A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning.
A CHANCE TO MAKE A STATEMENT
Patric Young says he’s a bit too young to have a bucket list, but if he had one, you can bet beating Kentucky at Rupp Arena would make his top ten. Young and the other Florida seniors have never won at Rupp but they’ve got a chance to break a six-game losing streak tonight when they face Kentucky in the marquee game on ESPN (9 p.m.). A lot of good things can happen with a Florida win. First and foremost, the Gators (22-2, 11-0 SEC) can build a three-game lead over second place Kentucky (19-5, 9-2 SEC). With six games to go in the regular season it would certainly put the Gators in the driver’s seat for the SEC championship (SEC champ is who wins the regular season, not the tournament). Also, with 2nd-ranked Arizona’s loss to Arizona State in double overtime Friday night, it would likely elevate the Gators to #2 nationally when the polls come out Monday.
ANOTHER GYMNASTICS MEET, ANOTHER 10
There should be no doubt that Florida is the nation’s #1 gymnastics team. Friday night, the Gators blew the doors off #11 Arkansas, 197.525-196.025, before a crowd of more than 6,000 at the O-Dome, a win that featured Florida’s fifth perfect 10 of the season. When Kytra Hunter scored her 10 on the vault – her third of the season – it marked the fourth straight week that the Gators have scored at least one perfect 10. Bridget Sloan continued her dominance, winning the all-around with a 39.750. She also won the floor and balance beam. Alaina Johnson and MacKenzie Caquatto both scored 9.950 to win the bars. As good as the Gators are, they are nowhere near their peak. It’s only going to get better in a season that is barely at the halfway point.
ROPER AND OTHERS CHIME IN ON DUMB RULE PROPOSAL
With three national championships in the last five years at Alabama, Nick Saban has earned his position as the nation’s top college football coach. But Saban has irritated plenty of coaches pushing for a new rule that would prevent offensive teams from snapping the ball until 10 seconds of the play clock elapsed, allowing the defense to make substitutions. Snapping the ball before 10 seconds elapsed would result in a five-yard delay of game penalty.
A lot coaches think the rule is ridiculous, particularly since Saban is defending the rule change under the guise of “player safety.” Although there is absolutely no data to back his claim, Saban says that hurry-up offenses create greater potential for injuries.
Saban is selling but not everyone is buying and that includes new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who used the no-huddle, hurry-up to help Duke neutralize teams with superior athletes. Duke used that strategy to go to two consecutive bowl games and a 10-win season in 2013.
Roper expressed his feelings on Twitter Friday: “I just wish coaches would be honest and stop using player safety as their only reason they want to slow down offenses.”
Former Florida offensive coordinator Larry Fedora, now the head coach at North Carolina is another one who was miffed by the “player safety” excuse. Fedora is particularly rankled by the fact that the new rule would allow the hurry-up in the final two minutes of each half.
“Now if you’re just going under the assumption that if you play more plays you have more chance for injury – I agree with that,” Fedora told the Raleigh News & Observer. “But if you’re going to say this is under player safety, but we’re going to do it in the last two minutes of the game, well then are we saying we’re not concerned with player safety in the last two minutes of the game? I mean, come on. I just don’t get that.”
Fedora also took a well-aimed shot at Saban whose most recently concluded signing class once again landed more five-star players than any other school in the country.
“I think you’ve got more chance of players getting hurt if the opposing team has too many five-star players on it,” Fedora said. “So let’s just say one team can only sign two five-star players on its team. How about that?”
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, who has been one of the pioneers of the no-huddle, spread offenses that have become the rage was on several radio shows Friday and you could almost hear the steam coming out of his mouth when he talked. He’s not just upset about the rules proposal. He’s downright angry.
And, like Fedora, he questions Saban’s “player safety” claims.
“Where’s all the data that proves this is a player safety issue? I don’t buy it,” Rodriguez told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. “What about making it so you can’t blitz seven guys? That’s a dangerous thing for a quarterback.”
Washington State coach Mike Leach, who has used a no-huddle spread attack for years, claims that Saban’s rules change proposal – which is backed, by the way, by Arkansas coach Brett Bielema – is nothing more than an attempt to try to stop offenses that he has problems defending.
“All this tinkering is ridiculous,” Leach told Schlabach of ESPN. “I think it deteriorates the game. It’s always been a game of creativity and strategy. So anytime someone doesn’t want to go back to the drawing board or re-work their solutions to problems, then what they do is to beg for a rule. I think it’s disgusting.”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze made a good point when he spoke with Schlabach, noting that defenses have freedom of movement, aren’t required to have even one player on the line of scrimmage much less the five that offenses have, and can fake blitzes and other things that can confuse an offense.
Freeze notes that there is only one weapon the offense has to combat all the defensive movement.
“The one thing that has always been offenses’ deal is snapping the ball.” Freeze told ESPN. “That’s the only thing we have.”
In 2014, Baylor averaged 52.4 points, 618.8 yards and 82.6 plays per game. Texas Tech ran 87.3 plays per game while Fresno State averaged 83.6. All three employed the no-huddle, hurry up.
THIS DATA DOESN’T SUPPORT SABAN’S THEORY
Dave Bartoo, who runs the website cfbmatrix.com came up with this data:
The Big 12 Conference, whose teams ran the most plays from 2009-12 (more spread teams), had the fewest players lost to injury among the five power conferences. Oregon, which is one of the fastest playing teams in the nation, lost only 18 total starts on offense the last four years.
From 2010-2012, Alabama was in the bottom 10 among BCS conference teams in plays per game. Saban lost a total of 30 starts to injury, 21 of those came against the bottom five teams in pace of play.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Pat Metheny came out with the “Secret Story” CD in 1992, unique because it was his first collaboration with an orchestra. The music was composed with his longtime pianist and sidekick Lyle Mays and features the London Symphony Orchestra along with a couple of interesting cuts that feature the Choir of the Cambodian Royal Palace. This is “Facing West,” one of my two favorite cuts from the album.