Thomas and Lapoint Preview The SEC: Top Offensive, OPOY Predictions

It used to be defenses win championships…but after LSU went through and torched everyone last year with their world-beating offense, can we say that with any degree of confidence? As college football evolves towards the spread offense, leading to higher-scoring games, impact offensive players can make a huge difference. Who are the best offensive teams and players gracing the SEC with their presence in 2020? Let’s take a look at what lead writer Aidan Thomas and SEC analyst Nathaniel Lapoint think on the subject. Check out our Power Rankings and Season Predictions, as well as our Top Defenses preview pieces.

Top Team Offenses

Aidan Thomas

  1. Alabama
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Florida

Nathaniel Lapoint

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. LSU

We agree on Alabama being the top offense in 2020. That should be almost a no-brainer. They have possibly the best running back in the country, two elite returning receivers leading a deep depth chart at the position, and a QB battle that will see either a strong returning senior QB or 5-star freshman win the job. Maintaining unity through that QB battle may be the biggest problem this offense faces.
After Alabama, we differ significantly in our predictions. I remain high on the Aggies and what Kellen Mond and Co. will bring to the table. I also think Kyle Trask is the best quarterback in the conference entering the 2020 season. He was extremely impressive when jumping into the role in the middle of last season, and with an offseason to prepare, I think he will lead Florida’s offense to big things in 2020. Meanwhile, Lapoint goes with Georgia and LSU to round out his top-three. They are high-risk, high-reward selections, no doubt about that. Georgia must reload at running back and navigate a QB battle between two transfers and then help one of those transfers adjust quickly to their system. However, there’s no doubting the talent in both Jamie Newman and J.T. Daniels, so if the transition goes well, and Georgia gets production out of the backfield, they could absolutely be a lethal offense in 2020.
Lapoint also puts trust in Myles Brennan and the LSU Tigers. The argument this offseason is whether LSU was a one-hit wonder that benefited from Joe Burrow, or whether Joe Burrow’s legendary season was a cherry-on-top of a revitalized offense. I’m high on LSU and think they’ll be near the top of the SEC, but Lapoint is confident enough in Brennan taking the reins to slot the Tigers into the third spot of his top offenses. Smoking hot take coming in here from Nathaniel Lapoint. 

Top Offensive Players

Offensive Player of the Year

Thomas: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Lapoint: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Aidan ThomasNathaniel Lapoint
Najee Harris, RB, AlabamaMac Jones, QB, Alabama
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSUJa’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Kyle Trask, QB, FloridaNajee Harris, RB, Alabama
Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&MBo Nix, QB, Auburn
John Rhys Plumlee, QB, Ole MissKylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State 

Najee Harris and Ja’Marr Chase were consensus top-three SEC offensive players in our rankings here. Harris was my pick for Offensive Player of the Year, while Lapoint stayed with the Tide, but gave the nod to Mac Jones, sliding Harris to #3. My uncertainty regarding the QB battle in Tuscaloosa prevented me from including Jones in my top 5, but there’s no doubting the talent of the signal-caller. Chase is likely the best receiver in the country and maybe a top-10 player in the country. A darkhorse Heisman contender, Chase comes in at #2 in both sets of rankings. Kyle Trask, who I’m very high on entering the 2020 season, slotted in at #3 in my rankings. 

Bo Nix and Kellen Mond both make appearances on the list, with Nix just missing my list, while Plumlee, the intriguing dual-threat QB from Ole Miss, and Kylin Hill, who should challenge Harris as the top running back in the SEC round out our respective lists. 

SEC Previews: Florida Gators

Entering the 2020 football season, there’s a consensus top two in the SEC East between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs. Whether either of those two teams has the firepower to take down the champion out of the SEC West remains to be seen, but do the Gators have a chance at wrestling the division crown away from the Bulldogs? Let’s see what they have to offer this fall. 

Top Returners: Kyle Trask, Shawn Davis
Trask will definitely be the key to Florida’s success in 2020. After an impressive first year under center for the Gators, his experience will be crucial, especially considering Georgia having landed two former starters in the transfer portal during the offseason. After tossing for nearly 3000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, Trask should be one of the best quarterbacks, both in the SEC and in the country.
Defensively, Shawn Davis is just one of many lethal assets that could be pulled out of Florida’s secondary and listed as a key returner. Davis had three interceptions, which he returned at an average of 37 yards per pick, while coming up with 3 passes defended and 51 tackles on the year. Florida likes to make their DBU claim, and this year, they do seem to boast one of the best secondaries in the nation with Davis leading the way. 

