Starting 11: Kentucky Parties Like It’s 1986

It finally happened.

After 31 years of futility, at long last the Kentucky Wildcats beat the Florida Gators in football. Even more amazingly, they did it in Gainesville, a place they had not won a game since 1979.

It remains to be seen what Dan Mullen’s first year at Florida will be like, but with the Gators at 1-1 right now, look at this list of landmines still on the schedule: at Tennessee, at Mississippi State, LSU, at Vanderbilt (really), Georgia in Jacksonville, Missouri, South Carolina, at FSU (I know, I know, but someone has to win this game).

If Florida plays the way they did against Kentucky I think they’d lose each of these games left on the schedule. I didn’t even put Colorado State on the list because surely Florida’s not losing to CSU or Idaho, right?

When you look at this box score against Kentucky, it’s even worse than the score indicated. The Wildcats ran the ball 41 times for 303 yards. 303! That’s an average of 7.4 yards a carry. Kentucky didn’t fluke into this win, it was a thorough physical beatdown.

By the way, did anyone else halfway expect for that final play when Kentucky picked up the fumble and then almost just dropped the ball to somehow turn into a loss when a Florida player picked up the ball and scored while everyone thought the play was over?

I totally expected that to happen.

After all the near misses in this series, I honestly feel great for Wildcat football fans. (Yes, they do exist, really. I’m buddies with several of them).

Also, it’s probably going to get lost in the noise surrounding Kentucky’s win and the subsequent celebration, but didn’t it look like the officials blew the call on the Florida field goal in the fourth quarter? I swear that kick was good.

Okay, here we go with the rest of the Starting 11.

1. Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State have distanced themselves from the rest of college football through two weeks.

Each of these teams has obliterated the two teams on their schedules so far.

And it may take a while for the top SEC teams to get actual tests. (Georgia passed its first test with its toughest road game, potentially, of the season now complete.

Alabama doesn’t play a ranked team until November and Georgia doesn’t play another ranked team until mid-October. (Although I do think Missouri could be pretty good and Georgia has to go to Mizzou on September 22nd).

Ohio State plays TCU in a neutral site game this coming weekend so we’ll see how that game goes for the Buckeyes. Once they get to the Big Ten schedule, the game at Penn State, which will come in week five, looms large for Ohio State. (Penn State should also be undefeated for that game in Happy Valley, by the way).

2. Clemson won, but it’s hard not to be ecstatic if you’re an Aggie fan.

The Tigers have some work to do in their defensive backfield where Kellen Mond torched them for 430 yards. But if you’re an Aggie fan I think what you have to be most ecstatic about is Jimbo Fisher immediately doing what he has done everywhere — make quarterbacks great. It’s hard to argue that Jimbo didn’t get the absolute most out of first round picks Christian Ponder, E.J. Manuel, and Jameis Winston. In fact, you can argue that Jimbo has gotten so much out of all three of these guys that he artificially inflated their draft stock. Jameis has been just okay at Tampa Bay so far. The other two guys are certifiable first round busts.

I know moral victories are what losers hold on to, but it was hard not to see this performance as a harbinger of good things to come for Texas A&M. This is exactly why the Aggies paid Jimbo $75 million. I think he’ll take the Aggies to the playoffs during his tenure in College Station.

Meanwhile, if you’re Clemson, this is an ominous performance, but it’s balanced out by the fact that this may well be the most difficult regular season challenge the Tigers face.

As of now Clemson doesn’t play a single ranked opponent for the entire season. The Clemson road games are Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, FSU and Boston College.

The end result: it’s hard for me to see Clemson being anything other than 12-0 in the ACC title game.

3. Can we change the fumble into the end zone is a touchback rule?

I think this is the worst rule in football because it’s far too punitive. If you fumble the ball out of bounds anywhere else on the football field you keep possession if it goes out of bounds before it’s recovered by the the opposing team. So why would the rule be if you fumble out of bounds near the goal line that possession goes back to the other team at the twenty yard line?

It’s just nonsensical.

It would actually make more sense to me if you fumbled out of bounds anywhere on the football field that the opposing team would get possession. I think most of you would say that’s a bad rule, but at least it’s logically consistent.

As is you play with one set of rules for the entire field — a fumble out of bounds comes back to where the runner fumbled it unless it’s recovered by the opposing team. What’s more, you aren’t even allowed to fumble the ball forward and get yardage credit for it when it goes out of bounds — and you specifically can’t fumble the football forward on fourth down to avoid teams just throwing the ball wildly forward when they’re about to be tackled behind the yard to gain.

Yet when you fumble it near the end zone the ball’s forward momentum counts and the opposing team gets the ball at the twenty yard line.

It’s just nonsensical.

Furthermore, I’m still not even sure that A&M fumbled the ball into the end zone here. To me it looked like the ball went out of bounds to the left of the pylon. So it should have been Aggie ball at the two or three yard line.

Having said all of that, the end result was a failed two point conversion and a failed onside kick when Hunter Renfrow, now in his 18th year of collegiate eligibility until Bill Belichick drafts him for the Patriots, covered the ball and got Clemson out of College Station with a win.

4. Stanford dominated USC. 

Interesting theory floated out to me by a couple of you guys via email, how much of Jim Harbaugh’s success at Stanford came from bringing Big Ten football to the Pac 12?

Oftentimes style of play can impact your overall success in a conference. When Harbaugh bought his lunchpail, line of scrimmage physical philosophy to Stanford no one else was playing that way in the Pac 12. So Harbaugh showed up and played a physical, brutal brand of football that no one else was doing.

