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      Smack Zone — UF Football

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      The Gators are BACK! (Aren't they? They're back now, right?)

      [caption id="attachment_1230" align="aligncenter" width="474"]A 38-10 romp in the Swamp against Ole Miss means the Gators are back, baby. At least until Saturday. Lose at Mizzou and it'll be like Muschamp 2.0. Just. Like. That. Illustration: Steve Hill for Smack Zone. A 38-10 romp in the Swamp against Ole Miss means the Gators are back, baby. At least until Saturday. Lose at Mizzou and it'll be like Muschamp 2.0. Just. Like. That. Illustration: Steve Hill for Smack Zone.[/caption] The Gators are back. Aren’t they? It sure looks like it. A 38-10 shocker against Ole Miss at the Swamp on Saturday rocked the college football world. Coach Jim McIlwain, seemingly, can do no wrong. After a comeback victory against Tennessee vaulted the Gators back into the AP top 25, the follow-up romp against the No. 3-ranked vanquishers of the Crimson Tide jetted UF nearly into the top 10. They are close enough, at No. 11, to once again sniff a conference and national championship. Oh, and it’s a nice bonus for those who bleed orange and blue that the Gators tip-toed past undefeated Florida State in the rankings. They seem to have found a coach, a quarterback (redshirt freshman Will Grier) and an identity. Sure, they are ranked only 58th in total offense (a troubling 90th in rushing) and 37th in total defense, but they are ranked at the top of the SEC East at 3-0 in the conference and roll into this week’s road game against Missouri ready to consolidate their early gains. So, yes. At 5-0, the Gators appear to be back. Where do they go from here? First, they must avoid a road upset against Mizzou and true freshman quarterback Drew Lock. There are no guarantees, of course, and this could all come crashing down with a loss in Columbia. But … Get past that one, and things get real interesting. It starts with a huge matchup on Oct. 17 at LSU, which is currently the only remaining UF opponent that is ranked higher than the Gators. While a victory in Baton Rouge would be enormous, a loss would not necessarily end Florida’s title aspirations. That’s because the schedule falls favorably for Florida. After seeing them stuff Ole Miss Saturday, it’s completely realistic to envision Florida rolling against Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic. Then there’s Florida State, which comes into Gainesville on Nov. 28 having won two in a row and four of five against UF. Even if they lose to LSU, the Gators could win out in the regular season and set themselves up for an SEC championship game matchup against the winner of the SEC West – Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU or Ole Miss. At that point, a victory would leave the Gators at 12-1 (assuming a loss at LSU and a victory against the Seminoles, remember), and it would almost certainly be enough to gain entry into the national championship playoff. Yes, it’s early. Yes, the Gators haven’t displayed the consistent and convincing dominance of the national championship teams under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer – yet. But in Gainesville, they are ready to party again. (By the way, we're not affiliated with Scooter Magruder in any way, but he rocks it on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and just about anywhere else you can post videos about sports and stuff. Follow him -- especially if you love the Gators and anything and everything Southeastern Conference. Scooter's entire Snap cast of his night in the Swamp's nosebleed seats is well worth watching, but here's a quick glimpse.)

         

      Too Blue for You, UT

      [caption id="attachment_1091" align="aligncenter" width="474"]At UT's Neyland Stadium, there is orange. And there is white. It is arrayed in a checkerboard pattern. It does not seem to affect what happens on the field of play in any way. It's pretty, though. At UT's Neyland Stadium, there is orange. And there is white. It is arrayed in a checkerboard pattern. It does not seem to affect what happens on the field of play in any way. It's pretty, though.[/caption] Saturday afternoon at the Swamp will see a “blue out” for the Tennessee vs. Florida game. After beating Kentucky for the 29th straight time last week (you read that right), Florida looks to take down Tennessee for the 11th straight time. The SEC will have its eyes on this contest, as the winner has the upper hand in the race with Georgia to win the SEC East. Florida is trying to confuse Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs by having the blue out. With so many blue shirts in the stadium, and blue uniforms on the field, how will Dobbs know where to throw the ball? The Swamp will be a no orange zone Saturday afternoon. Lots of teams utilize the crowd as an intimidation method. Or to try to rattle opposing players. Either way, not sure it is so effective. Penn State had a white-out last year against Ohio State, and ended up losing in OT. The white-out forgot to block for Hackenberg. Last week, Tennessee used their traditional checkerboard to rattle Oklahoma. They ended up blowing their largest lead ever (17 points) and wound up losing in double OT. At least it looked really cool. We will see how intimidated Tennessee is coming to an all blue stadium.  