Biggest Concerns: Replacing Lamical Perine
Leading rusher Lamical Perine is off to the NFL, and he led Florida’s ground game with 676 rushing yards. After that, it’s a fairly significant drop off to their top returning back Dameon Pierce, who finished with 305 yards on the ground. Pierce will be counted on to be the workhorse in the Florida backfield, but replacing Perine will be a bigger task than that. Perine also caught 40 passes for 262 yards and 5 touchdowns, so he was a true dual-threat back that will be a very difficult player to replace. Pierce will need to step up and handle a workload he hasn’t had to bear before, and Florida will hope between him and a few other returners, they can at least mitigate the loss of Perine. 

X-Factors: Dameon Pierce, Jeremiah Moon
Offensively, Pierce is the clear-cut choice for Florida’s X-Factor. Although the Gators also lost leading receiver Van Jefferson, last year’s receiving corps was one of the most talented in recent program history, so they’ll have the ability to replace that production. Pierce will most definitely be the make-or-break point for the Florida offense as returning experience at quarterback will only do so much if you can’t run the ball.
Defensively, I’m going with Jeremiah Moon to be the X-Factor for the Gators. He’ll be coming off a season-ending injury, but when he was active he but up very solid numbers for Florida, including 3 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He also chipped in with 31 tackles and 2 passes defended, and if he can stay healthy and be a versatile asset to the Gator’s defense, that will be a huge win for Dan Mullen’s squad. 

SEC Record Prediction:  5-3
This isn’t nearly as good as many people expect for Florida, but I’m not sold on the Gators just yet. That running game is very worrying to me, and their inability to beat Georgia recently has been frustrating. I’m seeing losses to Georgia and LSU, with a road upset suffered at the hands of Lane Kiffin, John Rhys Plumlee, and the young and promising Ole Miss offense. It’ll be a tricky trap game sandwiched between those LSU and Georgia match-ups, and I think Trask and Co. overlooks the Rebels and ultimately ends their hopes at a SEC Championship berth. 

Top Candidates To Succeed Alabama as College Football’s Great Dynasty

When LSU went 8-0 last season in SEC play en route to a national championship, they broke a string of seven straight seasons in which Alabama claimed a share of the division title. For the Tide, the last 12 years have represented an unprecedented run of dominance in the modern era. We’ve seen teams be really good for long stretches of times, but to cap off success with national title after national title is simply unheard of. For evidence, simply look at Ohio State, one of the nation’s most historic teams. The Buckeyes have been ranked at some point in every season since 1967 – a span in which they’ve won just three championships. Alabama has won five (!) since Saban secured his first title with the Tide in 2009. Is it all due to the genius of Nick Saban? There is no doubt that the former LSU coach will go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time at any level.

There are too many stats that laud Alabama’s greatness under Saban, so rather than look at that, we’re going to take a look at which SEC teams are most suited to establish them as the SEC – and national – powerhouse once Saban retires. While Alabama’s dynasty and extended stretch of pure dominance may never be matched, is there a team lying in wait that may have the set-up to do it? Here are three possibilities, ranked in order of likelihood. 

3. Florida

Why They Will – Dan Mullen will become the best coach in the SEC

Again, we’re talking long term here, and at age 48, Dan Mullen is one of the youngest coaches in the conference. I know it’s an unpopular take, but I like Mullen as a coach over the 44-year old Kirby Smart, who has been too shaky in big games for my taste. Ed Orgeron is 59, so if Mullen sticks around, I like him to be the best coach in the conference when Saban retires. Since Alabama’s dynasty started in 2008, the Gators have the best conference record in the SEC East (73-23) and in the clear weaker division of the SEC, they have a chance to establish a run of dominance. 

Why they won’t – Lack of true consistency

Maybe the Gators have the best record in the SEC East over the past 12 years, but they have finished the season outside of the Top 25 in five different years and they’ve had two four-win seasons in the past decade. Coaching turnover is also a major concern – since Urban Meyer left in 2019, the Gators have gone through five coaches. Mullen is 21-5 in two years, and while I’m very high on his potential, the tumultuous reign of a bevy of coaches in Gainesville is a concerning trend that Mullen will need to buck. 

2. LSU

Why They Will – Consistency
.The Tigers are 120-37 since 2008 – the best mark in the conference next to Alabama and they haven’t had a losing season since 1999, appearing in the top ten in all but two seasons in that stretch. Their last three head coaches won national titles, making it feel like LSU will always hire the right man for the job. The Tigers will always have NFL-talent streaming through the bayou, and if they maintain their trademark consistency, they’ll have every chance to establish themselves as the SEC power if Alabama’s dynasty falters. 

