Starting 11: Butch Jones Chokes Away Florida Game...Again

Welcome in to Outkick's Starting 11.

Here's my playoff four if the season ended today:

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Penn State

All season long, the Starting 11 is brought to you by Krystal. Grab a sackful of hot-off-the-grill Krystal burgers for only 79 cents, all day, every day. Krystal also knows every tailgate needs wings, and they got you covered there too. Every Saturday and Sunday, all wings – boneless or traditional – are 49 cents. Krystal is hooking up the Outkick family this football season – text OUTKICK to ‘37793’ right now for some free Krystals and a Coke.

Okay, let's get rolling with the Starting 11.

1. I'm done with Butch Jones.

Totally and completely finished, he needs to be fired right now.

I could write an entire column about why I can't bear to ever watch him coach another game on the sideline, but I am sick and tired of him blowing it with basic strategic errors time after time. Rather than spend this entire column deconstructing his awfulness, I'm going to focus on the most indefensible coaching decisions of Butch Jones yesterday.

The Vols had the better team and coaching cost them the win for the second straight trip to Gainesville. In fact, as proof of how Jones is not improving at all, go back and read that column from two years ago. Butch keeps making the same mistakes over and over again, mistakes that cost his teams games.

Let's go to the second half.

a. You have a first and goal from inside the one, down 6-3 and you're set up to take an important 10-6 lead in the game, and these are your play calls:

1. You throw a fade into double coverage that was nearly intercepted and could have potentially been returned for a touchdown.

It was a mind numbingly stupid play call.

2. But you get bailed out by a taunting penalty, meaning the ball gets even closer to the goal line and is now virtually resting on the goal line.

Surely you're going to pound the rock here with your stud running back John Kelly, right?


3. On that play your starting quarterback gets dinged up. You neglect to take a timeout to get your starter back in and bring in your back up quarterback who hasn't taken a snap all day to run a play from the shotgun formation inside the one, which leads to a false start backing up the team five yards.

I hate shotgun plays from inside the one, it's one of many reasons why I don't trust Butch's offense.

(I'm giving the Butch the benefit of the doubt here. If he pulled Dormady to bring in the back up in this situation I am going to be apoplectic.)

4. You then pass the ball three straight times from the five yard line and on the final pass play throw an interception on the one yard line.

You never give John Kelly, the best player on the field, the ball despite running five plays from the five yard line.

That play calling sequence standing alone is enough to fire Butch Jones.

On the ensuing series you take possession at the Gator 35 and drive it to the 17 where you face 3rd and 1. Instead of running the ball -- you averaged over five yards a carry and presently have a 34 yard field goal that would tie the game in your back pocket if you fail to gain the down and distance -- you call a ridiculous roll out passing play that leads to a holding call backing the Vols up to the 27. At this point you are facing a 3rd and 11, but still have a makeable 45 yard field goal. The safe bet is probably to call a quick hitting pass play or just run the ball, gain five yards or so, and set up a likely game tying field goal from forty yards away or so. Instead you call a slow-developing play, your quarterback gets sacked and you now have turned a chip shot 34 yard field goal into a 51 yard missed field goal.

Which, of course, the Vols miss.

On the very next series Tennessee is pinned deep by the Gators and runs two straight read options into the center of the line -- you can't run these plays with a quarterback who doesn't ever run, FYI -- leaving your quarterback with a definite passing situation on third down. Dormady is high on an eight yard curl -- why would your primary target ever be an eight yard curl when you're facing a 3rd and 11? --  the ball is tipped and picked off for a return touchdown, giving Florida a 13-3 lead.

So Butch Jones managed to turn a first and goal from inside the one that should have been a Tennessee 10-6 lead into a 13-3 deficit without the Gators ever getting a first down on offense.

Finally, let's get to the end of game sequence.

Tennessee has a first and goal just inside the Gator ten with 1:02 left in the game.

