Pasquali’s Pix: Mocs to take SoCon title; Tide to outlast LSU

Georgia photo by Kari Hodges / Georgia football coach Kirby Smart looks to his players on the field during last Saturday's 43-20 shellacking of Florida in Jacksonville.
Georgia photo by Kari Hodges / Georgia football coach Kirby Smart looks to his players on the field during last Saturday's 43-20 shellacking of Florida in Jacksonville.

The first College Football Playoff rankings for the 2023 season were released Tuesday night, and several Southeastern Conference coaches were asked their thoughts about them Wednesday during the league's weekly teleconference.

As if the likes of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are suddenly going to change their line of thinking when it comes to outside noise.

"No coach is going to sit here and get worked about the future or the upcoming games," Georgia's Smart said. "I'm worried about constant improvement and getting guys who aren't playing back to playing and the guys who are playing better. You do that one week at a time."

Or, as Alabama's Saban put it: "It's more about staying focused on the process and not becoming outcome-oriented and creating a bunch of anxiety for yourself."

The SEC did have its worst showing in the 10-year history of the CFP's inaugural rankings, even though six teams are among the top 20 with No. 2 Georgia, No. 8 Alabama, No. 10 Ole Miss, No. 12 Missouri, No. 14 LSU and No. 17 Tennessee. Tuesday marked the first time the SEC didn't have two teams in the top five, let alone the top six or top seven.

In the debut release of the playoff rankings in 2014, the SEC had No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Ole Miss, though none of those teams would reach the four-team field. There also have been three additional years when the league had three of the top six, including last season with No. 1 Tennessee, No. 3 Georgia and No. 6 Alabama.

Alabama had never been lower than sixth in the initial playoff rankings until now, but Saban is a little more preoccupied with LSU this week than any CFP factoid. Heck, Missouri's No. 12 ranking is its highest ever, but Eli Drinkwitz and his Tigers will soon be traveling to Georgia.

"I think I would channel my inner Kobe Bryant and say that the job is not done yet," Drinkwitz said. "I don't think any coach is sitting around looking at the rankings to start November. We still have a quarter of our season left to play, so we're not focused on what we've accomplished up to this point."

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Ole Miss hosts Texas A&M this weekend, and Rebels coach Lane Kiffin was asked Monday in a news conference about his program being ranked in the top 10 for a third consecutive season.

Kiffin described it as "kind of neat" before adding, "especially as you're going against a program that normally you would think would be the team in the top 10 three years in a row with their roster."

Jimbo Fisher's Aggies landed the nation's No. 1 recruiting class in 2022 but are just 10-10 on the field since.

On Wednesday, Kiffin described the Aggies as "the most talented 5-3 team ever," and he was asked why he liked to "push some buttons" at Texas A&M's expense.

"That's a good question," Kiffin said. "It's nothing about the Aggies, because I think they've got a great program. They do a phenomenal job, obviously, of raising money and getting great players."

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The SEC's undecided scheduling format for 2025 and beyond continues to be a midseason topic, and LSU coach Brian Kelly was asked if he would like to keep Alabama as an annual foe for the Tigers.

A nine-game league format with three permanent opponents would allow the Crimson Tide and Tigers to continue to play each year as they have since 1964, but an eight-game slate with one annual foe would not, as Alabama would face Auburn while LSU would face Texas A&M.

"I think we're going to have a say in what that schedule looks like in terms of Alabama against LSU," Kelly said. "I think that Commissioner (Greg) Sankey has given us the opportunity to talk about the team or teams that we want to keep on our schedule.

"Each school has those natural rivalries, and in talking to Scott Woodward, our AD, he and I would be in agreement that LSU-Alabama is a game that we would like to see played every year."

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Florida will wear black uniforms for the first time in program history Saturday when the Gators host Arkansas.

The new look is to honor members of the armed forces, veterans and Gainesville-area first responders.


Pasquali's Pix

Texas A&M at Ole Miss: The last time the Rebels reached the top 10 in three consecutive seasons was 1962-64, so this is no small feat. Rebels 31, Aggies 26.

UConn at Tennessee: The Volunteers have reached six wins before November in consecutive years for the first time since 1998-99, so that's something, too. Vols 38, Huskies 15.

Arkansas at Florida: The Gators are 5-0 against the Razorbacks in the Swamp with an average victory margin of 23 points. Gators 31, Hogs 24.

Furman at UTC: The Citadel, ETSU, Furman, Samford, VMI and Wofford have each won a Southern Conference championship since UTC's last title in 2015, so it would seem the Mocs are due. Mocs 23, Paladins 20.

Georgia Tech at Virginia: Welcome to the We Recently Beat UNC Bowl. Cavaliers 27, Yellow Jackets 24.

Missouri at Georgia: It's now been four years and three weeks since the Bulldogs last lost inside Sanford Stadium. Bulldogs 31, Tigers 10.

Auburn at Vanderbilt: This will be the smallest stadium from a capacity standpoint that Auburn will have played in since its annual rivalry with Georgia quit taking place in Columbus in 1958. Tigers 28, Commodores 21.

LSU at Alabama: The final "SEC on CBS" prime-time telecast should deliver quite the doozy. Crimson Tide 38, Tigers 34.

Other picks:

Duke 26, Wake Forest 19

Kentucky 31, Mississippi State 28

South Carolina 38, Jacksonville State 15

Notre Dame 33, Clemson 26

Ohio State 35, Rutgers 12

Texas 34, Kansas State 31

North Carolina 49, Campbell 0

Memphis 30, South Florida 23

Florida State 42, Pittsburgh 17

Oklahoma 37, Oklahoma State 34

Penn State 28, Maryland 21

Louisville 25, Virginia Tech 22

Oregon 59, California 18

Middle Tennessee 24, New Mexico State 21

Michigan 56, Purdue 13

Washington 40, USC 27

Miami 23, N.C. State 20

Last week:

Winners — 20

Stolen signals — 5

Pasquali is 180-45 overall (80.0%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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