Hurricane Irma does a number on Florida sports causing lots of cancellations
September 12, 2017 3:05 AM
by Tony Mejia
The ACC was set to dominate this week’s festivities, packing by far the best 1-2 punch that any league has supplied in the same week this early in the season. Due to Hurricane Irma’s vast impact, the annual Miami-Florida State showdown that is undoubtedly the conference’s top rivalry and promises to be tremendous this year has been postponed until Oct . 7.
Georgia Tech’s visit to UCF in Orlando was also in danger of cancellation as of press time, so the slate for the third full week of the college football season is a few dollars short due to a heinous storm that interrupted the seasons for four of Florida’s top five teams. There will still be plenty to track, beginning with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner looking to cement his favorite status for a second consecutive award.
Clemson at Louisville
Lamar Jackson topped the latest Heisman odds posted by Westgate SuperBook, coming in at 9/5 ahead of Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, who made the jump to 5/1 after helping post an emphatic win at Ohio State. Sam Darnold shined in helping humble Stanford, so he’s stepped to the forefront and is considered to be in the top-three at 6/1.
While there are a couple standouts at Penn State and others scattered throughout the country, Jackson could make it difficult for anyone to consider another option while he’s still working his magic. No one will be able to question his dominance if he’s able to lead of the Cards past a Clemson defense that just devastated Auburn by surrendering just 117 total yards and logging 11 sacks.
In fairness, although Jackson looks sharper throwing the ball and just as elusive and explosive as he was last season, he’s come up with over a thousand yards of total offense against defenses, Purdue and North Carolina, that appear to have major issues. Dropping Clemson would leave the ‘Ville as the ACC’s top-ranked team, leaving only a visit to FSU in Tallahassee as the primary obstacle between it and a berth in the College Football playoffs.
Clemson won last season’s classic in Death Valley 42-36 after a Jackson pass on 4th & 12 gained just 11 inside the 5-yard line. Louisville has never beaten the Tigers, dropping three straight one-possession games by a combined margin of 15 points. Last year’s win provided Clemson its first cover in the series and it has been made a slight road favorite here.
Texas at USC
The Longhorns getting blitzed by Maryland in Tom Herman’s head coaching debut takes some of the shine off of this one, but he did get his new group to respond this past weekend after starting QB Shane Buechele was held out due to a shoulder injury. True freshman Sam Ehlinger and wide receiver Jerrod Heard led the way in a 55-0 annihilation of San Jose State, but the hope is that Buechele can return to give the team a fighting chance in L.A.
Darnold brought the goods against Stanford and has everyone in the NFL excited following a first weekend that featured some brutal performances from pros, so he can continue to build a buzz by excelling against a defense filled with elite recruits who were lit up by the Terps to open the month. Texas hasn’t played against the Trojans since the Rose Bowl National Championship back in ‘06, undeniably one of the best college football games ever.
For this to be even a fraction as exciting, Buechele would have to be effective in returning to the lineup.
Tennessee at Florida
The Gators canceled their home opener against Northern Colorado due to Irma, so there’s going to be no dress rehearsal before the lights come on the conference play in a big game for both programs. The days when both were realistically competing for national titles are over a decade old, which is a major reason why the head coaches are on the hot seat entering this SEC opener.
The Vols barely survived against Georgia Tech in their opener on a national Labor Day stage, failing to come up with a cover but surviving in OT after rallying in the fourth quarter, so Butch Jones has already bore the brunt of heavy scrutiny this season. Meanwhile, Florida’s Jim McElwain has alienated his fan base after running his record to 3-8 against ranked opponents in an embarrassing 33-17 loss to Michigan where they managed just 164 yards of total offense.
Neither team has chosen a quarterback they can truly trust, which makes for an interesting atmosphere in Gainesville, where there’s just a possibility the Swamp can turn against these Gators if there’s an ugly start. Tennessee hasn’t defeated Florida in consecutive years since ‘04 and has won just five of the last 24 meetings between these East Division rivals.
LSU at Miss State
Ed Orgeron’s Tigers have made things look easy thus far, beating BYU and FCS member Chattanooga by a combined score of 72-10. If recent history is any indication, the Bayou Bengals will certainly be tested here, even though a 16-1 record in Starkville would appear misleading. Mississippi State lost last year’s game 23-20 despite being literally run over by Leonard Fournette, fighting until the final seconds to secure a cover after falling behind 20-3.
The comebacks are also a trend since the Bulldogs fell a field goal short of an upset despite trailing 21-6 entering the fourth. Mississippi State won outright in Baton Rouge in ‘14, so Dan Mullen’s team will certainly believe they can take advantage of their cowbells and compete effectively enough to win outright.
Dual threat QB Nick Fitzgerald is experienced enough that he shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the LSU defense, but he’ll need help.
Kansas State at Vandy
Vanderbilt went to Middle Tennessee and muffled an offense that produced a win at Syracuse this past weekend, but we’ll know just how seriously to take this group after this one. With Alabama coming to Nashville next week, Vandy can put itself in position to be taken into account with the big boys on the heels of a win over and nationally-ranked opponent.
K-State has other ideas and will be looking to prove to itself that it can compete for a Big 12 title since the competition level it has experienced thus far can’t be taken seriously. Who is legitimate? Both teams are well-coached and feature effective weapons, making this a game that should absolutely be on your radar.
If Wildcats QB Jesse Ertz can gain chunk yardage and prove he can beat an above-average SEC defense with his run-pass, ball-control act, it could go a long way into guys buying in against the heavyweights within their own league.
Stanford at SD State
The Cardinal followed up last year’s loss to USC with an impressive effort at UCLA and seek a similar bounce-back game here. David Shaw’s team had major issues stopping the pass against the Trojans, but face a different type of challenge in San Diego since the Aztecs rely heavily on the ground game, although they’ve proven creative in manufacturing wigs to get running back Rashaad Penny the ball.
Penny scored on a 95-yard TD run and scored on a 99-yard kickoff return and a reception to fuel Saturday’s road win at Arizona State, so he won’t be catching Stanford by surprise. Is there enough Talent on board at San Diego State to take advantage of the extra attention he’ll command? This is a Super Bowl-type game for SDSU, at home and facing the prestigious school from Palo Alto for the first time since 1988.
The Aztecs are 24-6 over their last 30 games, which is identical to Stanford’s record. They’ve won 33 consecutive games when rushing for over 200 yards and are 41-2 under head coach Rocky Long when they get that accomplished, so look for what happens at the line of scrimmage to decide this. For obvious reasons that favors the Cardinal.
Others: Wisconsin at BYU, Ole Miss at California, Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh, UCLA at Memphis, Oregon at Wyoming, Notre Dame at Boston College, Tulsa at Toledo, Kentucky at South Carolina, Arizona State at Texas Tech, Purdue at Missouri.