Thoughts of the day: January 22, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning.


Athlon Magazine won’t come out with its preseason magazine until right around Memorial Day weekend, but it has already come out with its all-too early, pre-spring practice predictions for the Southeastern Conference for 2014. Athlon’s SEC East predictions go like this: (1) Georgia; (2) South Carolina; (3) Missouri; (4) Florida; (5) Tennessee; (6) Vanderbilt and (7) Kentucky. Athlon isn’t the only one that is hyping Georgia. ESPN has also jumped on the Georgia bandwagon and it probably has to do with new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and the fact that Georgia returns 21 of its top 22 on the defensive two-deep. I’m reminded of something Billy Donovan has said many times in the past: “Just because you’re a year older doesn’t necessarily make you a year better.”


Athlon’s all-too early, pre-spring practice SEC West 2014 predictions go like this: (1) Alabama; (2) Auburn; (3) LSU; (4) Ole Miss; (5) Texas A&M; (6) Mississippi State; and (7) Arkansas. It would seem that the experts are of the belief that whenever Nick Saban has an embarrassing end to a season (see 2008, for example, or perhaps even that loss to Auburn in the final regular season game of 2010) that he comes back with a vengeance the next year – national championships in 2009 and 2011. Nick has the motivation of two season-ending losses but he will also have a brand new quarterback this year. Auburn returns Nick Marshall, the best quarterback in the SEC and maybe as good a QB as there is in the country. I like Auburn a lot. I also like Mississippi State to finish much better than sixth. Dan Mullen thinks Dak Prescott has a poor man’s clone of Tim Tebow and he’s so loaded up with returning talent that his defensive coordinator (Geoff Collins) said no to FSU.


Demarcus Robinson caught five passes for 23 yards in 2013, not exactly something to write home about but let’s face it, he was a freshman who came to Florida with way too much hype and unrealistic expectations. What that three-game suspension at the end of 2013 should tell us is that he was nowhere close to being ready to handle everything that was on his plate. No one should benefit more from the change of offensive coordinators than Robinson. He has the kind of talent that Kurt Roper never dreamed of attracting to Duke and he’s got a fresh start with the opportunity to show his new offensive coordinator that he’s the real deal. Robinson needs to approach this offseason with a renewed attitude and determination. He definitely has something to prove next season.


While there are some folks who give NFL commissioner Roger Goodell high marks for discipline even though his punishment often seems a bit draconian, it’s hard to defend his remarks about the price of Super Bowl tickets. When asked by the New York Daily News if $500 a ticket isn’t a bit extravagant for the average NFL fan, Goodell’s arrogant response was, “We don’t have average fans. We have great fans who are passionate.”  When the Daily News tried to explain that the average family of four brings home $67,000 which is a pretty good indicator of what an average fan is all about, Goodell responded, “I still don’t know what it is.” He also doesn’t have a clue.


According to AccuWeather, the current prediction for February 2 Super Bowl in New York is 32 degrees with a low of 22. The forecast calls for clear skies during the game but says rain or snow is possible leading up to kickoff. Roger Goodell’s response to a question about a cold Super Bowl? “I’m not sure how reliable forecasts are this far out.” He’s right. How reliable are the forecasts? What happens if there is a change in the forecast and we get a blizzard? In a bizarre way, I’m almost pulling for a couple of feet of snow and weather cold enough that fans stay away in droves for fear of frostbite. It’s the most important pro football game of the year. Play it where there is good weather or play it in a dome so that talent and coaching not the weather determines the outcome.


Want to make your first billion the easy way? All you have to do is enter Warren Buffett’s “Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge” and fill our a perfect ballot for the 2014 NCAA basketball tournament. If you’re flawless you’ll get 40 payments of $25 million delivered to the bank of your choice or if you don’t think you’ll last another 40 years, you can take a one-time payment of $500 million. Now I know $500 million doesn’t go quite as far as it used to, but it’s still a lot of money, so think about it. And all you have to do is one perfect ballot. How tough could that be, right? The odds are only one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.


The Under Armour deal with Notre Dame is said to be worth $90 million over ten years, which makes it the richest shoe/apparel deal in NCAA history. This is a huge blow for adidas, which is in the final stages of a 10-year deal with Notre Dame that paid out $82.5 million and it’s a huge get for Under Armour, which now has 12 Division I schools that will wear its brand. Neither adidas nor Under Armour are going to challenge Nike as the unprecedented king of the shoe/apparel mountain any time soon but the impact will be felt. Division I schools whose contracts with Nike and adidas are likely to listen seriously when the Under Armour people come calling and you know that adidas is going to have to score a major coup to compensate for the loss of Notre Dame. Watch this one carefully because the next few months should tell us if this is a bigger loss for adidas or a bigger gain for Under Armour.


Mel Kiper has come out with his first mock draft and to the surprise of many, he’s got Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel going to the Houston Texans with the first pick. He doesn’t have prototypical NFL size (6-0 and 205 pounds … and he might actually be 5-11) but he is a gifted playmaker and for all the negative press that makes him seem like a self-absorbed egomaniac, college teammates would take bullets for him. But will those same leadership skills he showed at Texas A&M translate to the NFL? I like Johnny Football a lot, but if I’ve got the first choice in the NFL Draft I’m not sure I could pull that trigger.



I tend to be partial to Robert Cray songs and CDs in which the Memphis Horns are playing with him. Cray has a fine band but I’ve always felt the horn section just makes them that much better. Of course, that could have something to do with the first two times I saw Robert Cray live he had the Memphis Horns playing with him.  This is “Walk Around Time” from the “Midnight Stroll” CD which features the Memphis Horns. This is a song that is really exceptional performed live.

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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.


  1. I don’t know about the first pick, but I’d choose Manziel over any other quarterback in this year’s draft. Bridgewater is the beneficiary of the Sugar Bowl win more than anything else. UF is held in very high regard and beating them does wonders for whoever does it. Miami benefited from that last year. That is why this year is so important, if the Gators have a great year, the reputation that was tarnished last year can be regained. If they are again mediocre, they may be heading for the same fate as Tennessee, a once respected program that has become irrelevant. Interestingly enough, this year’s game in Knoxville is huge, one team will see their fortunes rise and the other will continue to spiral downward.

  2. Franz, your musical picks are fun, but, hello, this week is the 50th anniversary of the release of Meet the Beatles, which set off Beatlemania, of course. How about a nod to the lads from Liverpool. Do you still have your copy of Meet the Beatles?

  3. Florida will not finish 4th, that is some sports media guy who didn’t do his homework….looked at last years record and made a guess based on that. We talk about QB play as being so important, but the 3 teams they picked ahead of them have QBs with very limited experience. I’ll still take Driskel and his experience, along with a new offense that closely mirrors his from high school over the others year. 4th ? That was a laziness pick, that’s all it is.