Why They Won’t – LSU plateaus too often

LSU’s consistency can also be a mark of their weakness. In their last twelve seasons, the Tigers have only finished in the top-2 in the SEC West on four occasions. Alabama’s dynasty may die down, but LSU has hardly been the consensus second-best team in the division, as even Auburn has more SEC Championship appearances in that stretch. Prior to Joe Burrow’s two seasons with LSU, the Tigers hadn’t finished in the top 10 since 2011. LSU needs to prove they can be the clear-cut second best team in the division if they want to be declared Alabama’s heir apparent.

1. Georgia

Why They Will – Recruiting and the SEC East

Since 2008, there’s been one SEC team that has not finished lower than third in their division, and it’s not Alabama. The Bulldogs have been incredibly consistent, and at 71-23, they have the third-best SEC record in the past twelve years. Under the reign of Kirby Smart, Georgia has made the jump from good to great, and they appear ready for long-term success. At 44 and with experience coaching in the NFL and under Saban, Smart has been successful, even if his decision to keep Jake Fromm over Justin Fields may have cost UGA a title. At age 44, he has a long career ahead of him and coaching stability will be a key for establishing the next Alabama. As for bringing in talent, Georgia has the top-ranked recruiting in the SEC over the three most recently ranked classes (2019-2021). Recruiting is the best indicator of future success, and with one of Saban’s students at the helm and some of the best talent in the country, Georgia strikes me as the most well-suited team to take over for Alabama. 

Why They Won’t – An inability to win the big one

I don’t want to overuse the same reason over and over again, but it’s the most obvious concern for the Bulldogs. They haven’t won the national championship since 1980, and they have struggled in the biggest moments of Kirby Smart. Dan Mullen may be unproven in big moments, but Smart is quickly establishing the wrong kind of track records in those same moments. Now to be fair, Alabama has been a big factor in blocking Georgia from their goals, but I’m also nervous about the departure of Fromm. He may not have been a transcendent talent, but the Dawgs haven’t done anything without him. So to prove me right on this #1 ranking, Kirby Smart will need to be more clutch, and some elite recruiting talent will need to capitalize on their potential for Georgia.

Beating Vegas: Best SEC Bets After Latest Odds Released

The Las Vegas SuperBook released their latest SEC championship odds for, and whether you’re laying down 50 cents or a few thousand dollars, wanna be betters and sports fans should keep an eye on the odds given. Vegas is far from flawless (need we remind you of Joe Burrow’s 200:1 Heisman odds), so what are the best – and worst – ways to take advantage of these most recent odds.

Best Bets

Florida – 4:1

Alabama, Florida and Georgia were the only teams given odds of better than 10:1 to win the conference, and I love the Gators 4:1 odds here. Alabama is listed at 5:4 which, given the cutthroat nature of the SEC is not nearly good enough to lay a preseason bet on, and I’m very high on the Gators dethroning Georgia in the East. In my top 10 quarterback rankings, I had Kyle Trask as the top ranked signal-caller in the conference at #10, and I’d take Dan Mullen as a top-3 SEC coach, so if I’m betting on one of the favorites, I’m going with the guys out of Gainesville.

Auburn – 12:1

My favorite SEC West odds by far. As aforementioned, Alabama’s odds are too stingy to attract any kind of bet from me, and the second-best odds were stunningly given to the Texas A&M Aggies, which I’ll delve into more later. Auburn comes in at 12:1, with a rapidly improving ground game, perennially stiff defense, and a dynamic quarterback in Bo Nix that gives them more stability under center than many of their top competitors in the SEC West. Nothing against Myles Brennan and Mac Jones, but we haven’t seen the LSU QB in meaningful game action to this point, and Mac Jones just doesn’t excite me. Alabama and LSU are also ranked among the top-10 toughest schedules, so that seems to open a door for the Tigers. My biggest worry in potentially laying a bet on the Tigers is realizing that it will likely require a road victory in the Iron Bowl, so that may be a tough call.

Tennessee – 40:1

If I’m looking for a long-shot bet, I love this 40:1 payoff on the Volunteers, who ended 2019 on a six game winning streak, featuring an impressive road victory over Kentucky and gritty bowl game comeback against Indiana. After starting the year with discouraging losses against Georgia State and BYU, the Vols finished 8-3 in their final eleven games, with their only defeats coming in top-10 contests, two of which came on the road. Tennessee has a pretty talented roster and compete in the far more watered down SEC East. They have Alabama, Florida, and Georgia on the schedule, but two of those games are at home, and their other road conference games come versus Arkansas, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, so Tennessee is an upset or two away from breaking into the SEC championship. Not too bad for a team that finished last season red-hot and features 40:1 odds.

