Thoughts of the day: November 24, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning:


It’s bad enough to lose to Vanderbilt at home, but to lose to Division IAA Georgia Southern at home two weeks later makes the Vandy loss almost tolerable. When Ron Zook lost to Mississippi State, a few clever writers turned Zooker’s “noise in the system” phrase against him. After Will Muschamp and the Gators lost to Georgia Southern Saturday, that Mississippi State game in 2004 seems like Wednesday night prayers at a Quaker gathering. If Zooker’s dilemma was noise in the system, then Jeremy Foley will be deafened by the kind of decibels you get at a Guns ‘N Roses concert resonating throughout the Gator Nation when he wakes up Sunday morning. Foley said 10 days ago nothing he’s seen from Muschamp has changed since the day Muschamp was hired. Ten days ago, losing to Georgia Southern was inconceivable so things have definitely changed, perhaps enough that offering the heads of Brent Pease and Tim Davis might not be enough to salvage another year for Muschamp.


Bowl system supporters will look at what happened to Baylor Saturday night and say, see the system works! Baylor got Baylored by Oklahoma State and saw its hopes for both an unbeaten season and a shot at the national championship go down the chute. Baylor came into Saturday night’s game in Stillwater averaging 61.2 points and 687.4 yards per game. They left Stillwater on the short end of a 49-17 score with only 453 yards. Oklahoma State (10-1) only needs to knock off Oklahoma State in two weeks to win the Big 12 title and claim a spot in a BCS bowl.


There is a reason why former Gator O-line coach Joe Wickline is the highest paid offensive coach in the country. Did you see what Oklahoma State did to Baylor? This is Wickline’s ninth season at Oklahoma State and the Cowboys will once again average more than 40 points a game with one of the most balanced offenses in the country. What makes the job Wickline does even more remarkable is that he does it with mostly two and three-star recruits who typically aren’t flooded with Division I offers. He looks for kids with long arms, good feet, intelligence and toughness. When you see what’s going on with Florida’s offensive line the last three years and compare that to Wickline’s body of work you can only come to one conclusion: coaching really does matter. Oklahoma State gets good coaching.


Florida’s loss to Georgia Southern probably neutralized the 80 points the Seminoles hung on Famous Idaho Potatoes Saturday afternoon and that cannot help their chances to make it to the BCS national title game. Ohio State had another big win and now has won 23 straight games. The Buckeyes will face a not great Michigan team next Saturday but at least the Wolverines have a winning record. FSU has to face the Gators. That doesn’t help. Then come the championship games. Ohio State will face a Michigan State team that will probably be ranked in the top 10. FSU will probably play Duke. Throw in the fact that Jameis Winston could be charged with a felony any day now and the door is wide open for Ohio State to jump to #2 which would set up the Nick Saban-Urban Meyer matchup in the national championship game that the TV people want.


Eliminate the following: Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty. They all had their moment on the big stage Saturday and all three of them laid gigantic eggs. If Tallahassee state attorney Willie Meggs doesn’t drop the charges against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, you can probably eliminate him, too. The last thing the Heisman folks want to do is have their trophy winner suspended from his team for allegedly raping a woman. So, that leaves A.J. McCarron of Alabama. He’s absolutely the safest choice but it’s not like he’s lacking the stats. Besides a 37-2 record and two national championships as a starting quarterback, he has thrown for 2,379 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading Alabama to an 11-0 record. He is the best player on the nation’s best team.


I have to wonder why Andre Williams of Boston College isn’t in the Heisman Trophy mix. All he has done is run for 2,073 yards and 16 touchdowns while leading BC to a surprising 7-4 record in Steve Addazio’s first year as head coach. Williams ran for 263 yards and two touchdowns Saturday as the Fighting Addazios beat Maryland on the last play of the game for their fourth straight win. In those four wins, Williams has run for 166, 295, 339 and 263 yards with two touchdowns in every game. I’d be surprised if he gains fewer than 250 next Saturday in the final regular season game against Syracuse.


LSU (8-3, 4-3 SEC West) made Johnny Manziel seem like a kid who needs another year of college football, holding last year’s Heisman winner to 16-41 for 224 yards, one TD and two picks. LSU ran for 324 yards in beating Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC West), 34-10 … Missouri (10-1, 6-1 SEC East) beat Ole Miss (704, 3-4 SEC West), 24-10, to move within a game of capturing the SEC East Division title … Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC West) tuned up for next week’s showdown game with Auburn (10-1, 6-1 SEC West) with a cruise control 49-0 win over Chattanooga … Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4 SEC East) got a touchdown run from Patton Robinette with 16 seconds left to knock off Tennessee (4-7, 1-6 SEC East) … Aaron Murray threw for four touchdowns on Senior Day as Georgia (7-4, 5-3 SEC East) hammered Kentucky (2-9, 0-7 SEC East), 59-17 … South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC East) tuned up for its rivalry game with Clemson, destroying Coastal Carolina, 70-10. The Gamecocks will win the SEC East if Texas A&M knocks off Missouri … Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5 SEC West) could get bowl-eligible for a school record fourth straight year by knocking off Ole Miss next week. The Bulldogs handed Arkansas (3-8, 0-7 SEC West) its eighth straight loss, 24-17, in overtime.


This is how I would rank them: (1) Alabama; (2) Florida State; (3) Ohio State; (4) Auburn; (5) Missouri; (6) Oklahoma State; (7) Clemson; (8) South Carolina; (9) Michigan State; (10) Stanford; (11) Baylor; (12) Michigan State; (13) Oregon; (14) Fresno State; (15) Wisconsin; (16) LSU; (17) Arizona State; (18) UCF; (19) Louisville; (20) Northern Illinois; (21) Southern Cal; (22) Oklahoma; (23) Duke; (24) UCLA; (25) Cincinnati.


Back in the late 1960s I got hooked on the music of Laura Nyro, who died much too soon. Laura, who was a prolific songwriter, had one of those unforgettable voices and a unique style that brought you back for more. I think Diane Birch is a Laura Nyro type of talent. She writes all her own material and delivers it with a truly unique style. This is “Fire Escape” from her “Bible Belt” CD.

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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.