Thoughts of the day: November 27, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:


You probably have to go all the way back to 1979 to find a Florida-Florida State game with a more lopsided betting line than Saturday’s 27-point spread. The Gators were 0-9-1 coming into the final game of the regular season in 1979 while FSU was finishing up an 11-0 regular season (FSU lost to Oklahoma, 24-7, in the Orange Bowl). In 1969, the Gators gave the Seminoles a scare before going down, 27-16. Florida State was a three-touchdown favorite at The Swamp in 1997, coming into the game 10-0 and needing only a win over the Gators to earn a trip to the national championship game against Nebraska. Steve Spurrier alternated Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise at quarterback and the Gators pulled off a stunning, 32-29, win that some experts say is the greatest game ever played in The Swamp.


Nobody is giving the Gators even a remote chance to knock off the second-ranked Seminoles, who are closing in their first perfect regular season since 1999, when they went bell-to-bell as the #1 team in the nation. But this is a rivalry game and as we’ve seen in the past, rivalry games often give rise to unlikely heroes who do extraordinary things. Maybe the most unlikely hero ever for the Gators against FSU was Wylie Ritch, who took over when All-American center Jeff Mitchell broke his ankle against Vanderbilt in 1996. Ritch was manhandled by the Seminoles’ defensive line in the final regular season game in Tallahassee, but 33 days later, with the Gators operating out of the shotgun, Ritch delivered perfect snap after perfect snap to Danny Wuerffel as the Gators destroyed the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl to win their first national championship. Could this be a game where a young kid like Ahmad Fullwood has a breakout game or perhaps Leon Orr gets in touch with his inner Reggie White and suddenly becomes a terror on the defensive line? It is a rivalry game and while everyone expects FSU to kill the Gators, strange things have happened in the past. 


This was the third game of the season for the Super Sophs. Everybody knew by then that John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez were one of the most lethal pass-catch combinations in the country, but the Gators gave up 34 and 35 points in wins over Houston and Ole Miss. Predictions were that FSU senior quarterback Bill Cappleman would light up the young Florida defense in an offensive game for the ages, but a funny thing happened on the way to a shootout. Reaves and Alvarez did their thing but Florida’s defense showed up and turned in one of the most impressive performances ever. Behind Youngblood’s five sacks, the Gators got to Cappleman 11 times for 91 yards in losses and forced eight fumbles as the Gators went won the game, 21-6, en route to a 9-1-1 record that stood as the best in school history until Steve Spurrier coached the Gators to a 10-win season in 1991.


With one game to go, Florida’s much maligned offensive line has actually done a better job of protecting the quarterback than 2012. Through 11 games, the Gators have thrown the ball 286 times while allowing their quarterbacks to be sacked 26 times. In 13 games in 2011, the Gators threw 288 passes and allowed 39 sacks. Now, are the numbers better because Tyler Murphy was such an escape artist after taking over for Jeff Driskel or are they because Tim Davis has actually improved the play of the O-line even with all the injuries? Murphy’s mobility might be the answer because the Gators averaged 4.53 per rushing attempt last year and this season they’re only averaging 3.65 per attempt.


In taking a longer look at the recent body of work by Davis, his best year was 2010 at Minnesota when the Gophers gave up only 17 sacks in 378 pass attempts in a 12-game season. In the 62 games he’s coached the O-line on the collegiate level since spending the 2008 season at Alabama as its player personnel director, Davis’ troops have given up 154 sacks. For contrast, Oklahoma State O-line coach Joe Wickline’s troops have allowed 80 sacks in 89 games since 2007.


Tallahassee State Attorney Willie Meggs has thrown a wrench into the national championship and Heisman Trophy picture with an announcement that a decision about Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is at least two weeks away. Florida State will be playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game in Charlotte on December 7 and the Heisman Trophy voting will finish up sometime around December 10. FSU is expected to win its Saturday game with Florida and the ACC title game, which would make the Seminoles odds-on favorites to fill one slot in the national championship game. Right now, Winston and Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron are the two leading candidates to win the Heisman. The delay could do one of two things for Winston and FSU. It could cause voters to go with McCarron for fear that Winston might be charged with rape and it could give extra leverage to unbeaten Ohio State, which currently trails FSU in the BCS standings. Would the BCS be happy with a Winston-less FSU in the title game? It could indeed have an effect.


For nearly 30 years, The Antlers have been a Missouri basketball tradition. They are loud, obnoxious equal opportunity hecklers who have been known to stretch the boundaries of decency. Saturday night, campus police, at the behest of Missouri athletic director Mike Alden, escorted The Antlers out of Mizzou Arena before tipoff of the Tigers game with Gardner-Webb. Tuesday night, they were escorted out at halftime. Alden said that The Antlers haven’t been representing the school’s core values with their rowdy cheers and jeers. Apparently Alden took issue with a cheer that involves a pelvic thrust that has been a signature cheer of The Antlers since 1976.


This will be an even better measuring stick for the 13th-ranked Gators than the loss at Wisconsin in the second game of the season because UF will have senior Scottie Wilbekin at the point and Dorian Finney-Smith available. Both missed the Wisconsin game while serving suspensions. The Seminoles have an impressive blowout win over then #10 VCU and an overtime loss to then 14th-ranked Michigan. The only common opponent is Jacksonville, which the Seminoles beat, 91-67, in their first game of the year and Florida beat, 86-60, Monday night in Jacksonville. FSU’s roster includes three 7-footers while the Gators’ tallest player available will be 6-9 Patric Young. Florida has won the last four meetings including a 72-47 win in Tallahassee last year.


I got into the habit of listening to James Taylor whenever I needed something mellow to relax me back in the 1970s. It’s a habit that I never broke even though there have been times in Taylor’s career when so many of his songs sounded alike. I’m not sure if that’s because his voice never seems to strain or stretch to the material or perhaps because Taylor has found a groove in which he’s comfortable and just stays there. In 1985, after a four-year break from making music, Taylor returned with the album “That’s Why I’m Here” that featured “Only a Dream in Rio.” This is a version of the song performed with the Brazilian artist Milton Nascimiento.

Previous articleDurkin dishes on Georgia Southern and Florida State
Next articleRecruiting Mailbag
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.


  1. I stopped watching Gator football a few games back (first time in nearly 40 years) to limit my depression, emotional upheaval, and frustration. I have never felt more powerless as a fan. I feel as if some weird secret Totalitarian sports assembly has taken over the program regardless of what we cry for. But for hopes sake and out of respect to those that put it on the line, on the field every week-I’m watching this game. I’m hoping for the Spirit we saw briefly in Jacksonville. And, after all, it IS Fla State! Go Gators. Dig Deep. Happy Thanksgiving.