At Alligator Army, we love and cover the Florida Gators - but the Gators are part of a larger national landscape of collegiate gridiron goodness.
Here’s a look at what happened Saturday in college football.
Texas makes a case for its “back”-ness.
A blue blood program cannot go through and overcome struggles in relative obscurity. Such a program’s triumphs will always beg the question - is said program BACK? “Back-ness” is very subjective. Who is to say who is back or not? What is the very definition of “back”?
If we’re assuming that being “back” means achieving some demonstrable measure of sustained success, then let’s go ahead and assume that 2018 Texas is on its way to being “back.”
The No. 19 Longhorns haven’t lost since dropping an increasingly puzzling opener to Maryland in week one, taking down then-ranked USC and TCU on their way to Saturday’s Red River Rivalry with No. 7 Oklahoma. Texas took a commanding lead in Dallas, then proceeded to allow the Sooners to tie the game after a 21-point fourth quarter rally, but finished them off with a field goal with nine seconds remaining. The 48-45 win gave the Longhorns their first five-game win streak since 2013.
Like Florida, the Longhorns have struggled to find consistency at the quarterback position and as Gator fans will tell you, not having an effective signal caller can really hamper a program’s progress. Texas appears to have found an answer this year though, with Sam Ehlinger setting records and torching Oklahoma’s (admittedly not that great) defense.
Notre Dame clears a path to the Playoff
The No. 6 Fighting Irish took down No. 24 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last night, 45-23. The rest of Notre Dame’s schedule looks like this: Pittsburgh, Navy, at Northwestern, Florida State, Syracuse, at USC. There are opportunities for upsets remaining but the Irish will be favored, if not heavily favored, in each remaining game. With no conference championship to worry about, Notre Dame faces a manageable slate to end the season.
Alabama and Georgia remain on top
The No. 1 Crimson Tide and No. 2 Bulldogs took care of business on Saturday, remain the class of the Southeastern Conference, and should stay atop the national rankings.
Alabama rolled to a 65-31 victory over Arkansas on the road. Despite giving up quite a few points to the Razorbacks, the offense, led by Heisman Trophy front-runner Tua Tagovailoa, again had no issue doing whatever they wanted to an opposing team’s defense. Like the Fighting Irish, the Crimson Tide have a pretty clear pathway to yet another Playoff appearance, with LSU and Auburn now looking like much more surmountable obstacles.
Though not officially on their schedule, Georgia is the only team the Tide may face before the Playoff - in a potential SEC Championship Game - that would seem to be able to offer Alabama a challenge. For their part yesterday, the Bulldogs topped Vanderbilt at home, 41-13. The bowl-eligible ‘Dawgs travel to Baton Rouge next week for the first time since 2008.
Top-15 SEC teams stumble on the road
No. 8 Auburn fell to Mississippi State (23-9), Texas A&M upset No. 13 Kentucky in overtime (20-14), and - my personal favorite - No. 5 LSU went down in Gainesville to No. 22 Florida (27-19).
I won’t get into more detail about that last one, but I will say that the other two wins help the Gators in different ways. The Bulldogs’ takedown of the Tigers does bolster Florida’s strength of schedule by making the Gators’ road win over Mississippi State a bit more impressive. Kentucky getting bested by the Aggies helps Florida stay squarely in the mix in the SEC East race.
The Starkville-based Bulldogs rebounded nicely after falling to Florida last week, taking it to the visiting Tigers of the Plains and reestablishing their offensive identity. MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald broke the SEC QB rushing record last night, which was previously held by one Tim Tebow.
Nick Fitzgerald passed Tim Tebow on Saturday for most rushing yards by a quarterback in SEC History. pic.twitter.com/VUotWPmNOV— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 7, 2018
You may notice something that three of those four quarterbacks on that career yardage chart have in common - they were recruited and coached (at least some portion of their careers) by Dan Mullen.
The Gamecocks win the Battle of the Columbias
Two future Florida divisional opponents met in a midseason SEC East contest yesterday. In sometimes torrential weather, and with a back-up quarterback at the helm, Will Muschamp’s group managed to put together a rain-fueled rally to put away Missouri at home, 37-35. It was a much-needed win for the Gamecocks, who held SEC passing leader Drew Lock to his lowest output of the season.
Miami defeats Florida State at home for first time in 14 years
Last year, the Hurricanes finally snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Seminoles. This year, the U overcame a 20-point deficit to eke out a 28-27 victory.
And in the battle of ridiculous sideline turnover props, Miami’s turnover chain triumphs over Florida State’s turnover backpack.
Two coaches Florida reportedly courted have exactly zero wins among them
Things are not going well for UCLA’s Chip Kelly or Nebraska’s Scott Frost. Both coaches have started their tenures with their new teams winless. The Bruins are sporting an 0-5 record for the first time since 1943, while the Huskers are 0-5 for the first time since 1945.
Would both coaches be without a win had they ended up at Florida? This is an easy scenario to play “what-if” with. Sure, the rosters are different at each program. The Bruins went 6-7 last season and made a bowl. Both Florida and Nebraska sputtered to four wins. It’s impossible to say what could have happened had Mullen not ultimately been the Gators’ hire, but right now Dan is sure looking like the man.