Why it's time for Florida football to be alarmed about Dan Mullen | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer

This the "Topp Rope," a biweekly SEC football column from the USA TODAY Network's Blake Toppmeyer.

If Dan Mullen doesn’t see the chasm in talent between Florida and Georgia, then that’s part of the problem for the fourth-year Gators coach.

“We were better last year, and they were better this year,” Mullen said after Florida's 34-7 loss to No. 1 Georgia on Saturday when asked about the talent gap between the programs.

If Mullen doesn’t change Florida’s trajectory in recruiting, Georgia is going to be better in most years when Mullen goes up against Kirby Smart – because Smart assembles better players, and more talent usually prevails.

Florida (4-4, 2-4 SEC) is 4-7 in its last 11 games. That doesn’t change my belief that Mullen is one of the smartest Xs and Os coaches in the sport, but this isn’t the NFL. Recruiting and stockpiling talent is the path to sustained success in college football, and Smart is recruiting at a clip matched only by Alabama.

That’s why Georgia (8-0, 6-0) is running roughshod over the SEC despite starting a former walk-on at quarterback. Five-star talent is scattered throughout its roster.

Mullen’s four signing classes during his Florida tenure featured a total of two five-star recruits. During that same four-year span, Smart signed 20 five-star prospects.

Five-star signees separate programs like Alabama and Georgia from others in the SEC. Lots of SEC programs sign plenty of four-star prospects, but Alabama and Georgia stockpile the elite recruits.

TOPPMEYER:If Bo Nix keeps playing like he did vs. Ole Miss, Auburn football can win SEC West

 And Mullen is on pace for his worst signing class of his Florida tenure. Georgia’s 2022 recruiting class ranks No. 1 in the 247Sports Composite, while Florida’s ranks 22nd.

The Gators likely will move up the recruiting rankings as the December signing period approaches and they gain more commitments – they only have 13 right now – but a top-10 recruiting finish looks like a longshot.

Mullen has never been regarded as a top recruiter, but Florida's recruiting class should never be ranked as low as 22nd nationally entering November. Mullen resides in a state that is deep on talent, and Florida State and Miami are mired in bad seasons. The Gators should be cleaning up. But none of the state’s top 15 prospects in the 247Sports Composite are committed to the Gators. Compare that to Georgia, which has commitments from seven of the Peach State’s top 15 prospects.

“There’s no coach out there that can outcoach recruiting,” Smart said Saturday.

That’s Mullen’s problem.

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Egg Bowl is going to be a QB bonanza

Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral has received a lot of Heisman Trophy hype – deservedly so – but Mississippi State’s Will Rogers offered a reminder Saturday that there is more than one good quarterback in the state of Mississippi.

Rogers completed 36 of 39 passes – that’s 92.3% – in the Bulldogs’ 31-17 victory over No. 12 Kentucky.

Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2) will host Ole Miss (6-2, 3-2) in the regular-season finale in what could be a most compelling Egg Bowl. 

Just six times during this rivalry have both teams been ranked in the top 25 when the Egg Bowl was played. This year could mark the seventh time.

Auburn needs an encore

Auburn’s schedule is backloaded, and the Tigers passed an important test by beating No. 9 Ole Miss 31-20 on Saturday. The Tigers (6-2, 3-1) and Alabama (7-1, 4-1) each control their path to the SEC Championship. If either wins out, that team will represent the SEC West.

Auburn has a tougher path to running the table. It will play at No. 14 Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2) on Saturday before hosting Mississippi State the following week.

If you’re in the camp that still thinks Alabama’s spot in Atlanta is all but guaranteed, an Auburn victory over the Aggies might shift your thinking, considering Alabama lost in College Station this season.

Vanderbilt should have announced attendance restrictions

Did you see the crowd shots from Missouri’s 37-28 victory at Vanderbilt? The gathering looked like what you might expect for a high school jamboree.

Vanderbilt concluded last season with attendance limited to friends and family as part of pandemic-induced restrictions. The Commodores should have announced similar restrictions this season to provide an excuse for the comically thin attendance.

Attendance was announced as 19,821. Most of those fans must have been hiding in the bathrooms or concessions lines when the crowd shots were snapped.

He said it

“A few times when they were close to scoring, I kept reminding guys about what they said about us on ‘GameDay.’ Not one of those people had us winning.” – Auburn cornerback Jaylin Simpson, in reference to the entire ESPN “College GameDay” crew picking Ole Miss to beat Auburn

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.