Worst Bets

Texas A&M – 10:1

Far and away my least favorite odds given by Vegas – the Aggies slot in with the fourth-best odds in the conference, beating out defending national champions LSU and perennial SEC West contender Auburn. Head coach Jimbo Fisher and consistently overrated Kellen Mond lead Texas A&M into battle, and there is nothing that appeals to me less ( in the world of spending money) than placing a bet on the Aggies. They have exceeded 9 wins just once since 1998, which was also the last time they finished first in their conference, back in their Big 12 days. In their 8 SEC seasons, Texas A&M has finished between 6th and 9th in the conference six times, never appearing in the SEC Championship. And they’re suddenly supposed to challenge Alabama and beat Auburn and LSU. I could maybe see Mond and Co. squeaking out one of those wins, but between road games against the Tide and Auburn, and that rivalry weekend clash with LSU, I would like to bet a lot of money that I don’t have on A&M not finishing top-2 in the West.

Mississippi State – 80:1

I’m getting picky, because I really don’t have issues with the Alabama and Georgia odds near the top, as they’re both powerhouses with solid chances at advancing. 12:1 seems about right for LSU – the defending national champions with some uncertainty at quarterback and on defense. So that brings me to the Bulldogs, who aren’t likely to crack the top 4 in the West. Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Mississippi State are the four teams with 80-1 odds, and I’m not super high on any of those, although Kentucky may tempt be with Terry Wilson coming back from injury under center. The Bulldogs are the only team in the West on that list, and it’s quite the daunting task to emerge from that division with zero or one blemishes. With no SEC championships this decade and a wall of powerhouses to mow down in order to reach the title game, placing any kind of bet on Mississippi State seems no more useful than tossing a coin in a fountain and making a wish. Fun, maybe, but you’re not getting that coin back.

Vanderbilt – 2000:1

A wise man named Kevin Malone once said, “If anyone ever gives you 10,000 to 1 odds on anything, you take that bet”. Far be it from me to critique the wisdom of the Office and their infinite sports betting knowledge of Kevin Malone, but don’t place a bet on the Commodores for the sake of the long odds. Many people like to do that – drop a few bucks here and there on the teams with the worst odds for their shot at a ridiculous payday. Don’t do that with Vanderbilt and I’ll give you two numbers to tell you why – 1935 and 2012. Those were the only two years in Vandy’s 88-year history in the SEC that the Commodores have exceeded four wins in conference play. Since moving to an 8-game conference slate in 1992, the perennial jokers of the SEC have posted zero or one conference win a stunning 14 seasons. Just do everyone a favor and save your longshot bet for another conference. It isn’t happening in Nashville.

Daily Headlines: Jalen Kitna Commits to Florida

The Florida Gators may be leaning on Kyle Trask this season for their College Football Playoff hopes, but their quarterback room of the future got a big upgrade on Tuesday, as four-star Jalen Kitna expressed his verbal commitment to the Gators. The Texas product had seven major offers on the table, and BC, Arizona, and Georgia Tech were also heavy players in his recruitment. Although he checks in as a pro-style quarterback, several scouts have lauded his ability to make plays with his legs. Kitna currently clocks in with a 4.7 40-yard dash, and he threw for over 1500 yards last season – he’s an intriguing addition to the Florida quarterback room.

Pac-12 makes call on return of athletes, Clemson and Oklahoma also make decisions

In a big decision, the Pac-12 announced they would allow athletes to return to campus for voluntary workouts. It’s unclear how this works with California’s plan to host online classes. But, at least the Pac-12 is open to the possibility of sports returning – so keep your fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, Clemson announced that they are authorizing their athletes to return to campus June 8, although Oklahoma is staying a little more cautious, announcing they will be waiting until July 1. However, these timelines still keep the college football schedule on pace for an on-time start, so hopefully July 1 is at late as it gets.

Coleman-Lands transfers to Iowa State

Jalen Coleman-Lands announced his intention to transfer to Iowa State, where he will complete his sixth and final collegiate season with his third team. Coleman-Lands spent two seasons with Illinois, sat out the 2017-2018 season due to transfer, then red-shirted a year due to injury in his first year with DePaul. Last season, Coleman-Lands put up 11.1 points per game in the Big East, and he’s headed back to the Big 12, where he will play for the Iowa State Cyclones. Iowa State struggled last season, putting up a 5-13 record in a top-heavy Big 12, but the addition of Coleman-Lands gives them a solid player who has lots of experience playing big games will give them a nice asset as they try to surge back to Big 12 relevancy.

ESPN FPI – Overrated and Underrated Teams

ESPN updated their 2020 college football projections yesterday, and it raised some major questions. Certain teams slotted in way too high, and a few teams, based on their projections, seem like they would be a smart bet for this upcoming season. As we continue to wait for any announcements regarding this upcoming football season, here’s one take on who was underrated and overrated by ESPN’s FPI projections.

