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Kicking Off Week 3 With Safeties and Games Not Played in Gainesville

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On a scale of 1 to 100

No reason to move them up or down as the Gators dismantle another opponent ahead of this weekend's huge showdown with Tennessee. 

A look at who's going which way in college football

They can play. Who knew? Much-maligned first-year starters lead offenses in the highest-scoring SEC game of the year and biggest point total in rivalry since 1970. Can they get a Heism@n campaign with a bad television commercial parody?

Takeup_medium WASHINGTON
Finally stops a 15-game losing streak with a win against Idaho. Beggars can't be choosers.

And he had played so well in his first game. But his inner Evil Erik Ainge returns in a turnover-riddled performance against UCLA. Should we even mention that Florida's defense is next on the schedule?

Takedown_medium DAN HAWKINS
Division I football, brother? Not according to most of the people who watched an awful performance against Toledo that included three interceptions from Cody Hawkins, who is not at all the starting quarterback because his father is the head coach.

Takedown_medium BIG XII
Losses to Toledo, Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette knock some of the preseason luster off an expected contender for "best conference of the year." If Missouri loses to Furman, we're officially moving you below the WAC.

A few things to think about

ICYMI: Other games in the SEC
Before we plunge into what's likely to be a weeklong discussion about Florida playing Tennessee this week, let's keep in mind that there are other games going on in the SEC this week, some of them almost as intriguing as the Showdown in the Swamp.

Georgia will play a purportedly resurgent Arkansas for the first time since 2005, when the Dawgs edged the Hogs by three points. In 2004, Arkansas lost 20-14 in Athens Fayetteville. No team in the SEC has played Georgia fewer times than Arkansas, according to Phil Steele. In fact, Georgia has more frequently faced such fierce rivals as North Carolina (30 times), Tulane (25), Furman (23), Mercer (22) and Sewanee (13). (Georgia has played Yale as often as it has Arkansas.) Part of that has to do with Arkansas not joining the SEC until 1992. Overall, the Dawgs are 8-3 against the Razorbacks, last lost in 1993 (20-10) and have never lost a game in Fayetteville, where this year's game is set.

Vanderbilt opens SEC play against Mississippi State after the Western Division Bulldogs handed the Commodores one of their most disappointing losses of the breakthrough 2008 bowl campaign. And Auburn welcomes in West Virginia after last year's 17-point loss in Morgantown.

Safety first
Maybe it's just a matter of perception, but there seemed to an awful lot of safeties being scored Saturday, some of them in fairly high-profile games. In fact, nine teams "scored" on a safety in these games (teams that scored on a safety in bold): UNC-Connecticut, Western Michigan-Indiana, UCLA-Tennessee, South Carolina-Georgia, Vanderbilt-LSU, Kansas State-Louisiana Lafayette, New Hampshire-Ball State, Texas Southern-Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Cal-Ohio State.

You'll notice that, as in most things in college football, the SEC leads the way, with three teams scoring safeties, tops among the conferences.

Whether they helped much might depend on whom you ask. The teams whose opponents gave them two points went 3-6 on the weekend. But North Carolina would not have defeated Connecticut without its safety.

Florida's votes stable
Since it became a topic of conversation last week, we should point out that Florida lost no first-place votes in the AP poll this week, keeping 56 for the second week in a row. But those carping about the ballots the Gators lost in the media poll missed a different trend in the coaches' voting. Between the preseason and the week one poll, Florida went from 53 first-place votes to 56, a number they maintained this week.


Florida struggles with message control. Urban Meyer told his players not to speak too much about the Lane Kiffin uproar as his team prepares to face Tennessee this weekend. Um ...

"Oh yeah, the quote from that press conference. ‘Singing Rocky Top all night’ and all that," [offensive lineman James] Wilson said. "That’s good motivation for us."

"It’s all over our locker room and everything," Wilson said. "That’s something you don’t forget. We just look at it as it’s another thing to back up and just prove him wrong." ...

Wilson’s group interview was abruptly ended by a member of the Florida communications staff. A Gator spokesman said late Sunday night that although the signs were present in the locker room this summer, they have since been taken down.

But junior linebacker A.J. Jones said: "They’re posting up all kinds of Tennessee stuff in the locker room, so we’re just really motivated to go play them."

At least Tim Tebow managed to hew pretty close to the party line.

Meyer did admit to being surprised by Boy Wonder's comments in the offseason.

"Actually, yes it did," Meyer said on a Sunday teleconference. "That's one of the only comments I'll make on it. Just because I was fairly close with his father and I just know the way he is. Like I said, that's all over with. Coach Monte Kiffin and myself have a very good relationship."

Note the very pointed effort there to use a first name. I'm sure Urban Meyer just wanted to make sure the reporters on the line didn't have to use brackets in his quote.

Alabama uses WildElephant less vs. Florida International
Nick Saban says to read nothing into it.

Dan Mullen might need some Tums
The first-year Mississippi State coach was asked about his first loss this past weekend against Auburn.

I despise losing. It gives you a sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach. That's about how I feel emotionally.

It could be a long season for his digestive tract.

Injury Report

DE Roderick Battle (Georgia)
Torn ACL, season

DT Derrick Lott (Georgia)
Ankle surgery, season

DT Nathan Pepper (South Carolina)
Sprained right ankle, two to three weeks

RB Richard Murphy (LSU)
Knee, season

RT James Williams, FS Ryan Hamilton (Vanderbilt)
Broken ankle, Chest; Length unclear

WR Julio Jones, RB Roy Upchurch, DE Daimon Square (Alabama)
Jones, bruised kneecap; Upchurch, sprained ankle; Square, knee; Lengths unclear

TE Tommy Trott (Auburn)
Knee, Length unclear

WR Deonte Thompson (Florida)
Hamstring pull, probable


Not generally where you want to be
OFFENSIVE GENIUS Charlie Weis' winning percentage in South Bend is back below that of Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie, who are both notably not the head coach at Notre Dame any more. Next up: Reeling Michigan State, which lost to Central Michigan on Saturday.

Getting rid of a nepotistic and losing coach: Priceless
It will -- I mean, would cost Colorado between $2.5 million and $3 million to get rid of Dan Hawkins this year, depending on when -- ahem, if they decide to pull the trigger. This is a sum of money most people who don't root for Colorado would like to see put to other uses in our current economic climate. (HT: Burnt Orange Nation)

Stephen F. Austin deserves every touchdown they've got coming to them
I won't feel very sorry for Stephen F. Austin if some FBS team dismantles them at some point in the season -- they deserve it. The FCS squad scored 92 points Saturday against the NAIA's Texas College.

"I’m very proud of our execution and focus," said SFA coach J.C. Harper. "We’ve been preaching that since November. I was also happy with only having five penalties."

Also proud of their sportsmanship, I'm sure.