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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

This has to be some sort of cruel joke.

Week 10 already? Really?

The college football season is starting to wind down, but not before Florida’s most important game of the season: The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

And yeah, here at alligatorSports, it’s the damn Cocktail Party. Not the River City Showdown, or whatever the powers-at-be want to call it to avoid the negative PR that comes from the WLOCP name.

The name will change when it stops being literally the most perfect way to describe the booze-filled early November showdown.

But, despite the Cocktail Party being the only top-10 matchup of the week, ESPN decided against awarding the Gators their fourth College GameDay appearance of the season. Instead, that honor goes to the battle between No. 15 SMU and No. 24 Memphis, an AAC West game with New Year’s Six implications. Football beat writers Dylan Rudolph and Kyle Wood debate that one below:

SMU will win because…

A vote was held Tuesday by The NCAA Board of Governors in which it unanimously agreed to find a way to allow college athletes to profit from their fame and likeness, overturning the standing rule to not allow collegiate athletes to earn money.

The biggest loser of the rule was SMU. In the 1970s and 1980s, the football program was caught on numerous occasions of paying athletes to play football and was subsequently administered the famed “Death Penalty,” effectively shutting down the entire football program for the entirety of the 1987 and 1988 seasons, just five years after an undefeated season. And it has taken the program over 30 years to return to form.

But the recent vote to end the rule that crippled the program for so long now acts as a sort of ironic milestone, symbolizing the turning point for SMU football and possibly the end of a long rebuild.

This season, the Mustangs have started 8-0 for the first time since 1982, a season where they finished 11-0 on the back of two top running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James, dubbed the “Pony Express.” But this year, it’s just one pony pulling the carriage.

SMU running back Xavier Jones has led the No. 15 SMU offense with his dynamic, all-around playstyle, rushing for 884 yards and 14 touchdowns this season while adding 12 receptions for 54 yards and two receiving touchdowns. The 5-foot-11 senior should have another field day against a weak Memphis defense on Saturday night.

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The Tigers rank 94th nationally in rushing defense, allowing 188.8 yards on the ground per game and 12 rushing touchdowns. Jones and the potent Mustang offense — which has averaged 43 points a game this season — will pummel 30 years of frustration into a helpless Tiger defense to remain undefeated.

 — Dylan Rudolph

Memphis (-6.5) will win because…

College GameDay is coming to Grit and Grind City, so they better not disappoint. Memphis is actually one of a few resident Group of 5 teams represented in the AP Top 25, along with their opponent, SMU. I’m not entirely sure if this is a result of weaker performances from Power 5 teams or a particularly stout season from those outside of college football’s elite. But the Tigers are going to prove their place in the poll this weekend.

They already have a win over an SEC opponent, albeit, it was Ole Miss. But since that 15-10 win, Memphis has only failed to score 30 points once and scored 40 or more five times.

The leader of the Tigers offense is quarterback Brady White, who is insanely efficient and is tied for the 10th-most touchdowns in the FBS.

To complement the air attack, running back Kenneth Gainwell has just under 1,000 yards on the ground this season and 11 touchdowns.

Let’s be honest, the Tigers aren’t going to stifle SMU’s offense. Memphis isn’t known for its defensive prowess and it doesn’t need to be.

Both teams have top-10 scoring offenses, but I’ll take Memphis in a shootout.

— Kyle Wood

Now onto the picks…

Tied for first at 47-24 is Kyle “Too Cool For Sprots” Wood, who refused to make his presence known to members of sprots Tuesday night at The Alligator. Kyle, a simple hello would have sufficed, but maybe you just didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that you were canoodling with news once again. I’m sorry to say your fellow staffers were hurt that you didn’t say hey to them when they walked in from dinner. And an hour later, you finally broke the ice and engaged in some conversation. Smh, Kyle. Smh.

Also in first is Tyler “Pro Candy Corn” Nettuno, who for some odd reason loves the controversial candy. Tyler, why don’t you have better taste? I get it’s seasonal and all, but don’t let the cute colors fool you. And the fact that there are multiple flavors for the abonimidal candy makes it even worse. You probably love licorice, too, don’t you? Unbelievable.

Leading off a three-way tie for third is Nick “Too Good For The Picks Column” De La Torre, who was the last to send in his picks for the second-straight week. What’s the deal, Nick? Last week, there was a “birth in your family” or whatever. What’s your excuse this time? Either way, your contribution to this stupid column should take precedence.

Also in third is Graham “Huge Deadspin Guy” Hall, who took the popular sports media site’s demise harder than most. It’s OK, Graham. You’re allowed to be sad. There are just some college journalists who follow you and don’t need constant reminders of the volatility of the industry they’re about to jump head-first into.

The final member of third is Sam “Nice Costume” Campisano, who not only showed up to The Alligator’s Halloween party unfashionably late, but also just unfashionably. Instead of fitting in with his coworkers, clad in their favorite costumes, Sam went as “Sam from UF RecSports.” Or, he was coming from “work,” as he alleges.

In sixth at 40-31 is Mark “Say It To Their Face” Long, who thought that the boys in blue dutifully defending the Jaguars statue outside of TIAA Bank Field should play left and right tackle for the Gators. It’s easy to talk that big talk on the Twitter streets, but I’m not sure Stone Forsythe and Jean Delance would appreciate being called out like that…

In seventh at 38-33 is Dylan “On The Clock” Rudolph, who personally needs his laptop to S C R E A M out what time it is on the hour, every hour. Dear God, Dylan. Why do you do this to yourself? Is it just so you have someone that talks to you on the lonely nights? Does it do it while your MacBook is closed, too? Dylan, we like you as a friend, but this may be a little too much to handle. 

In eighth at 37-34 is Edgar “82” Thompson. No, trolls, that’s not Edgar’s age. He’s 81 until February, jerks. It’s how many PGA Tour victories Tiger Woods has earned over his professional career, tying Sam Snead’s career record. Edgar was very excited to see Tiger tie Snead, and honestly, we’re all for it. At least you’re talking about golfers that have played since the 1950s.

Tied for ninth at 36-35 is Zach “Minshew Moment” Goodall, who decided that the Twittersphere needed to know that he threw two touchdowns in his intramural flag football game. Good job, Zach. Everyone here at alligatorSports is real proud of you. Just don’t go as far as to compare yourself to the GOAT.

With Zach in ninth is Mari “Editor Not In The Office GroupMe” Faiello, who, for some reason, figured she didn’t need to be in the group message that the sports editors use to communicate with writers. Considering the professional nature of this GroupMe, we’re not entirely sure why Mari feels she’s too good to be a part of it. Either way, it’s a jarring dereliction of her assistant editor duties, as far as we’re concerned.

In last (again) at 33-38 is Brian “Criticizes Bo Nix, Picks Auburn To Cover Three Touchdown Spread” Fox, who was vocal on Twitter this week that Tigers coach Gus Malzahn should have given backup Joey Gatewood (who entered the transfer portal) a look in light of Nix’s struggles. Brian then proceeded to pick Auburn to cover the 18.5-point spread against Ole Miss. If he’s bad, don’t pick him! This is why you’re in last.

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