Thoughts of the day: October 28, 2013


In this era of offense when Baylor AVERAGES 718.4 yards and 63.9 points per game that the Gators are dead last in the Southeastern Conference. Even Kentucky’s anemic offense ranks higher than the Gators, who are currently ranked #109 nationally at 336.9 yards per game and #101 in scoring at 21.1. In the three years of the Will Muschamp era, the Gators have never cracked the top 100 offenses in the country and that is distressing, particularly when Florida State is averaging 553.7 yards and 52.6 points per game and Miami is scoring 39.6 (#19) and picking up 484.3 yards (#23). Losing quarterback Jeff Driskel, tackle Chaz Green, wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose and tailback Matt Jones hasn’t helped Florida’s offensive production, but comparatively speaking, Georgia has taken far more hits to its offense than the Gators but that hasn’t stopped the Poodles from averaging 475 yards and 36 points per game.


Name the excuse for why Florida is underwhelming offensively and we’ve heard it. The most commonly repeated excuse is that it’s all the fault of former coach Urban Meyer, but Meyer hasn’t been around since 2010. The next most commonly heard excuse is again tied to Meyer – these are players who were recruited to play in a spread option and Muschamp wants to run a pro power offense. Doesn’t Muschamp have three recruiting classes under his belt? Another excuse is the Gators are playing with young quarterbacks. Didn’t Johnny Manziel win the Heisman as a redshirt freshman last year? Isn’t FSU’s Jameis Winston on the Heisman short list as a redshirt freshman? The excuse list goes on and on. Reality is that it’s time to stop making excuses and instead demand more accountability from the head coach, his offensive staff and also the players. No one expects the Gators to light it up like Baylor or Oregon State, but it’s not an unreasonable request that the Gators produce an offense that can at least finish middle of the pack.


In 2007, the entire Georgia team stormed the field after the Poodles scored a first quarter touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. Mark Richt swore the whole thing was “spontaneous” but the fact there was no effort by any of the Georgia coaches to stop the players is all the proof you need that the incident was staged. Watching the Georgia players taunt and try to draw what would have been an offsetting personal foul as they rushed on and off the field also tells you that this incident could have turned seriously ugly. Brawls have been started for less and if one had broken out that afternoon, Mark Richt would have been fortunate to get a job running a home based business. Georgia won this game, 42-30, the second win in a seven-game streak to close the season that had Poodles fans thinking national championship in 2008.


If they awarded “near national titles” Georgia would have two in the BCS era – one in 2007 and another after last year’s so close loss to national champ Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. After both those “near” titles – that’s what Georgia fans call them — Poodle fans have gone into the next season crowing that the wait for next year was finally over, that Georgia was ready to claim its place among the SEC elite that have contributed to the seven-season streak of national championships. As we have seen both years, whenever Georgia expectations are the highest under Richt, the Poodles always crumble under the pressure. In a paybacks are hell game in 2008, the Gators destroyed Georgia, 49-10, behind three rushing and two passing touchdowns by Tim Tebow. Brandon Spikes set the tone for the game on the second play from scrimmage when he gave Knowshon Moreno an out of body experience when he met the Georgia running back in the hole and drove him into the ground. Florida led 14-3 at the half and 35-3 after three quarters. Eight minutes into the third quarter, the Georgia half of the stadium was virtually empty.


Everybody wondered what Urban Meyer’s payback for being shown up by Richt would be. There were predictions that the Gators would storm the field but that never materialized. With the Gators leading, 49-10, and the clock winding down under a minute, Emmanuel Moody broke off a 14-yard run which resulted in an automatic stop of the clock to move the chains, but Meyer called time out. On the next play, Moody ran for 17 yards and again, Meyer called time out. Both times, the entire Georgia coaching staff and bench looked up at the scoreboard clocks to see the 49-10 score glaring at them. It was a not so subtle reminder to Richt that he not only showed Meyer up but compounded the mistake by lying about the rush the field incident as a “spontaneous” reaction by his team.


Florida has gone from a team that most experts had pegged in either the Sugar Bowl or the Capital One Bowl this year to a team that is generously being projected by ESPN experts Mark Schalbach and Brad Edwards to play in either the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham against Cincinnati or the Liberty Bowl against East Carolina. Georgia is being projected to go to either the Outback to face Michigan or the Gator to face Minnesota. Florida probably has to win eight games to get a better bowl, which is going to be difficult against this schedule. If Georgia can beat Florida, then the Poodles probably go on to win three more since their schedule includes Appalachian State, Kentucky and Georgia Tech.


While it can be debated whether the Southeastern Conference as a whole is as strong as it has been in the past seven years, there is no debate about who’s number one nationally in all the polls and in the BCS standings. Alabama looks like the 400 boxcar freight train that is picking up speed every week. The only question is who will be charged with trying to stop the Alabama express in the last BCS national championship game. Last week, Florida State held the edge but Oregon’s impressive win over #12 UCLA scored more with the voters and computers than FSU’s dominating win over unranked North Carolina State. Both Oregon and FSU could lose their next game – Oregon plays #5 Stanford on November 7 while FSU plays #7 Miami Saturday in Tallahassee. If Oregon and FSU were to lose, that would open the door for #4 Ohio State, whose winning streak is now 20 games. Although these things usually play themselves out and we wind up with two teams at the top who clearly belong, the possibility seems stronger than ever this year that we could wind up with three or more unbeaten teams at the end. 2014 and the first playoff can’t get here quick enough.


Marcus Mariota did nothing to hurt his Heisman Trophy chances by directing Oregon to 28 unanswered points in the second half in what turned out to be a relatively easy win over 12th-ranked UCLA. Mariota was 21-28 passing for 230 yards and a touchdown, bringing his season totals to 2,281 passing yards for 20 touchdowns with zero interceptions to go with 511 rushing yards (9.1 per carry) and nine more touchdowns. FSU freshman Jameis Winston didn’t hurt his chances although his opposition wasn’t nearly as difficult as Mariota’s. Against unranked North Carolina State, Winston had a sensational first quarter with three first quarter touchdown passes en route to a 16-26 day with 292 yards. For the season he’s thrown for 2,177 yards, 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Also becoming a factor is last year’s Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, Manziel was 25-35 for 305 yards and five touchdowns against Vanderbilt and has 2,594 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, eight interceptions and 497 rushing yards with six touchdowns.


During all three years of my family’s exile to Mississippi in the 1960s, my next door neighbor was John Henigan, just a year older but mature beyond his years because of circumstances in his young life. John not only understood Dylan’s lyrics but revealed to me that the Mary in The Associations’ “Along Comes Mary” wasn’t some groovy chick hot enough and experienced enough to date college guys but instead the heathen devil weed that would turn our minds to mush! There were rumors about it in those days, even in McComb, Mississippi. A little more than a year later, the exile was over and we were back home in Gainesville, where I discovered you didn’t have to actually buy or possess to get stoned. You only had to spend a few moments in the boy’s room at Gainesville High. And Jane Fowler was always wondering why so many had short attention spans in her Senior English class.

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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.