Sorry for the delay this week, Gators. The Report family had a weekend excursion to the beach after the ballgame and I decided to watch the Dirty Noles Sunday night rather than get down to business. Though, as I've queried many times before, what do you want for free? Thanks for all the positive feedback regarding my hot piss last week, but I have to say that my favorite came all the way from Afghanistan-
"Good news, apparently you are no longer on the watch list here in Afghanistan! I'm back for another tour and it was a huge morale boost to open my email and see a Report waiting, and it was even better that I could click on the link and read it... I just passed the link onto a fellow Gator Soldier with me here on the 101st Airborne Division staff. Lots of SEC guys here, we're doing a college fantasy league and we're all excited about the season kicking off except for the fact games will start at like 0100 in the morning. Full disclosure- I attended Stetson University, my wife is a former Gatorette and I have been a Gator fan most of my football watching life. Feel free to highlight Stetson's return to the gridiron this year and our inevitable rise to dominance in the Pioneer League... I'm glad you decided to give it another year, keep on keeping on."
- Major Stephen Magennis
So here I was, whining about having to write another year of Reports while Major Magennis is BACK in Afghanistan along with his fellow soldiers risking his life to protect my family and our freedom, and he's thanking ME! Can you say humbling? Thank YOU Major, and please pass our thanks on to all of the Americans serving with you. And, for the record, Stetson kicked the shit out of Warner, 31-3, in spite of a weather delay that forced a Saturday night game into Sunday afternoon. Word on the street is that the SEC is already looking at The Hatters as a 15th team.
Stetson's dominance notwithstanding, we had a fun little ballgame in Gainesville on Saturday as well. In spite of Kirk Herbstreit's absurd prediction that Toledo would come in and pull the upset, Florida took care of business from the opening series with a familiar balance of their ground game and dominant defense. In spite of the comfortable win (and by comfortable I'm referring to the margin and not the temperature), there was plenty of grumbling on the radio today from fans who wanted to see more offense. And I get it. I wouldn't have minded seeing us take a few more shots down field either.
But Muschamp doesn't care. He is paid to win ballgames, and if we can run for over 250 yards with our backup tailback and not give up a touchdown to a team that's scored one in every ballgame for the last two seasons, then winning pretty can just take a back seat. I'm completely ok with that as long as we have some kind of backup plan in the event we meet a team that can stuff our run and score some points on their own. The good news is, I don't think we'll face that team until we go to Baton Rouge, but I don't want to get ahead of myself.
More importantly, we had Errict Rhett and his family up in the box for the game. I thought he was a terrific Mr. Two Bits and he couldn't have been nicer. I told him it was his 1993 record breaking 41 carry performance against Georgia that served as the foundation of my marriage. I think it was at that point that Mr. Two Bits knew that he was talking to a drunk person.
Here's what I saw over the weekend that was notable-
- FSU's new QB is the real deal. Say what you want about Pitt, that was a Top 20 defense last year and returned 8 starters. Besides, going 25 for 27 against air is pretty good. With the receiving corps and big running backs that FSU has accumulated, this offense could be scary come midseason. The question will be if their defense can be good enough to win a championship.
- I thought South Carolina was dominant early but then their defense looked gassed, and not just Jadaveon Clowney who apparently has the cardiovascular endurance of a 79 year old who has been smoking since the 2nd grade. If the defense doesn't get right in a hurry they're going to lose this weekend. It was a little tough watching former UF commit Mike Davis running up and down the field.
- It was not tough watching Georgia lose. I'm all for the SEC, but those of you who have read this long enough know that Georgia can't lose enough for me. I'd be downright gleeful if the HBC could roll in between the hedges and hammer them again like they did last year. I wonder if UGA fans would egg Aaron Murray's house again if they go to 0-2? I'd like to think so.
- You've got to give Clemson some credit. Sure, they gave up 200 yards rushing on first down alone and they were benefitted by Georgia injuries and a botched chip shot field goal, but they've now beaten LSU and Georgia in consecutive games and that deserves some respect. I wonder if the ACC would take Kentucky for Clemson in a straight up trade?
- The Anchor was down on Thursday night until Vandy went Vandy on itself and found a way to lose to young, talented Ole Miss. Meanwhile, at that other school in Mississippi, Dan Mullen's Bulldogs scored just 3 points and lost its 11th straight game to a ranked opponent. His is likely the hottest seat in the league.
Turning toward our trip to Miami this weekend, I watched some of the Canes/Owls game and was less than intimidated with what I saw. Their defense, ranked 116th overall last year, still looked porous in spite of the final score. This team gave up 41 to Notre Dame, 45 to Duke, and 41 to Virginia last year. I recognize that this is their biggest home game of the year and emotions will run higher than they did Friday night, but I think they'll be hard pressed to handle Florida's power rushing attack, particularly with our starting tailback available for touches this week.
On offense, the Canes are a different story. Running back Duke Johnson may be the best we face all year, and their line has some NFL caliber talent, particularly on the edges. Quarterback Stephen Morris has been there for years and has some good skill players to look for if we can't pressure him. That said, Florida's defense looks nasty again this year and was ranked #4 against the run last year. With the addition of Antonio Morrison in the middle, I think Duke Johnson will struggle to find daylight. Presuming Easley can get over the flu, I think the combination of him up the middle and Ropo, Bullard and Fowler coming off the edges will keep Morris on the run during obvious passing downs. I like our chances of limiting big plays in the secondary with Purifoy back at one corner and plenty of depth across the board.
I think the only way we lose, other than a rash of turnovers, is if we get creamed on special teams. We can't give up big returns, a blocked punt or be disastrous from short range with our field goals. Austin Hardin didn't give me the warm and fuzzy against Toledo, but it is going to take more than a single missed field goal to turn the game for the Canes on Saturday. Vegas has us as a 3 point favorite, I think its more like 8, which in Muschampese is a blowout on the road. Florida 24-Miami 16.
Unlike last weekend, the slate of games isn't terribly interesting this week-
Georgia v. South Carolina- UGA is favored by 3 in this one which was surprising to me. Then again, maybe Vegas saw the same SC defense that I saw last Thursday. I think the big question is the mental state of the Bulldogs. Can they rally after coming so close on the national stage to defend their turf against a team that positively manhandled them last year? I'm tempted to say yes, but then I remember how much Spurrier loves to beat Georgia. USC 33-UGA 30.
Tennessee v. Western Kentucky- Can WKU make it two straight over the SEC East? No. Tennessee isn't great, but they're a long way from Kentucky. UT 35-WKU 13.
Michigan v. Notre Dame- Yeah, I don't really care either. ND 24-UM 21.
Florida Tech v. Stetson- Apparently this is Florida Tech's first ever game which gives Stetson a major advantage since this is their second game in 57 years. Vegas loves the Hatters' dual threat at QB, I'd bet this one heavy. Hatters 23-Panthers 12.
That's it this week, Gators, but before signing off I'd like to take a point of personal privilege and mention that my Aunt Lori passed away yesterday after a long and extremely courageous fight with cancer. Growing up, she was my favorite aunt. She took me to my first concert and drove me and a friend to toilet paper another friend's house back in middle school. She always laughed at my jokes and she had a terrific laugh. When I had kids of my own, she was always the first to volunteer to play with them. Timmy and Percy called her their tent buddy, and she'd always pretend to be Ursula the Sea Witch if my girls were in their mermaid costumes. We'll undoubtedly miss her when the family gets together, but I'm certain that none of us will forget her. I'm hoping that since I've cleared the military censors in Afghanistan, maybe she'll be able to get The Report up in Heaven because that's certainly where she'll be residing. I love you Aunt Lori.