Overrated – Wisconsin
I’ll start with the team that I think was the most out of place. In my mind, Wisconsin was a borderline Top-10 team. They lost four games last year, and they lost their most dynamic player in Jonathan Taylor. Yes, two of Wisconsin’s losses game against Ohio State, and another one against Oregon, but they haven’t finished in the Top 5 since 1999. I don’t understand this ranking at all. If you go by the projections, Wisconsin will make the College Football Playoff next year. After a light slate to start the year, Wisconsin embarks on a 3-weeks stretch at Michigan, Notre Dame, and versus Minnesota. No chance.

Underrated – Florida

Kyle Trask is a nice little sleeper Heisman pick, and he’s one of the few decent returning starting quarterbacks in the SEC, especially in the SEC East. If they get past Georgia, there’s no reason to think the Gators can’t win the SEC East. With no clear favorite in the conference, Trask could absolutely help lead Florida to an SEC title, which has been nearly synonymous with a College Football Playoff berth. Yet Florida is ranked 13th? Behind Texas and UCF? Absolute joke.

Overrated – Georgia

Nathaniel wrote about Georgia’s massive draft losses yesterday, but he has a little more optimism about the Bulldogs’ chances than I do. They lost fifteen players to the draft, as well as Jake Fromm. Say what you want about Fromm, but he’s been the only quarterback at the helm during Georgia’s relevance. I don’t like the odds of an ACC quarterback coming in and taking over the SEC. Don’t see it, and I don’t agree with the 5th-best odds that ESPN gifted Kirby Smart’s squad.

Underrated – Notre Dame
I mean come on. Notre Dame has been a consistent Top-10 team for a few years now, and they haven’t lost at home in two years. Ian Book returns for his third year as a starter, defensive coordinator Clark Lea always leads an elite-level defense for the Irish, and Brian Kelly’s squad returns his entire starting offensive lineman. Throw in incoming recruit Chris Tyree, new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, and ranking the Irish #15, also behind UCF and Texas, is insane.

Overrated – USC Trojans
At #14, Ranking USC anywhere near this list is horrible. Clay Helton has not proven to be an elite level coach, and USC lost some of their major weapons this year. With some controversy in the quarterback room, and a 13-12 record in the past two seasons, the Trojans have no business coming into the Top 15.

Underrated – Clemson

OK if I’m being honest, Florida and Notre Dame were my biggest complaints about the list, but I figured I’d use the final space to just mention Clemson. This team is going to be an absolute monster. With Justyn Ross, Trevor Lawrence, and Travis Etienne returning, Dabo Swinney still at the helm, and their traditionally dominant defense, along with playing in the ACC, Clemson is primed for another 12-0 regular season. And while obviously LSU came out of nowhere, it took one of the greatest college football teams of all time to take down Lawrence and the Tigers, and I don’t see it happening this year. They are ranked #1 with an 81% chance to make the Playoff. Seems like an understatement to me.

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #4: Tebow and The 2008 Florida Gators

Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications. 

Any big sports moment, be it an upset win, championship victory, or inspirational Cinderella run, is made 100 times better with an emotional or spine-chilling speech preceding it (scientifically, don’t question my numbers). That’s why coming it at #4 is the 2008 Florida Gators’ championship run, which started with Tim Tebow’s emotional and impassioned press conference tirade. 

The preseason rankings in 2008 produced a jumble to elite teams at the top, with Georgia, Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, and Florida all receiving first-place votes, as the Gators slotted in at #5 to start the year. The Gators were one year removed from their 2006 title, but they were coming off a disappointing (by Florida and head coach Urban Meyer standards) season in which they finished 9-4.  With Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow under center, an offense that included Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez, a defense boasting Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, and Jermaine Cunningham, the Gators were flush with talent at nearly every position, and the expectations were sky-high for Urban Meyer’s squad. 

They started the season with a nonchalant 56-10 win over Hawaii, overcoming a scoreless first quarter to cruise. They were a whopping 24-point favorite against archrival Miami, and the Gators actually almost covered, dominating the Hurricanes in every aspect of the game en route to a 26-3 win, punctuated by a 17-point fourth quarter. After a statement 30-6 win against Tennessee to open up SEC play, the Gators looked to be all they were hyped up to be, but that image was ripped apart in their following game. Florida played their SEC home opener against Ole Miss, and they were massive favorites, especially given their 21-1 home record under Urban Meyer. The Gators gave up 17 points in the third quarter, had a game-tying extra point blocked, and then was stuffed on 4th and 1 from the Ole Miss 32-yard line in the final minute of the game, ultimately losing 31-30 to the unranked Rebels. 

