YES, IT DOES STINK
At the end of his impromptu press conference where he reconfirmed his support for head coach Will Muschamp, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said, “Yeah, it stinks. It stinks for every Gator fan.” Truer words were never spoken. It is unfathomable that a football program that went 65-15 from 2005-10, is 22-16 in the three years since and has finished the 2013 season with a 4-8 record. Injuries certainly had a big part of Florida’s fall from grace this year, but the injuries also exposed the many holes in the Florida program, one of which is player development. It is not unreasonable to expect a certain dropoff when a starter goes down, but so many of Florida’s backups seemed ill-prepared. Wide receivers who have been in the program for three years should know how to get open. Offensive linemen who have been in the program four and five years should be able to pass block. That’s just the tip of the Florida iceberg. When it comes to player development, it does indeed stink. When and if Muschamp makes changes in his staff, he’s got to bring in people who can develop talent otherwise the Gators will face the same dilemma in the future whenever a starter goes down for any reason.
30 DAYS FOR EVALUATION
The next 30 days could be a godsend for Muschamp. The problems would be no different if the Gators were 6-6 or 4-8. While he would have the chance to get in the equivalent of another spring practice in prep for a bowl game, that time would take away from valuable self-evaluation, evaluation of his coaching staff and possibly interviewing potential assistant coaches should he elect to make changes on his staff. Chances are the coaches he would like to hire will be prepping for bowl games, but with the entire month of December to work with, Muschamp should be able to emerge 31 days from now knowing who stays and who goes. As critical as recruiting will be this year, he can’t afford to go long into January without a full staff in place.
NO THREE-PEAT FOR BAMA
Because the game was at Auburn, I really did believe that Auburn had a chance – albeit slim – to beat Alabama Saturday but who could have ever predicted that Auburn would win the game on a last play 100-yard return of a missed field goal? The loss snuffed out Alabama’s dream of winning a third straight national title and ended Bama’s 15-game winning streak. Given Nick Saban’s obsession with eliminating mistakes, Alabama’s performance was shocking. The Crimson Tide went 0-4 on field goals, had a punt partially blocked, couldn’t convert on fourth and one, gave up four sacks and was flagged for four false starts and a holding penalty on the offensive line. Credit Auburn for actually practicing field goal returns and running the return perfectly. How many teams take any time from their special teams practice to do that?
WHAT WILL SABAN DO NEXT?
He continues to say that he’s perfectly content to keep on coaching in Tuscaloosa, but Nick Saban has never stayed in one place too long (his six years at Alabama are the longest he’s ever stayed anywhere). Just a day or two before he accepted the Alabama job back in 2006, Saban swore he had no interest in leaving the Miami Dolphins. He swore he wasn’t leaving LSU and before than Michigan State, so when he says he’s happy to be somewhere, there is ample reason to believe otherwise. Maybe it would be easier to believe Nick if Southern Cal weren’t already open and Texas could be as soon as next Sunday. Those are two plum jobs where Saban could practically name his own salary and have incredible recruiting advantages. New jobs – particularly jobs like Texas and Southern Cal – present new challenges. With the possibility of a three-peat gone, does Saban look at Alabama and think “What else do I have to prove here?” or does he look at the statue of Bear Bryant and set his sights on four more national championships to become the greatest coach in Bama history?
MISSOURI-AUBURN FOR THE SEC TITLE
If you had put $100 on that scenario in Las Vegas back in August, you might be looking at a new tax bracket about now. Sporting News, which also had the Gators ranked #4 nationally in its preseason magazine, had Missouri finishing sixth in the East and Auburn sixth in the West. Neither Mizzou nor Auburn made a bowl game last year and they were a combined 2-14 in SEC play. This year, they head to Atlanta with identical 11-1 records. The difference for Missouri is healthy playmakers and a vastly improved defense. The difference for Auburn is Gus Malzahn. If he’s not the national coach of the year, then nobody should win the award. It must also be noted that nearly every preseason magazine had Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel at or near the top of its hot seat list. Pinkel is hot right now, all right, but it’s not his seat that is smoking.
OHIO STATE-FSU CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SEEMS LIKELY
A national championship matchup of Ohio State and Florida State in the Rose Bowl seems likely now that Alabama has been knocked off. Unless either the Buckeyes and Seminoles go belly up in their conference championship games next weekend, the Southeastern Conference’s seven-year stranglehold on the national championship will probably come to an end. There should be no circumstance in which a one-loss SEC team should jump either Ohio State or FSU if they both finish with 13-0 records. For the Buckeyes to make it, however, they will have to beat a very sound Michigan State team that has the nation’s best defense. If the Buckeyes go down, that will put the winner of Missouri and Auburn in the championship game. Here’s one wild thought: if both Ohio State and FSU were to lose next weekend and Auburn won the SEC, would the computers and Harris Poll give us an Alabama-Auburn rematch for the national title?
Had Alabama beaten Auburn, it is conceivable that A.J. McCarron would have won the Heisman Trophy. It’s hard to argue with a guy who is a model citizen on and off the field and who would have been going for a third straight national title. But with Alabama losing, Marcus Mariota of Oregon playing poorly down the stretch and Johnny Manziel playing uninspired the last couple of weeks, Heisman voters may have no choice but to go with Florida State’s Jameis Winston. It’s not that Winston doesn’t have the credentials on the field, but it would be a major embarrassment for the Heisman Trust (and for Florida State) if Winston wins the trophy then gets arraigned on felony sexual battery or rape charges. Given that a Heisman Trophy and a national championship are on the line for FSU, it would be advantageous for Tallahassee state attorney Willie Meggs to make a decision quickly but unless he’s changed his mind in the last couple of days, Meggs says there won’t be a decision until somewhere around December 10, which just happens to be when the Heisman votes are due in.
SUMLIN ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE
Although there mutual interest between Southern Cal and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, he’s not going anywhere after signing a brand new six-year contract that will keep him in Aggieland until 2019. Terms of the deal are not immediately available, but it is being speculated that the contract is in the $5 million range. Perhaps Sumlin will be able to convince star quarterback Johnny Manziel that (a) he’s not ready for the National Football League (he isn’t) and (b) that he could use a year in which he is dedicated to football, not being the life of the party. If you’ve seen Johnny Football the last two weeks, then you see a quarterback who is a shell of the dynamic playmaker who drove defenses wild last year while becoming the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Had Duane Allman and Berry Oakley lived, I do believe The Allman Brothers Band would have gone down as one of the two or three best rock and roll bands of all time. This is “Revival” which was the first cut on their “Idlewild South” album, which also featured “Midnight Rider” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Even though Duane and Berry are long gone, if you ever catch today’s version of The Allman Brothers you will enjoy the live, longer version of “Revival.”