Then when he came to Michigan he brought, essentially, the same style of football the Big Ten had been playing for generations.

The result was people were prepared for what Harbaugh did in the Big Ten and not prepared in the Pac 12.

I think there’s a decent argument here.

Furthermore, David Shaw is, I think, probably the most underrated coach in college football. If you gave me a choice between having Shaw or Harbaugh as my head coach for the next decade, I’d take Shaw. Shaw is now 75-22, 50-12 overall in the Pac 12 with three conference championships.

I’d love to see him make the college football playoff because I believe Stanford does everything right.

Put it this way, when’s the last time you heard about a Stanford football player being arrested? Has it even happened in Shaw’s entire tenure there?

Of the power five conference schools: Stanford, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Duke are the places you’d sign papers for right now for your kid to be able to attend. If you told me all three of my boys could go to any of these schools, I would sign the papers in an instant because I’d know they were going to make it through high school — and probably college too — in great shape.

I just love all four of these schools.

5. Herm Edwards is 2-0 at Arizona State and Kevin Sumlin at Arizona and Chip Kelly at UCLA are 0-4. 

Sometimes it’s worth nothing that the conventional wisdom is often wrong when it comes to coaching hires.

That’s because the media echo chamber — of which I’m part — can be powerful and difficult to oppose.

Everyone, including me, ridiculed the hiring of Herm Edwards at Arizona State and praised the hirings of Sumlin and Kelly. It’s still early so maybe the conventional wisdom could still end up correct, but late last night Herm Edwards beat Mark Dantonio in only his second game as a college football head coach.

Arizona State suddenly looks like a sleeper contender in the Pac 12 South and, boy, the Big Ten East has fallen on its face out of the gate this year hasn’t it?

Only Ohio State and Penn State, which had to go to overtime against Appalachian State, are still undefeated of the Big Ten East’s power four and Michigan and Michigan State have already notched a loss each.

To be fair, Maryland is 2-0 and has looked fantastic, even without their head coach.

6. Florida State, Florida and Miami have all three started the season awfully. 

Last week Florida State and Miami both lost in the opening week of a season for the first time since 1975. This week Florida lost to Kentucky for the first time since 1986.

It’s possible Central Florida is the best team in the state.

Meanwhile, FSU barely survived against Samford and is now wearing turnover backpacks which, I just, I mean tell me you saw this picture and didn’t immediately start laughing.

Furthermore, recruiting for all three of these programs is just going okay. Usually all three schools are dominant when it comes to signing top players, but only FSU is in the top ten right now, and the Seminoles are number eight.

7. The SEC is the most dominant conference by far, but much of that talent is still slanted in the SEC West. 

Georgia is, as we stated above, one of the three best teams in college football through two weeks, but who is the second best team in the SEC East?

South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee have already lost. Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are undefeated, but how good are these three teams? I think my vote would be Mizzou is the second best team, but that’s almost entirely based on Drew Lock’s performance under Derek Dooley’s new offense. And we still haven’t seen that offense challenged by a decent opponent.

It is, however, worth noting that Lock is completing nearly 75% of his passes so far this season — up from 58% last year — and has eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

Meanwhile the SEC West except for Arkansas, which blew a road lead against 0-2 Colorado State may be the best it has ever been.

There’s a strong argument through two weeks of the season that Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M have all looked like top 15 caliber teams. (Meanwhile, Ole Miss, which may not play defense all season, already notched a win over Texas Tech and is 2-0 as well).

8. How about Penn State beating Pittsburgh 51-6 and James Franklin challenging a play with one minute left in the game?

I love rivalries like this.

Remember my preseason college football playoff picks were Alabama, Clemson, Penn State and Auburn. Through two weeks the only adjustment I’d make here would be to probably put Georgia in above Auburn. Just because I think it will take an incredible game for Auburn to win on the road at Georgia.

If I were predicting the SEC title game right now, I think you’d be hard pressed not to take 12-0 Alabama against 12-0 Georgia. And if that game happened I think both teams would probably be playing for playoff seeding.

As for what the Big Ten would look like, I think Penn State will beat Ohio State in Happy Valley in a few weeks so I’d put 11-1 Penn State in against 11-1 Wisconsin.

9. Nebraska lost a wild one to Colorado in Scott Frost’s home opener with the Cornhuskers.

It’s rare you lose a game when you win the rushing battle by 285 yards. (Nebraska went for 329 on the ground and Colorado went for just 44 yards on 35 carries.)

But Nebraska had three turnovers to Colorado’s none.

Having said that, you want to talk about a brutal first year schedule: Scott Frost has to go to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State all on the road this year.

Who made this schedule?

That’s unbelievable.

I also think Nebraska would have won this game if they’d gotten to play Akron in week one.

Is it just me or are lightning delays happening everywhere so far this season? Back in the day they didn’t stop games for lightning, the stadiums used to get struck and people just shrugged and the game kept going.

10. My Outkick Top Ten through two weeks:

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Ohio State

4. Auburn

5. LSU

6. Oklahoma

7. Notre Dame

8. Virginia Tech

9. Stanford

10. Washington

11. SEC power rankings 1-14:

To remind everyone here, I rank teams based on actual games they’ve played, not based on what I expected to happen before the season started.

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Auburn

4. LSU

5. Kentucky

6. Mississippi State

7. Texas A&M

8. Ole Miss

9. Vanderbilt

10. Missouri

11. South Carolina

12. Tennessee

13. Florida

14. Arkansas

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