Thoughts of the day: November 15, 2013

THE LINE IS 12-1/2

We won’t know for sure if Tyler Murphy plays against South Carolina until Saturday evening when the Gators take the field for warmups and even then we have no clue how his ailing shoulder is going to hold up. That means Skyler Mornhinweg could be your quarterback against the 10th-ranked Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2 SEC East). While that sounds like a recipe for disaster, the folks in Las Vegas are holding steady at a 12-1/2 point spread. I figured that with the uncertainty about Murphy, whose throwing has been way off target ever since he hurt his shoulder against LSU, that the Gators would be at least three touchdown road dogs, but 12-1/2? That might be one of the most encouraging numbers I’ve seen all week.


Because of the conservative nature of the Florida offense and the shaky play of the offensive line, the Gators have a very small margin for error, a margin that will contract considerably if Murphy is unable to go. Obviously, the Gators can’t afford to turn the ball over and they will have to win the field position battle. They will have to keep Mike Davis under 100 rushing yards and they can’t afford to let Connor Shaw break containment out of the pocket and beat them with their feet. Offensively, someone is going to have to handle Jadeveon Clowney on the outside and the guys in the middle better come up big against bull rushing Kelcy Quarles. Someone is going to have to be able to hit a field goal from 40-48 yards and special teams can’t afford a breakdown. Obviously, doing all those things well enough to win a game is a tall order, but this might be one of those games when the Gators catch lightning in a bottle. If there is one thing that has plagued South Carolina this year it is the Gamecocks don’t bring their A-game every single Saturday. The Gamecocks probably should have lost to UCF, they were a break or two away from blowing the Vandy game and they lost at Tennessee. This isn’t an invincible team the Gators are playing, but it will still require a near perfect game from the Florida players and coaches.


This will be the 117th meeting between Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC East) and Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC West), the oldest football rivalry in the deep south with the winner not only staying alive in the race to get to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game but going one up in the all-time series which stands at 54-54-8. The loser will be knocked out of contention for a trip to Atlanta. To win the East, Georgia has to win against Auburn and Kentucky and hope that Ole Miss and Texas A&M both knock off Missouri. A Georgia loss coupled with a South Carolina win over Florida and a Missouri loss in either of its two remaining games will give the East title to South Carolina. All Auburn has to do is beat Georgia this week and #1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl to make it to Atlanta.


TMZ Sports says there is a cover up going on in Tallahassee in the investigation into Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston’s possible involvement in a sexual assault. TMZ says the signs point to a cover up by the Tallahassee Police Department on a case the state attorney got just two days ago even though the TPD investigated back in 2012. Winston’s attorney, meanwhile, says there are two witnesses who will back up Winston’s alibi for the evening. Meanwhile, FSU says Winston will start Saturday at Syracuse. It will be interesting to see if this alleged incident is a distraction for both Winston and the Seminoles, who can’t afford any kind of slip-up with Ohio State and Baylor both unbeaten.


In the United States, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but when it comes to sexually related cases, sometimes the innocent pay for a lifetime with a tarnished reputation. Winston has an alibi and two witnesses who say he could not have committed the alleged sexual assault, but the court of public opinion is already working against him. He’s been accused. His name it out there. His life will never be the same. Now, if he’s guilty, then he deserves whatever sentence the judge hands down, but what if he’s innocent? His name and reputation will never be the same.


While all the attention is being given quarterbacks such as Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, the Aggies’ Mike Evans is being overlooked in the Heisman Trophy conversation but is there a better receiver in the country? Through ten games, Evans has caught 57 passes for 1,263 yards (22.2 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns. Against Alabama, Evans caught seven passes for 279 yards and a touchdown. In the Aggies’ loss to Auburn, Evans caught 11 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns. A third-year sophomore, the 6-5, 220-pounder will be terrorizing cornerbacks in the NFL next year. My runner-up for most valuable non-quarterback would be South Carolina tailback Mike Davis, who leads the league in rushing with 1,058 yards and 100-yard games with seven.


Two years before he won the Heisman Trophy, Nebraska wide receiver Johnny Rodgers and two others held up a filling station for $90. It was an armed robbery but the charges were reduced to felony larceny and for the crime, Rodgers was given two years of probation. Rodgers has always contended that he was 17 years old, drunk and influenced by his two companions. Obviously the Nebraksa legislature bought that story because they pardoned Rodgers Thursday. Apparently, nobody looked into the multiple driver’s license suspensions, the DWI he got in 1997 and the felon conviction on a firearms charge in an incident with a cable television tech who was disconnecting the cable at his California home.


Andrew McCutcheon of the Pittsburgh Pirates announced as the Most Valuable Player in the National League Thursday, a well-deserved honor for the Fort Meade, Florida native who hit .317 with 21 homers, 84 RBI and 28 stolen bases while playing a terrific gap-to-gap center field. Prior to being drafted in the first round by the Pirates in 2005, McCutcheon had signed to play for the Florida Gators. Given what he’s done in the National League in four and a half seasons, you have to wonder what might have been if he had suited up for the Gators, who started the 2006 season (would have been McCutcheon’s freshman year) ranked #1 but had to win two of their last three games to finish 28-28.


One of my good friends is going through a really rotten divorce – there’s no such thing as a good one but this one is worse than most – so this song is for him. It’s “Jaded Lover” by Jerry Jeff Walker. If you’ve never heard of Jerry Jeff, then think about that Jimmy Buffett line in response to how he can write such sensitive songs and then follow them up with something trashy: “Well, sometimes I feel real sensitive and sometimes I just feel trashy.” He got that line from Jerry Jeff Walker, who is the greatest musical influence on his life.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.