Thoughts of the day: October 18, 2013


Missouri folks would like to think that last week’s win over Georgia in Athens was the breakthrough game for the Tigers, who finished with a losing record in 2012, their first year in the SEC. But given all the injuries at Georgia, that win will be written off as a fluke if Missouri doesn’t follow it up with a win over Florida in Columbia this weekend. The Tigers won’t have the benefit of veteran quarterback James Franklin, out with a separated shoulder, and as much as they say they’re confident in redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, he is still a second year guy who has a handful of significant snaps under his belt. Mauk could thrive the same way that Tyler Murphy thrived for Florida when inserted into live combat for the first time, but it’s something nobody will know until the game begins. Coming off the bench and starting in the SEC are two different animals, especially when that first start means going against the UF defense.


While Missouri will be charged with proving that it really is worthy of the sudden attention and adulation that goes with moving from #25 in the polls to #14 in one week, the Gators will also bear the weight of not a small amount of pressure. On the road for a second straight week, the Gators will have to (a) bounce back from a loss and (b) understand that all the preseason goals are on the line in this one game. There is no question that the Gators have the physical talent to win this game and even win it decisively. The question for Florida has nothing to do with physical ability. It has everything to do with what is between the Gators’ ears and in their hearts. We will know a lot about that by 3:30 Saturday afternoon.


When Franklin went down, so did Missouri’s inside running game. Franklin was used much like Florida used Tim Tebow as a single wing tailback on short yardage plays and inside the five. Missouri won’t abandon its inside running game with Franklin out of the lineup, but there isn’t a 230-pound hammer to take it between the tackles anymore. Missouri’s three running backs are all in the 190-pound range and all three can fly. The idea is always to get them to the second level where they can make someone miss, leaving lots of green grass in their paths. The pressure is going to be on Florida linebackers Michael Taylor, Antonio Morrison, Neiron Ball and Ronald Powell to square up and put people on the ground. If Florida’s linebackers have an average to poor tackling day, the Gators aren’t going to win this game.


While so many in the media have gone ga-ga over Kentucky’s freshman class that includes six McDonald’s All-Americans, going so far as to call them “the greatest recruiting class ever” before they have ever played a game, Florida’s Patric Young offered a sage piece of advice. Speaking at SEC Basketball Media Days in Birmingham, Young said, “I hope they think they can just walk on the court and they’re going to beat everybody … As soon as they play a real top team they’re going to see that it’s not just a walk in the park.” Some Wildcats, such as sophomore Alex Poythress, have already predicted an unbeaten, 40-0, season although Poythress walked that back a bit Wednesday when he said, “We gotta take it one day at a time and take small steps.” Kentucky’s kids might just discover that Florida, Tennessee and LSU will be very talented, very tough and not at all lacking the experience necessary to win big games.


The Wildcats certainly could win a national championship this year. It’s not out of the realm of possibility with that much talent on the team, but all that talent could end up being the problem. All these McDonald’s All-Americans are accustomed to being THE MAN on their high school programs but only five guys can play at a time, which means someone has to sit. Now, every coach in the world would love to have John Calipari’s problem of getting everyone to park their ego at the door but not everyone can do it. Calipari did it a couple of years ago but that team had a real leader in Darius Miller, who had been around four years. This team will rely on sophomores Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, talented guys for sure, but leadership has never been one of their long suits.


When fifth-ranked Florida State takes its high wire offense on the road to face third-ranked Climpson (there is a P in it … listen to one of their fans talk someday) Saturday, a name you need to know is Vic Beasley. He doesn’t throw, run or catch the football for a Climpson offense that averages almost 82 plays and more than 514 yards per game. Beasley disrupts offenses. He’s an ultra-quick 6-2, 240-pound defensive end who ranks second nationally with nine sacks and 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Teams that try to double him up every play are only asking for trouble as Clemson leads the nation with 24 sacks. If the Tigers can do what no other team has done – consistently get in the face of Jameis Winston – then they will have a real chance to knock off the Seminoles and stay in the national championship picture. If they can get in Winston’s face and keep the Seminoles out of the face of Tajh Boyd, it could also be a Heisman Trophy elimination game.


Tenth-ranked Miami (6-0) went from dead in the water to remaining unbeaten with two fourth quarter touchdowns to win on the road in Chapel Hill in spite of losing Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett early in the game to injury. Call this one a gift. To win this game, North Carolina only had to convert a third and one in the fourth quarter but on consecutive trips to the line, the quarterback let the play clock run down when he had time outs to burn and on the next play the left tackle committed a false start. Barring something totally unforeseen such as losing to Wake Forest Gump at home next week, the Hurricanes will go into their November 2 showdown with Florida State unbeaten setting up the first game of real importance for the two since 2005.


Depending on your sense of fashion, Oregon is the style-setter for college sports. Either the Ducks are on the cutting edge or else someone at Nike is on drugs. That’s probably the best way to describe the many uniforms and combinations that Oregon wears courtesy of Uncle Phil just up the road at Nike. Saturday when the Ducks take on Washington State in Eugene they’ll be wearing pink helmets, cleats, socks and gloves. The uniform pants and jerseys will be black. The pink is to support breast cancer awareness. I’m all for raising awareness for breast cancer and other devastating diseases, but at what point is it overkill?


You could say that when Terry Kath died of an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1978, the band Chicago died with him. Until Kath’s death, Chicago was one of the great rock and roll bands ever. After his death, the band transformed into one that wanted to challenge Barry Manilow for feel like feeling sorry for myself music. Prior to that transition from powerhouse drop the hammer to whiny, wimpy ballads, Chicago was screaming guitars and a horn section that only Tower of Power could match. Although I was more impressed with Steely Dan that day I saw them in Tampa, I will never forget Chicago’s rendition of “25 or 6 to 4,” which remains one of the greatest rock and roll songs ever.

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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.