After the game, Tim Tebow politely answered a few questions before launching into an emotional speech: “To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I’m sorry, extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida’s never done here.

“But I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season, and you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless.”

It would have been easy to dismiss the speech as mere frustration after an upset loss, but if that’s all it was, Tebow and the Gators didn’t play like that in the ensuing weeks. They dropped to #12 in the rankings, but after hammering Arkansas 38-7, and dismantling #4 LSU 51-21, Florida  skyrocketed back into the Top 5. And this time, Tebow and the Gators were there to stay. 

Florida improved to 6-1 by thrashing Kentucky, 63-5, bringing them to a road showdown at #8 Georgia. There was some bad blood following Georgia’s signature win over the Gators last year, which was highlighted by Georgia’s full-team celebration of their first touchdown, dubbed the Gator Stomp. This year, there would be no such celebration, as a 21-point third quarter turned a 14-3 game into a 35-3 laugher, as the Gators won 49-10. They climbed to #4 in the AP Poll and garnered a first place vote. Over their final four regular season games, Florida covered massive spreads, all of at least 17 points, with ease, including dominating victories over ranked squads in South Carolina and rival Florida State, and the Gators rolled into the SEC Championship game. Since their stunning upset loss, Florida was 8-0, with their closest game a 42-14 destruction of Vanderbilt. 

However, a new challenge awaited the Gators in the SEC Championship, as they had to taken on the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Florida actually trailed, 20-17, heading into the fourth quarter. Florida turned to a ground-and-pound strategy, running the ball on eight of eleven plays and took the lead on a 1-yard run from true freshman Jeffrey Demps. After a sack forced an Alabama punt, Tebow sealed the deal with a touchdown pass, and the Gators won 31-20, clinching a spot in the BCS Championship against Oklahoma. 

The game was a much-hyped contest featuring Heisman winner Sam Bradford under center dueling Tebow, a Heisman finalist himself. The Sooners led the country in offense, averaging over fifty points per game, while the Gators averaged over forty. However, neither offense managed a point in the first quarter, but Florida ended the period at the Oklahoma 21-yard line. Three plays into the second, Tebow connected with Louis Murphy for a touchdown, but Oklahoma evened the score, 7-7 before halftime. Both offenses struggled greatly, and Tebow tossed two interceptions, matching his season total to that point.

On their second drive of the second half, Florida chopped five minutes off the clock and methodically drove down the field. On third and goal from the two, Harvin took a wildcat snap and charged in for the 14-7 lead. Oklahoma would tie it in the fourth quarter, but Florida didn’t give up another point. Harvin broke off a 52-yard run that led to a 27-yard field goal, and then after Ahmad Davis’s NCAA-leading 7th interception of the year, the Gators engineered a 7-minute drive, punctuated by Tebow’s second touchdown pass of the day. Oklahoma had under four minutes to score twice, but they couldn’t even get one drive going, as Joe Haden batted down a fourth-down pass, and Florida claimed the national championship, 24-14. 

The Aftermath

Tebow was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, while Spikes and return specialist Brandon James were named All-Americans. Harvin, Murphy, and tight end Cornelius Ingram were drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft, while many other Gators went on to NFL careers later on. Tebow’s impassioned press conference speech is now engraved on a plaque outside Florida’s new stadium. The Gators have not won a national championship since 2008. but they’re back near the top of the football world, having finished in the Top-10 two straight years.

This Day in March Madness History: “Gonzaga! The Slipper Still Fits!”

