As Dan Mullen prepares for Alabama this week in The Swamp, he should place a few phone calls. Dial up Dabo Swinney at Clemson and Kirby Smart at Georgia.
Not for a scouting report on the Crimson Tide, but how to handle a quarterback controversy. Both coaches can give the head man at Florida sound advice: Go with the superior talent. Ignore the experience factor.
Mullen has said he doesn’t have a quarterback controversy, that junior Emory Jones is the starter, despite his uneven play and the sensational work by freshman Anthony Richardson. In two games against South Florida and Florida Atlantic, Jones has thrown four interceptions and just two touchdowns. Richardson threw for 153 yards and two scores on Saturday on just three passing attempts, and has run for 275 yards and two scores altogether. Richardson became the first player in more than 25 seasons to rush for 100 yards, pass for 150 yards and complete every throw. He is also the first Gator with at least 100 passing yards and 100 rushing yards since Tim Tebow in 2009.
This should be an easy call. Jones has had three years at Florida and has yet to do anything to distinguish himself.
Swinney made the smart move four year ago, when he put the ball in Trevor Lawrence’s hands over popular veteran Kelly Bryant. Smart made the mistake of keeping Justin Fields on the sideline in favor of Jake Fromm. Fields ended up transferring to Ohio State and had two sensational seasons, while Georgia has been searching for a quarterback ever since.
Mullen actually has an easier decision than the other coaches did. Jones isn’t nearly as established as Bryant or Fromm were. Jones has looked bad so far against middling opponents. Now, Richardson isn’t the prospect that Lawrence or Fields were. He was a solid four-star recruit, but had nowhere near the hype of the two current NFL signal-callers.
That makes this an even easier decision. Mullen can go back to Jones if Richardson flops. Florida is more than likely not beating Alabama. It certainly won’t happen with Jones. Richardson, if what he has shown so far in small doses is an indication of his talent, may give the Gators a puncher’s shot.
All Mullen has to do is look back at what happened at Clemson and Georgia under similar circumstances. He doesn’t even have to pick up the phone.
Ducks and run
The Pac-12 notched a top-10 non-conference victory on the road for the first time in 12 years, a win that gives its best team, Oregon, a legitimate shot at the playoffs. The upset of Big Ten-favorite Ohio State was significant for the league on several levels. The Ducks were 14.5-point underdogs and were without two of their best defensive players, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and star linebacker Justin Flowe. This was by far the best win of the young season for anyone, and positions Oregon to be in the mix all season, as it looks to snap the conference’s playoff drought that dates back to 2017.
Ohio State, meanwhile, will still very much be in the playoff conversation if it can run the table. The Big Ten will provide several opportunities for significant wins. Michigan and Iowa both pulled off significant non-conference victories Saturday, the Wolverines knocking off Washington and the Hawkeyes taking down Iowa State. Penn State can add to the league’s résumé by taking down Auburn on Saturday, and Indiana can do the same against Cincinnati. The Buckeyes need to get their defense right after getting shredded for 269 rushing yards by Oregon. If that happens, they will be right there come December.
New rule: No stating — or even wondering — if Texas, USC or Miami are back until they are undefeated through September. Every year these once-proud programs get overrated and over-ranked (and I’m including myself in this critique), then flop once the season begins. Texas was overwhelmed by SEC also-ran Arkansas on Saturday. USC was blasted by mediocre Stanford, which was coming off an ugly loss to Big 12 punching bag Kansas State. Miami followed up its dismal opener, when it didn’t deserve to share the same field as Alabama, by nearly falling to Appalachian State. All three schools are most definitely not back.
The Post top 10
- Alabama (2-0) (Last week: 1)
Nick Saban was furious with the Crimson Tide after a sloppy practice Wednesday and was still mad after a 48-14 rout of FCS foe Mercer. Alabama is going to be doing a lot of running this week — if it hasn’t started already.
- Georgia (2-0) (2)
There was no Clemson hangover for the Bulldogs even without starting quarterback J.T. Daniels (oblique). Georgia treated UAB like it should, mauling the Blazers before its SEC schedule begins next week with South Carolina.
- Oklahoma (2-0) (4)
Everyone loves David getting a shot at Goliath when the underdog pulls the upset or put a scare into the heavy favorite. But there is the other side of this, games like Oklahoma’s 76-0 pasting of Western Carolina that doesn’t seem to benefit anyone.
- Oregon (2-0) (NR)
The Pac-12 has a legitimate playoff contender. A 14.5-point underdog, Oregon stunned Ohio State despite the absence of stud defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and star linebacker Justin Flowe — the league’s first road non-conference victory over a top-10 opponent since 2009.
- Clemson (1-1) (5)
A bounce-back win for Clemson against overmatched South Carolina State, but still plenty of concern. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei threw an interception and was not sharp.
- Penn State (2-0) (9)
The Nittany Lions already have half as many victories as they managed all of last year, setting up an intriguing non-conference showdown against Auburn in Happy Valley on Saturday.
- Iowa (2-0) (10)
One of the sport’s big surprises through two weeks, Iowa has wins over a pair of ranked teams after knocking off in-state rival Iowa State. The Hawkeyes should be 6-0 before hosting Penn State on Oct. 9.
- Ohio State (1-1) (3)
Clearly, quarterback isn’t the problem for Ohio State after redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud threw for 484 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s loss to Oregon. The defense, however, has given up 66 points in two weeks and has been a sieve against the run.
- Texas A&M (2-0) (7)
There is good news for the Aggies: They have two weeks before their SEC schedule begins. Time for quarterback Haynes King (right leg) to get healthy. His backup, Zach Calzada, did not seem capable of beating many teams in that conference after narrowly leading Texas A&M past Colorado.
- Cincinnati (2-0) (8)
It’s prove-it time for the Bearcats, road games at Indiana and Notre Dame to send the College Football Playoff committee a message it belongs. Style points absolutely matter.
Dropped out: Iowa State (1-1)
(in alphabetical order)
QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
The Rebels could be a sleeper in the SEC West, and Corral will be putting up huge numbers. Already, he has seven touchdown passes.
QB JT Daniels, Georgia
A so-so performance and now an oblique injury. Daniels has a lot of ground to make up once he returns.
QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
This is more along the lines of what you expect from Rattler: 20-for-26 for 243 yards and five touchdowns, even if the opponent was undermanned Western Carolina.
RB CJ Verdell, Oregon
The junior’s dynamite performance in the upset of Ohio State — he produced 195 yards of total offense and three touchdowns — could vault him into the race if Verdell follows it up with more big performances.
QB Bryce Young, Alabama
Two wins, seven touchdown passes and just 19 incompletions. The early Heisman favorite is cruising after two college starts.