Five things to look for this weekend in college football:
1. The Head Ball Coach has another chance to make history: Steve Spurrier hasn’t been able to recapture the success he had at Florida (six SEC championships) since coming to South Carolina in 2005. But the HBC has a chance to make some history on Saturday if the Gamecocks can upset No. 1 Alabama. First of all, South Carolina has never beaten the No. 1 team in the nation. They beat No. 4 Ole Miss early last season. But a win over Alabama would give Steve Spurrier his 107th SEC win in 18 years as a head coach in the league. That would move him into second place behind Bear Bryant (159) and ahead of John Vaught (106) and Vince Dooley (105).
2. Mike Pouncey will remain at center for Gators. Deal with it: Brady Ackerman, my broadcast partner on CSS, made this point and it’s a good one. Last season Florida fans became experts on concussions when Tim Tebow got his bell rung. When center Mike Pouncey had some issues with the shotgun snap in the first game with Miami (Ohio), everyone became an expert on the center-quarterback exchange. Pouncey had some snaps that were off target in last Saturday night’s game with Alabama. Now segments of the fan base want to move Pouncey back to guard. First of all, Brady points out, Pouncey is your only offensive captain. You don’t move him without sending a bad message to the rest of your offense. Secondly, Pouncey is your best player at the position and is going to be a first-round draft choice. Last time I checked, Pouncey didn’t have anything to do with the four turnovers Florida had against Alabama.
3. LSU’s quarterbacks vs. the Gators: LSU coach Les Miles announced this week that Jordan Jefferson will start against Florida on Saturday. Okay. Maybe Miles needs to do that to keep Jefferson’s head in the game. Maybe if you bench Jefferson you lose him for the rest of the season. I don’t think so. I met the kid. He’s pretty sharp. But the fact remains that he has gone four straight games with less than 100 yards passing. Jarrett Lee completed 16 of 23 passes for 185 yards. He was far from perfect but when you have the SEC’s leading rusher in Steven Ridley (111.4 yards per game) and the SEC’s No. 1 defense (246.6 ypg) you need someone to manage the game and protect the ball. Jefferson completed only three of 10 passes and had two interceptions last week. For the fourth straight game he has thrown under 100 yards. LSU has games remaining with No. 12 Florida, No. 13 Arkansas, No. 1 Alabama, and No. 8 Auburn. LSU will not beat any of those teams if the Tigers don’t get more efficient play at quarterback.
4. Cameron Newton’s carries against Kentucky: Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton entered last week’s game with Louisiana-Monroe as the leading rusher in the SEC. Newton had been carrying the rushing load out of necessity because the Tigers had very difficult games with Clemson and South Carolina. So last week against ULM the Auburn coaches did not call a single running play for Newton. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns. He lost 11 yards on a sack so now he’s the No. 4 rusher in the SEC at 94.8 yards per game. So I wonder how many times Newton will run the ball on Saturday at Kentucky against a defense that is 11th in the SEC in stopping the run (166.2)? Newton certainly moves the chains but Auburn also knows it has a tough stretch of games coming up with Arkansas and LSU at home in the next two weeks.
5. Florida State vs. Miami: Which quarterback stays vertical? This is certainly not the Florida State-Miami game of the 1980s and 90s. But we’re in the sixth week of the season and we have two ranked ACC teams (Miami No. 14, Florida State No. 24) playing a very important game. Given the poor start of that conference this is a pretty big game for the ACC. While everybody likes to talk about offense, the fact is that these two teams are among the best in the country at rushing the quarterback. Florida State leads the nation with 25 quarterback sacks in five games. Miami is second with 17 sacks in four games. Which of the two quarterbacks will feel the most pressure? Miami’s Jacory Harris tends to throw the ball into tight places when he is under duress. He has eight interceptions in 119 passing attempts. Florida State’s Christian Ponder has only three interceptions in in 129 passing attempts. How about this: If Miami’s Harris has two interceptions or less, the ‘Canes win the game. Three or more? Then the game goes to Florida State.
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“Barnhart and Durham” for Thursday: This morning we welcome South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, and Virginia head coach Mike London to the show. The fun begins at 10 a.m. at www.790thezone.com.