When you know, you know. And right now, Florida fans know.
First, allow me to explain. I absolutely despise the typical “fire [insert head coach of a football team here] columns.”
This is an incredibly difficult job, and I don't envy the strain. I also don't like calling for people to lose paychecks.
That’s not what I am trying to do with Dan Mullen. Well, not exactly.
Frankly, he’s done that job just fine himself over the past month just fine. And Florida almost certainly has to move forward with a coaching change before it lowers its ceiling any further.
The Gators lost on Saturday against South Carolina 40-17. Florida was a 20.5-point favorite.
While this certainly is the most damning loss, it has company. Mullen’s team lost to LSU as a 13-point favorite and Kentucky as a 7.5-point favorite.
Florida also has losses against Alabama and Georgia.
It is frankly bizarre to see any Gators team with a 4-5 record at this point in the season. When you consider that this was the pinnacle of the sport under Urban Meyer--regardless of your feelings about Meyer these days--the state of this program is actually hard to comprehend.
But I’m not done. Mullen has struggled to recruit at Florida, and he has made matters worse in recent weeks while trying to deflect those struggles in press conferences.
Florida has also canceled media availability, taking a bad situation and just making it worse. This is a playbook for how to TNT your football program in a month.
If anything, a lack of recruiting is how we arrived here. And as Georgia and its years of successful recruiting plows its way through anything in its path, including Florida, one can’t help but look at what’s going on in Gainesville and wonder.
I didn’t think Mullen would be fired this year; I thought he would get one more crack to fix this and he still might.
That said, I can’t recall a coaching meltdown quite like the one we’ve seen. It’s fast, intense and perhaps beyond repair.
We might simply be past the point of no return.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. These days, ranking football teams is difficult. I know Georgia is No. 1; that’s the easy part. But it’s frankly a mess after that, and Week 10 really highlights how weird this season has been. Alabama looked sluggish as more than a four-touchdown favorite. Cincinnati has looked sluggish for a month as a huge chalk. Ohio State looked sloppy against Nebraska. And Oregon and Oklahoma are fine but flawed. What does it mean? Maybe this really is Georgia’s year. As someone heavily invested in UGA futures, that sounds lovely. But CFB rarely goes the way we think it will.
2. I tell myself I won’t get mad at the College Football Playoff Rankings, and I just can’t help it. No matter how many times we do this ridiculous in-season show, it doesn’t get any easier to stomach. While I had plenty of issues with the first ranking last week, my most glaring takeaway is this: I miss the computers. At least they couldn’t stumble into some mangled logic that contradicts itself naturally. The computers, aka the BCS, spit out rankings that were without bias. You might not have agreed, but you at least accepted it. We need a new postseason with conference championship hooks and at-large teams decided by a formula rather than people. This system is still young, and it’s already tired.
3. Let’s talk about Stanford. David Shaw’s team was absolutely obliterated 52-7 by Utah at home on Friday night. It was one of the worst first halves of football I’ve seen all year, and I say that without an ounce of hyperbole. While Stanford closed as a 11-point dog, which says a lot, this was brutal. The Cardinal is now 3-6 with three very losable games remaining. While Shaw has been superb during his tenure, the falloff over the past few years, headlined by this year’s bottoming out, is undeniable. Oh, and he makes nearly $9 million per year. This is one to keep an eye on.
4. I missed badly on Texas. I thought Steve Sarkisian would have an immediate impact, and goodness was that wrong. The Longhorns, like Florida, are now 4-5. They have lost four straight games and not covered a spread in that stretch. Sark will get time to fix it and bring in his own players (probably), but it’s hard to label this start as anything but rough.
5. Bryce Young is still the Heisman favorite, and I get that. But the best football player on Alabama is linebacker Will Anderson, and it’s not even close. The sophomore linebacker terrorized LSU on Saturday, which is essentially what he’s done to every opponent this year. Anderson has 10.5 sacks (second in nation) and 21 tackles for loss. Why aren't we talking more about him for the Heisman?
6. We do need to talk about Matt Araiza. Who is Araiza, you ask? He’s the nation’s leading punter and one of the best players to emerge from the position in some time. San Diego State’s star special teamer is averaging nearly 52 yards per punt, although even that doesn’t do it justice. Against Hawaii on Saturday he punted a ball that nearly traveled the entire football field in the air. Oh, and he kicks field goals. He might be Superman.