At this point you want to ensure that the absolute worst case scenario is that you go to overtime after making a chip shot field goal opportunity. Ideally you'd like to end this drive with less than 20 seconds remaining on the clock to ensure that Florida takes a knee to go to overtime. So how can you do this? By running the football with your workhorse back at least once.

I know that John Kelly dropped what should have been a winning touchdown on the first down pass play, but why not run the ball there and force Florida to use a timeout or, more likely, keep the clock running all the way down and take your own timeout? I'm not sure the Gators take a timeout there since the frenzy of the game clock is working against you in their opinion. But maybe they do. If they had it would have left them with only one timeout. You're likely to get at least 4-5 yards on that first down run -- and maybe even score given how dominant Kelly had been up to that point -- which gives you a run pass option on second and third down.

It makes zero sense not to run the ball at least once here, every kid playing Madden would have done it.

Instead Butch throws three straight incomplete passes, which take a total of 12 seconds off the clock and leave Florida with time to mount a drive of some sort.

Which brings us to the final sequence.

With nine seconds left Florida has the football at its own 37 yard line and calls a timeout.

This means that everyone has time to set up their ideal play call on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Even with one timeout still left -- a timeout that Florida would probably have never had if you'd run the ball once -- it's virtually impossible for the Gators to complete a pass far enough down field to set up a field goal try. Florida needs roughly 30 yards to set up a reasonable field goal try. (That would be a fifty yard attempt, still a very long field goal for a college kicker.) Except it's not possible to run a 30 yard pass play, complete the catch, be tackled or go out of bounds, and get a timeout called in nine seconds.

So if you are on Tennessee's sideline the decision to make here is simple -- drop everyone and don't allow a pass to go over your head.

Tennessee should have had five or six guys deep across the field just protecting the end zone. (After the game Butch Jones said due to injuries Tennessee didn't have a dime package to put on the field, but get the fuck out of here with that answer. Put a big wide receiver on the field and tell him to knock the ball down. Teams do this all the time. Are you telling me Tennessee hadn't planned for this sequence in advance? That's even more incompetence.)

If Florida had completed a hail mary in this scenario -- as Tennessee did against Georgia -- you'd just have to tip your cap to them. Sometimes you can be in a perfect defensive play call and the other team can make a great play.

But that's not what happened here -- Tennessee allowed a wide receiver to run right past them and, amazingly, the Vols WERE IN MAN COVERAGE AND NO SAFETY AT ALL HAD BAILED AND PLAYED CENTERFIELD.

What's more, this exact same situation happened at the end of the Georgia game last year. So it's not as if Tennessee hasn't had ample time to game plan this exact same situation and go over what went wrong last year. The Vols allowed Georgia's receiver to run right past them which necessitated the hail mary to win. And then they allowed the exact same thing to happen a year later.

Why are the Tennessee defensive backs anywhere near the line of scrimmage at the snap? If you are trying to confuse Florida's quarterback, why are they not bailing the moment the ball is snapped and sprinting back downfield to go into a prevent mode? Why do you even care about confusing Florida's quarterback? His only option is to throw a hail mary touchdown.

Put simply, why would I, a non-football coach of decent intelligence, have gotten on the headset during this timeout and said this, "Let's make sure everybody is deep here. The only way we lose is if they get a touchdown, they don't have time for a field goal," and a head coach making millions of dollars to coach football doesn't say the exact same thing?

I have seen this happen again and again and again. Butch Jones is not a good in game coach. He has no idea what he's doing.

And I'm over seeing him screw his players out of winning games that they should have won.

Tennessee was the better team on Saturday, just like they were two years in Gainesville too, and the Vols coaching choked away this win.

I can't watch him coach any more, I'm done with him. He needs to be fired.

Okay, moving on before I get so mad I pick up my laptop and hurl it against the wall...

2. Clemson is going to be in the playoff as long as they beat Florida State on November 11th.

I now have the Tigers ranked as the best team in college football in my Outkick top ten.

They dominated Louisville in all facets, leaving the Tigers close to locking up the ACC Atlantic Division. Beat Florida State and they would still have a mulligan -- at Virginia Tech or at N.C. State -- and they would be in the playoff with an ACC title.