      5 Things: Winston in Good Company, Gator on Gator, a Little Soccer Talk

      OK, it was ugly. Uglier than pre-boiled crab meat. Uglier than school cafeteria lunch smeared on the walls after a food fight. Uglier than a lot of things associated with Jameis Winston. Bucs fans could not have imagined anything this ugly, this soon: Titans 42, Tampa Bay 14. And it wasn’t even THAT close. It actually was uglier than the average four-TD blowout. What we need is perspective. So, here’s a related, ugly little statistic to keep in mind after Famous Jameis’ less-than-stellar debut as quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-10. That was the combined record in debut NFL starts for the past 12 QBs selected with the No. 1 overall pick. These guys, like Winston, all lost their first NFL starts as rookies:

      • Andrew Luck, Colts
      • Cam Newton, Panthers
      • Sam Bradford, Rams
      • Matthew Stafford, Lions
      • JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
      • Alex Smith, 49ers
      • Eli Manning, Giants
      • Carson Palmer, Bengals
      • Tim Couch, Browns
      • Peyton Manning, Colts
      Among the quarterbacks selected with the No. 1 overall pick since 1998, only David Carr (Texans) and Michael Vick (Falcons) celebrated victory in their first NFL starts. Carr’s team finished 4-12 that year, and Vick was 4-for-12 passing in his first Atlanta start. What can we read into Marcus Mariota’s brilliance (158.3 passer rating) for Tennessee and Winston’s ugly incompetence Sunday at Raymond James Stadium? Not much, frankly. One horrible day does not a bust make. Similarly, one fantastic day does not mean Mariota is destined for the Hall of Fame. Still, if you’re a Bucs fan today, the question naturally becomes: What if? And that’s legit. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if the result would have been reversed if Mariota wore pewter, red and white on Sunday instead of Titans red, white and blue. It’s a question we won’t be able to answer for months or even years. Yet, today, it is telling that Bucs fans can ask that question without an ounce of hesitation. It’s OK to ask the question in the wake of that kind of embarrassment on the football field. Now, how will Winston answer? That’s what we’ll be watching in the weeks ahead. Gator on Gator [caption width="300" id="attachment_980" align="aligncenter"]Gators Tackling Image: SB Nation[/caption]Jarrad Davis made perhaps the most important tackle of the day for the University of Florida Saturday in its 31-24 victory against East Carolina. What made it newsworthy was that the Gators defender didn’t tackle a Pirate – he tackled teammate Alex McAlister after McAlister recovered a fumble and headed needlessly to the end zone. Ah, nice job, Jarrad. Heads up play. A far, far better instance of Gator on Gator than this infamous moment from 2013 against Georgia Southern: [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05h49R4QX9U] Super Dumb The Giants had it locked up Sunday night against Cowboys. It could have been a game that threw Dallas into disarray already – a tough opening week loss, compounded by losing star WR Dez Bryant to a broken foot for at least five weeks. Instead, the Giants inexplicably gave the Cowboys a last gasp by passing, rather than running, when the game clock was winding down. Think the New York media was pissed about it? Check out this game story from the Daily News: Questionable Call Costs Giants. Coach Tom Coughlin took the blame, as he should have. It’s a comfort, actually, to know that multiple-Super Bowl winners like Coughlin and Eli Manning can suffer this kind of serious brain cramp. It puts our own fallibility into perspective. We’re sure Giants fans can appreciate that big-picture outlook. Right? Yeah. Sure they can. Chelsea's Not-So-Special One  During the 2014-15 Premier League season, Chelsea was as dominant as a club could be. It won the league by a whopping eight points (87 points to 79 for second place Manchester City), it won the League Cup domestic tournament, and it lost three games in league play ALL SEASON. With the “Special One,” Jose Mourinho, back in the manager’s chair, a long stretch of prominence among Europe’s soccer elite seemed inevitable. Nope. After a 3-1 loss to Everton Saturday, Chelsea finds itself in 17th place out of 20 teams. It was Mourinho’s third league loss in five games already. So far this season, Mourinho has complained about his own team physician taking too long to treat an injured player during a game and has cursed out Everton manager Roberto Martinez when Martinez had the audacity to speak first to members of the media after Saturday’s game. This is glorious for Chelsea haters all over England and the world. Watching the Special One implode is an unusual experience, and the schadenfreude is thick in the air in London these days. Want an American equivalent? It would be like if defending national champion Ohio State had lost a squeaker at Virginia Tech, then got blown out at home against Hawaii this season. Chelsea’s struggles are a wonderful life lesson. Take nothing for granted, even if you have a Russian billionaire bankrolling your season. Oh, and it gets no easier for Mourinho’s lads this week. After a Champions League match against Maccabi Tel-Aviv Wednesday, they face title contenders Arsenal Saturday in what will surely be a scintillating London derby match. Brace yourself. The Special One is slipping. Uncle The biggest winners of the football weekend were, without a doubt, the competing one-week fantasy sports services Draft Kings and Fan Duel. We sincerely hope you didn’t give in to temptation and play the latest drinking game – slam your beer/beverage of choice throughout the duration of every Draft Kings or Fan Duel commercial. If you did, we don’t envy you the headache you woke up with this morning. Remember: Friends don’t let friends play drinking games tied to the hundreds and hundreds of Fan Duel and Draft Kings ads.