The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend
No. 11 Texas A&M (-1, 55.5) at No. 12 Ole Miss
While Texas A&M’s defense might not be at Georgia’s historic level, it’s the closest thing to it in CFB. On Saturday, it shined against Auburn. The Aggies allowed only three points and easily covered the 4.5-point spread. A&M has now won and covered in four straight games, allowing only 31 points over the past three. But Ole Miss could certainly challenge this. The Rebels have covered the spread in three of the past four games. On Saturday, they were able to conquer former head coach Huge Freeze and Liberty, although it wasn’t a dazzling showing. The offense, which has been superb at times, has become a bit more stagnant. While home field will help, this team needs to return to its more explosive form. If it can do that, it can certainly win this game.
No. 4 Oklahoma (-6.5, 64) at No. 18 Baylor
Baylor’s loss to TCU takes some of the juice out of this one, although it’s still a massive game in a handful of ways. Oklahoma, of course, is still unbeaten despite a slew of underwhelming showings throughout the season. Of late, things have improved. The Sooners are 3-1 ATS in the last four--the lone loss being the peculiar showing against Kansas. Baylor was one of the hotter teams in football before the loss last week; the Bears lost outright to TCU in its first game without Gary Patterson as a 7.5-point favorite. Still, playing at home, where Baylor is perfect ATS, should help a lot.
No. 1 Georgia (-20, 54.5) at Tennessee
The Vols are fun. They might also be pretty good. But at the very least, they’re fun. That much is clear after Tennessee beat Kentucky 45-42, covering the one-point spread after a week of interesting line movement. I’m curious to see if this offense, which should test Georgia’s defense in a way it hasn’t yet, can finally get this historic group to budge. The total tells me maybe, unless we’re expecting the Bulldogs to do much of the heavy lifting. And that’s very possible. Georgia, after starting a bit slow against Missouri, eventually turned it on. Although Kirby Smart’s team fell short of covering the 40-point spread against Missouri, it wasn’t far off. And that spread really speaks to the dominance of this team. Still, this is a test on the road. Not sure I’ll be on the Vols, but this will be worth a look throughout the week.
No. 23 Penn State (-1, 49.5) vs. No. 9 Michigan
Penn State has a weird month, although the Nittany Lions find themselves as a short favorite against a top 10 team. The loss to Illinois could have been a death blow to the season, but Penn State had a decent bounce back last weekend against Maryland. It wasn’t explosive or dominant, but James Franklin’s team did cover the 10-point spread. And the defense, which has played quite well even in losses, was superb. Stylistically, Michigan is there. The Wolverines delivered a Jim Harbaugh-ian 29-7 win over Indiana, which was a nice recovery after the Michigan State debacle the prior week. To me, Michigan is the better team in this game. I said that before Michigan State, and it blew up in my face. I am tempted to test it again despite Harbaugh’s issues in games just like this.
No. 13 Wake Forest (-2, 66.5) vs. No. 21 North Carolina State
It might be the most entertaining game all weekend. In fact, pretty much every game Wake Forest is must-see at this point. The Demon Deacons finally lost to North Carolina after building an early lead, and they fell just short of covering the 2.5-point spread. QB Sam Hartman has been a star, and I see no reason for that not to continue. But can Wake stop anyone? Specifically, can it stop North Carolina State? The Wolfpack are 6-3 ATS this season, won six of seven games and the defense has allowed only 27 points combined in the past two weeks. That group is likely to get a workout this week, however, and I could see another touchdown frenzy breaking out. I like the over.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
No. 16 Auburn (-5, 52.5) vs. Mississippi State: Both teams are coming off disappointing (but different losses). I am very curious to see what kind of response we get from Bo Nix after an anemic weekend.
No. 6 Ohio State (-19, 63.5) vs. Purdue: The Boilermakers conquered another top-five team, although clearly the oddsmakers think it ends there. That’s a huge number and plenty to think about.
No. 25 Pittsburgh (-6, 75) vs. North Carolina: Thursday night! And not only is this a Thursday night game, but it’s the kind we absolutely love. If you like fun quarterback play, this is for you.