On the other side of the field, is it racist to point out that Lamar Jackson is now 2-4 in his last six games and that might be why college football writers aren't singing his praises to the high heavens?

When Louisville goes up against a good team -- with the exception of Florida State last September -- they make Lamar Jackson look very average at quarterback. Louisville has the talent to beat decent teams, but not to beat good teams. And the same is true of Lamar Jackson. Now, would I like to see what Jackson could do on a team like LSU? Definitely, but I tend to think Bobby Petrino is getting every ounce of talent out of him that he can.

I'm honestly curious to see what happens with Bobby Petrino this off season. Could he be in play to come back to the SEC? Especially if Lamar Jackson is leaving at the end of the year. I think so.

Could you imagine Bobby Petrino coaching a program like Tennessee, Texas A&M, Auburn, or LSU?

I think you have to put Petrino on the list for all of those jobs.

I would absolutely love Bobby Petrino coaching at Tennessee. Hell, I'll help pay his salary if he'll come to Knoxville. I have zero doubt he'd dominate the SEC East for the next 5-7 years.

3. Mississippi State whipped LSU by 30 points and Ed Orgeron has still not ever won an SEC road game.

First, props to Dan Mullen. This was a beatdown of epic proportions delivered by his Bulldogs. There was nothing flukish about this win, State outgained LSU by nearly 200 total yards and delivered a beating that left the score board looking like it had come from the Gerry Dinardo era.

Now all the LSU fans who were upset when I told them they'd made a foolish head coaching hire are in agreement with me.

"But he sounds just like us," they all said.

Yeah, and he's also never won a road game in his SEC coaching career!

What this loss does, to me, is it puts Coach O. on the hot seat. Some of y'all may think I'm crazy for saying this, but I think the low salary and limited buyout gives LSU no loyalty to Orgeron.

If LSU goes 8-4 or worse, which certainly looked possible last night, I think LSU will try to make a move to get a better coach.

And I think that's the right decision.

Can you imagine what Nick Saban is going to do to this LSU team?

4. So how do the Chip Kelly sweepstakes look right now?

I think there are five SEC schools that could be in the mix for Chip Kelly: Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn and Arkansas. (I don't believe Arkansas can afford to fire Bret Bielema and pay what Chip would require and I also think it's clearly the worst of these five jobs so I don't see the Razorbacks being able to get Chip.)

I asked you guys on Twitter who you thought wanted Chip the most and here were the responses with over 20k votes:

And, again, I think it's not just Chip Kelly either, I think there's a good chance Bobby Petrino could come back to the SEC.


But here's the big question out there -- which SEC athletic director will be the first to pull the trigger on his coach and go after Chip Kelly full steam ahead? The AD who makes the move first gains a substantial competitive advantage when it comes to landing Chip.

If I were Tennessee's AD, I'd make the Georgia game a must win. If Tennessee loses that game in two weeks and then loses to Alabama after that -- which we know they're going to do -- I'd fire Butch and go after Chip Kelly by late October.

At that point in time Tennessee would have lost to all three of its top rivals and would have no chance of wining the SEC East. Why wait? Go ahead and fire him.

5. Oklahoma State is an unstoppable offensive force of nature right now.

I really do believe that Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield's game in Bedlam is going to decide who wins the Heisman trophy this year.

Because both guys are going to have incredibly gaudy statistics up to that point.

I've never been to a game in Stillwater before, but Doug Gottlieb is trying to get me to go and I may try to make it for that game this year.

Oklahoma State's stats in the game at Pittsburgh didn't look real in the first half. Mike Gundy is probably the most underrated coach in America right now.

6. USC hasn't looked good for two out of three games so far.

I know the Trojans won and all that matters in a playoff era is surviving and advancing, but USC was not very good against Texas. The Longhorns, by the way, served notice that the Tom Herman era may be a very bright one for them. They were fantastic.

