which is going to be very good in the years to come once Addazio fills the roster with the kind of players he needs. But, was the game an exposure of Clemson or merely the Tigers looking forward to next week’s showdown in Death Valley with unbeaten Florida State? Clemson’s pass defense better figure some things out this week. If they play against Jameis Winston the way they did against BC, the Tigers are in deepest and darkest.
SCRATCH STANFORD AS A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER
Even if Stanford (5-1) runs the table the rest of the way, you can forget the Cardinal as a national championship contender. You don’t lose to a very average Utah team and stay in the race. The Cardinal still have unbeaten UCLA (next week) and Oregon on the schedule. They might win one of those two games but both of them? Forget about it. This is a team that has been overrated from day one. And all that talk about Stanford’s rugged defense? Utah is a very average offensive team but the Utes had very little problem running the ball or throwing it against Stanford. Put Stanford in the SEC and it would be lucky to break even.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I was at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota the Friday of Florida’s game with Georgetown in the 2006 Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament during which time I bounced into a music store that was playing a Talking Heads CD. That jarred a few memories since I used to listen to Talking Heads all the time when I was teaching in Korea back in the 1980s. So I bought the CD and listened to it late that afternoon when I was driving to the MetroDome. “Burning Down the House” came on just before I got into the media parking lot. About four hours later, Corey Brewer hit that impossible shot to give the Gators the win over Georgetown. Not wishing to tempt fate, “Burning Down the House” on the way in to the Elite Eight game with Villanova and the Gators won again. I played the song before the two Final Four games, before the Gators beat Ohio State in the BCS national championship game and for all six NCAA Tournament games in 2007. Then I retired it until 2008. Sensing the Gators might need a boost against Oklahoma, I brought “Burning Down the House” out of mothballs for one more game and the Gators beat Oklahoma. I’ve been asked why I don’t play the song every time the Gators play. It’s simple. They don’t put shelf life on these songs and CDs although they need to. For all I know, I’ve gotten all the wins there are out of this song. It has been retired undefeated.