This Day in March Madness History
March 19, 1999
Gonzaga vs. Florida

  • The Setup
    Gonzaga was making just their second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and they’d already experienced far more success than their initial run. Their first tournament ended in the Round of 64, and, handed a 10-seed, it didn’t seem that Gonzaga was destined to go much further than that in 1999. The Bulldogs notched their first NCAA Tournament win by surprising Minnesota in the first round, but they captured the nation’s attention when they stunned second-seeded Stanford in the Round of 32, topping the Cardinal by a score of 82-74.
    Florida was making their first tournament appearance since 1995, and they had secured their first tournament win since 1994, when they made the Final Four. As the sixth seed in the region, the Gators handled #11 Pennsylvania in the opening round, and they were the beneficiary of #14 Weber State shocking third-seeded North Carolina. Florida had few issues with Weber State and advanced to the Sweet 16. 
  • How it went down
    Gonzaga appeared to be one of the few teams that could match and even exceed Florida’s depth. Florida got at least 15 minutes of playing time from eight different players, but Gonzaga saw nine players play at least ten minutes, while ten different players scored. Richie Frahm led the offensive attack with a 5-8 shooting performance from beyond the arc, leading him to 17 points on the night. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 26-13 lead, and they led throughout the half, but they allowed Florida to climb back within a point at 35-34 at halftime.
    Although Florida rarely led, they stayed right with Gonzaga, and they occasionally surged into the lead on the strength of 6’9 Greg Stolt, who was a force both inside and outside the arc. It was one of Stolt’s four three-pointers that gifted the Gators a 59-58 lead with a little over six minutes to play. With 45 seconds to play, he snapped a 69-69 tie with another triple, but it was the last time Florida scored.
    After a Gonzaga layup, Florida would travel, giving the Bulldogs a chance to win it. Quentin Hall put up a runner in the lane with six seconds left and it bounced off the back rim. However, Casey Calvary got up over everyone, sprinting in to leap and tip in the rebound with 4.4 seconds to go. Florida charged down the court, and their attempt at a game-winner from the right shoulder clanged off the rim. As the play-by-play announcer screamed: “GONZAGA. The slipper still fits!” 
  • The Aftermath
    Gonzaga’s slipper did shatter in the Elite Eight, as they lost to the region’s top seed in Connecticut, which went on to claim its first national title. Gonzaga has not missed an NCAA tournament since their Cinderella run, but they did not make it back to the Elite Eight until 2015.
    Florida actually did exceed their 1999 success very quickly, making the national championship the following season, and eventually winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
  • NBA Notables (teams they played 100+ games with)
    Gonzaga – Richie Frahm (5 teams, 5 years)
    Florida – Mike Miller (Grizzlies, Magic, Heat), Udonis Haslem (Heat, 2004-Present)

February 19, 2020: College Baseball Power Rankings

Although pitchers and catchers may just be reporting for MLB, college baseball jumped right into the regular season this past weekend, and already there was some shakeup in expectations, with a few surprising results. Among these were Ole Miss and their series victory over Louisville, Vanderbilt’s 1-2 weekend. Here are our power rankings, based off of three ballots, which take into account both preseason expectations and rankings, as well as results from the opening weekend. 

Honorable Mention

  • UCLA
  • Ole Miss
  • Michigan

#10 – Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • The Bulldogs got a great start out of the gate with a series sweep of Wright State, with their pitching staff accumulating an ERA of under 3 over three games. The preseason #10, the Bulldogs didn’t exactly make a statement in beating an inferior opponent, but it was good, clean start to the season. 

#9 – LSU Tigers

  • LSU, a month removed from their football national championship, started their season with two dominating victores versus Indiana before a slip-up in the finale. Ranked #11 in the preseason, two of our ballots put the Tigers in the top-10, good for them to snag the #9 slot in this initial edition of the power rankings. 

#8 – Auburn Tigers 

  • Auburn had absolutely zero difficulty with Illinois-Chicago this past weekend, winning all four games at home. After a 5-3 victory in the opener, the Tigers took the final three games by a combined margin of 39-4. Much like Mississippi State, the series sweep over a low-caliber opponent does not justify much of a leap, so Auburn slots in at #8, where they were in the preseason rankings. 

#7 – Louisville Cardinals

  • Possibly the biggest disappointment out of any ranked team, Louisville won their opener with ease, 7-2, but gave up 15 runs over the next two games, as they dropped the series to the Ole Miss Rebels, starting their season off on the wrong note. The preseason #1, Louisville plummets to #7 in our initial power rankings. 

#6 – Arkansas Razorbacks 

  • The Razorbacks had a cupcake of an opening weekend, and they glided through their first three contests with very little difficulty, outscoring Eastern Illinois 27-5 en route to three victories. The preseason #7, Arkansas hops up to #6 thanks to Louisville’s slide. 

#5 – Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • It didn’t take Texas Tech long to get their bats warmed up, as they poured on 65 runs in four games versus two different opponents to crush their opening contests. Their pitching also only gave up 11 runs in their victories, allowing them to run away with each game by a decisive margin. They also jump up one spot from their preseason ranking of #6. 

#4 – Vanderbilt Commodores – 1 First Place Vote

  • Our ballots showed a little more mercy to Vanderbilt, who slides just two spots from their preseason perch at #2, despite a 1-2 weekend. The Commodores even nabbed a first place vote, after dropping a tight game to defending national runners up Michigan and a one-run defeat to Cal Poly, sandwiched around a dominating victory over UConn. The defending national champs have some easy games as they look to rebuild confidence after a tough first weekend. 

#3 – Georgia Bulldogs

  • The SEC doesn’t just run the football world, as they have several teams up near the top of the rankings in our baseball power rankings as well. #5 in the preseason, the Bulldogs jumped to #3 after a clean series sweep of Richmond. It certainly wasn’t a stiff challenge for Georgia, but their clean performance and the struggles of Louisville and Vanderbilit lifts the Bulldogs two spots. 