But based on the first three weeks, I'm calling it early, the Trojans are going to lose at Washington State in their Friday night game in Pullman in a little less than two weeks.

And if that happens, here's another name worth putting out there -- would anyone in the SEC go get Mike Leach? Look at what he's done at college football wastelands like Texas Tech and Washington State.

Why wouldn't he potentially work pretty well in the SEC? I can see his quirky personality being a hit and he plays an exciting brand of football.

If his Cougars beat USC, his name would skyrocket up coaching hot lists.

7. The SEC East may have the lowest ceiling and the highest floor in division history.

That is, I don't think that any team outside of Missouri -- which appears to have fallen apart -- is actually bad, but I don't think any team is that good either.

I think every team is in a band between the 20th best and 50th best team in America. That means anything can happen in the division this year and we'll probably see quite a few games like Kentucky's upset win over South Carolina. What do I mean by anything could happen? I mean, and I'm not kidding about this, Kentucky and Vanderbilt could both contend for the division title. Really. In fact, it wouldn't shock me if either Kentucky or Vandy or, potentially, even both of these teams beat Florida this year.

There's the possibility that Georgia's a good team, but I'm still not sold on it.

I think it's more likely that Georgia is a borderline top 25 team than it is that they're a definite top ten team.

We'll know more on the Bulldogs after games against Mississippi State and at Tennessee in the next two weeks.

But as is, I'm pretty confident Tennessee and Florida have never had worse combined talent than they did in yesterday's game. In fact, this may be the worst Florida team I've seen in twenty years.

They just aren't good.

The only solace Tennessee fans might be able to take from Butch's collapse against Florida is it could lead to Bobby Petrino or Chip Kelly in Knoxville if Vol administrators will come off their wallets and finally make a big time coaching hire.

Hell, say what you will about Lane Kiffin, but if he'd been coaching Tennessee on Saturday in the Swamp the Vols would have won that football game.

8. Penn State is the best team in the Big Ten right now.

I still picked Wisconsin to win the Big Ten because the Big Ten West is such a dumpster fire. Seriously, Nebraska? Do any Cornhusker fans want to argue that Mike Riley was still the right hire?

I think we're going to see a rematch of Penn State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and this year I think Penn State makes the playoff.

9. I was wrong about Derek Mason at Vanderbilt.

I watched a good bit of the Commodores game against Kansas State and I have to admit -- Derek Mason has a better program right now at Vandy than Butch Jones does at Tennessee. The Commodores look extremely well coached, their execution is crisp, and they are rolling right now, having won five regular season games in a row.

When he was named head coach at Vandy three years ago, I said Mason wasn't ready for the job at the end of his first year and I stand by my opinion then. But I was wrong that he wasn't ever going to win at Vanderbilt.

Every year they have gotten better and every year he has gotten better as a head coach. Kyle Shurmur is the real deal at quarterback and I legitimately believe Vandy will go to a bowl game this year and I can't believe I'm saying this, but it wouldn't shock me if they were in the mix to win the division come November.


Hell, they may even have the best quarterback in the SEC this year not named Nick Fitzgerald.

10. My Heisman Top Five

1. Baker Mayfield

2. Mason Rudolph

3. Sam Darnold

4. Nick Fitzgerald

5. Saquon Barkley

11. SEC Power Rankings 1-14 presented by Krystal.

All season long, the SEC power rankings are brought to you by Krystal. Grab a sackful of hot-off-the-grill Krystal burgers for only 79 cents, all day, every day. Krystal also knows every tailgate needs wings, and they got you covered there too. Every Saturday and Sunday, all wings – boneless or traditional – are 49 cents. Krystal is hooking up the Outkick family this football season – text OUTKICK to ‘37793’ right now for some free Krystals and a Coke.

1. Alabama

2. Mississippi State

3. Georgia

4. Vanderbilt

5. Kentucky

6. LSU

7. South Carolina

8. Auburn

9. Florida

10. Tennessee

11. Texas A&M

12. Arkansas

13. Ole Miss

14. Missouri

Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.