#2 – Florida Gators

  • Hosting Marshall, the Gators allowed the visitors no closer than seven runs in any game, scoring 34 times in three contests to throttle the Thundering Herd in a series sweep. They also jump two spots from their preseason spot at #4, and they figure to be a title contender in 2020. 

#1 – Miami Hurricanes – 2 First Place Votes

  • Sitting at #3 entering the year, the Hurricanes were the most direct benefactor of Louisville and Vanderbilt’s lackluster efforts in the first weekend, as they rocket up to the #1 spot in our initial power rankings. They handled Rutgers with ease in their opening series, and they’ll be looking ahead to a showdown with Florida next weekend.

January 28, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

We are back with the third edition of our power rankings, and while the top of our rankings stayed largely the same, there was some significant movers. We highlighted the major movers here, but be sure to check out the full top 10 (and honorable mention) below!

Biggest Riser: Villanova

Biggest Faller: Michigan State

Dropped Out: Michigan State

Joined The Ranks: Villanova, Seton Hall, West Virginia, Dayton

Honorable Mention 

  • West Virginia (Last week: Not ranked)
  • Seton Hall (Last week: Not ranked)
  • Kentucky (Last week: Honorable Mention)

#10 – Dayton Flyers (Last Week: Not Ranked)

  • The Flyers appeared on just one of our ballots last week, but they got the nod in three of four ballots this week, after they dismantled St. Bonaventures and took down a solid Richmond squad on the road. An under-the-radar mid-major due to the success of San Diego State, the Flyers have their eyes on the Atlantic 10 title and an NCAA tournament run. 

#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 9)

  • Oregon choked up a late lead before surviving in overtime against USC, and they followed that up with a dominant victory over a struggling UCLA squad. We didn’t learn too much about the Ducks, as we already knew they were extremely good at home (12-0) so the Ducks tread water at #9 until further notice. 

#8 – Villanova Wildcats (Last Week: Not Ranked)

  • The Wildcats shot up our rankings, after being little more than an afterthought on last week’s ballots. Villanova looked absolutely dominant in beating #16 Butler by 15 points, and they edged out Providence for a key road conference win to secure their sixth straight win. They are our biggest risers of the week, joining the rankings for the first time this year at #8. 
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

#7 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 5)

  • The Blue Devils drop due very little to their own doings. They played one game against a horrendous Miami team and won handily, but their elite ACC competition had more wins against better competition, and so Duke slides two more spots to #7 this week. 

#6 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 7)

  • The Aztecs continue to win and continue to climb. In a prior mid-major report, we identified their road game at New Mexico as a potential trap game. The Lobos have struggled recently, but they are 13-0 at home, so whether the Aztecs continue their climb up the rankings remains to be seen. 

#5 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: 6)

  • There are two ways to look at Florida State’s lone game and win of the week – an 85-84 thriller over Notre Dame. One is a really close game against a below-average ACC squad. The other way is a gutsy finish against a resilient team that plays everyone close. We tended to side with the latter, as the Seminoles won their twelfth straight to move up a notch on the ladder. 
Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: 4) – 1 First Place Vote

  • The ACC-leaders looked shaky in holding off Georgia Tech before rebounding with one of their most complete performances of the year against Clemson. The Cardinals utilized a 20-0 run to seize control and dominated the upstart Tigers for their sixth straight victory. They are holding off Florida State, but they’ll need to keep winning if they want the top seed in the ACC tournament because the Seminoles aren’t backing down. 

#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: 1) – 1 First Place Vote

  • Gonzaga slid in the AP Poll out of the #1 slot, and they slide here, largely due to their weak schedule. It’s hard to make a statement when you beat every team in your conference by 20 or 30 points, and that’s exactly Gonzaga’s issue currently. Whereas other top teams are winning huge statement games, the Bulldogs are cruising through the West Coast conference, beating up on a cupcake schedule. 

#2 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #3) 

  • The Jayhawks haven’t lost since their home defeat to Baylor, but they’ll play second-fiddle to the Bears in these rankings. They showed flashes of brilliance in putting away Tennessee, and they sandwiched that outing with dominant performances versus Kansas State and Oklahoma State. They’re a legitimate national title contender. 

#1 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #2) – 2 First Place Votes

  • Baylor shut down a lot of haters with a dominant performance at an unranked Florida team. The #1 team in the nation, the Bears entered the game as 2-point underdogs. They played with a chip on their shoulder and stifled the Gators to the tune of a 72-61 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. With 15 straight wins, the Bears finally rise to the top of our Power Rankings.