Podcast: Friday during the bye week talking quarterbacks

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we talk about the state of the Florida Gators during the bye week.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre are joined by Dan Thompson to talk about the Gators and the current quarterback situation and what could happen after this year.

Andrew and Nick also give you their take on the quarterbacks, plus we predict some games around the country for this week.


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, it’s Friday before the bye week. Very unusual not to be talking about an East, West directional school before Florida State, but whatever.

Nick:                         Yeah. I actually ran into Shannon Snell this week, and I guess he had forgotten that the schedule this year called for two bye weeks, and, of course, once the first game gets moved up you get three. A peculiar schedule, but there’s not many great games on this week, so take the bye. You’ve got a lot of pent up anger and aggression for Florida State getting ready in two weeks, or a week from today.

Andrew:                 It’ll be interesting to see how the guys come out. I think they’ll come out fired up, ready to go. You should have no issues getting prepared, getting up for this FSU game. It’s Senior Day. There’s a lot of things going on next week. You got the Thanksgiving holiday. School won’t be in session. Lot of things. One thing you can always guarantee, and that is this game will be heated.

Nick:                         Yeah. I surprised myself finding this stat. Florida hasn’t beat Florida State in Gainesville since Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes Senior Day in 2009. Four straight losses in Gainesville. The first thing that came to my mind was last time they played in Gainesville it was Florida with Randy Shannon as the head coach. They were 4-6. Florida State didn’t feel sorry for Florida. Won the game, took care of business, and celebrated at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Some of the reporters were asking coaches and players yesterday, Florida State seems to be in the situation you were in two years ago, do you feel sorry for them? Absolutely not.

Andrew:                 No. You want to make the off season even longer for the Noles.

Nick:                         Kick them while they’re down. This is no love lost. This isn’t a rivalry built on respect. These are guys that have been playing against each other or with each other for, some of them for their entire lives. High school teammates, high school rivals. There’s no love lost between the fanbase. I mean, FSU, let’s just call a spade a spade. FSU’s dominated this decade.

Andrew:                 Yeah. We’re going to bring on Dan Thompson here in a minute to talk about the game and talk about the quarterback situation and all that stuff. Nick, you and I have been able to see the double side of this rivalry. We’ve seen Florida dominate. Then we’ve seen Florida State dominate. It kind of goes in those spurts where one team dominates.

Nick:                         It’s cyclical.

Andrew:                 Florida State’s had their moment. It definitely seems like Florida’s on their moment of starting to regain things. They’re better in recruiting right now, better on the field, that kind of stuff. It’s the way it goes. It kind of rotates a little bit. Most rivalries, I think, do, outside of Alabama-Auburn and Michigan-Ohio State. Most rivalries do. This is the Gator’s time to dominate.

Nick:                         This is one where, and we talked about this before. Dan Mullen, he won’t say it, like Urban really played into it, rivalry games. When I say that, I mean publicly, through the media. Spurrier did publicly through the media. He loved ribbing Tennessee. Urban Meyer loved ribbing FSU. Dan won’t do it publicly in the media, but I think these weeks, Georgia week, Florida State, Tennessee, LSU, it’s different for him, and that’s conveyed to the team. Like you said, there’s no having to get guys up for this game. It should be fun. There’s a lot of seniors. 22 guys.

Like you said, there’s a lot going on. Thanksgiving and a lot of stuff going on during the week. Then there’s a lot of stuff going on pregame. You got to find ways to soak in that moment. Don’t forget it, because it’s something you’ve worked your whole life for, getting to see mom and dad and brother/sister, whoever is hanging out and going to be there with you. Take it all in. Soak it in. Enjoy it. Then there’s a game to be played, and there’s bragging rights to be had.

Andrew:                 Yeah. We’ll get more into this. My opinion is I think you should play more into this rivalry. We’ll get more into that next week, as we get into more of that game. Let’s go to Dan. We’ll talk to Dan, get his thoughts on this game, get his thoughts on the year in general, and then you and I will come back, and we’ll put our thoughts in.

Nick:                         Yup.

Andrew:                 Guys, we’re joined by Dan. Dan, first of all, thanks for coming on. How have you been this season?

Dan:                         It’s been good. Thanks so much for having me on. It’s been a while since we’ve done this together, and it’s always glad to be back. Man, it’s hard to believe it’s been seven and a half years of Gator Country.

Andrew:                 Yeah. And it’s hard to believe that the season’s almost over, Dan. It does seem like the season just started. This season, I say it’s been an up and down season. A lot of emotions in this season. A lot of good times during the season, some not so good times in this season. Give us your outside perspective maybe of just what you think of the season so far.

Dan:                         Yeah. No, I echo that sentiment a little bit, but at the end of the day, I want to keep it in perspective to say, if you would have told me that Florida has a very strong likelihood of going 10-2 with their backup quarterback and a couple of other injuries to two of their best defensive linemen in Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard, plus some safety play that’s been less than desirable and some moving around in that backfield, I think we’d pretty happy, considering that Florida was up against the #1 team in the country in the third quarter and kept a pretty tight game with Georgia throughout most of that game, the #3 team in the country.

Now, certainly there’s been some question marks. There still exists on the offensive line. I’d really hope that Florida would have their run game established by now. That was something that we were talking about, the three of us and on my podcast, that we thought that the running back corps might be one of the best that Florida’s had in the last decade or so. It’s disappointing to see that. Then my ultimate, I guess, question mark on the season is also the play of Emory Jones. I think when we’ve seen him play it’s kind of been disjointed at times, when he’s come in or when he’s come out. I’d really like to see him get a little bit more action, because I think that he’s a threat back there, and I think that he runs Dan Mullen’s offense really well.

At the end of the day, to wrap it up, if you would have told me that Florida stands probably a greater than 95% likelihood that they’re going to be 10-2 going into the final game of the season with a backup quarterback, I’d like to think I’m pretty happy.

Nick:                         That’s what I really want to get your perspective on with the quarterbacks.

Andrew:                 Hold on, Nick. Before you say that, this is my thing. This is my question to Dan. Nick and I had this discussion, and I know where you’re going with your question, that’s why I cut you off, Nick. Dan, help me. Maybe I’m wrong, and if I’m wrong, pick Nick’s side here. Is it not though a little bit of a disappointment, because every season the goal is to get to Atlanta. Now, unfortunately, only two teams get there. But to be so close to getting there, isn’t it a disappointment? Am I wrong that it’s a disappointment that Florida’s not going to Atlanta?

Dan:                         I don’t think it’s wrong to feel disappointment. I think it’s wrong to feel disappointed. What I mean the difference is I think when you looked at the beginning of the season you thought that Florida had a pretty favorable schedule. They were returning a really good crop of wide receivers, a really good crop of running backs. They had Feleipe Franks, who really showed some great emotion and great play towards the end of last season. You had a lot of faith in John Hevesy, and then ultimately you had a lot of faith in the defense at Florida.

Andrew:                 Hold on. I don’t have no faith in John Hevesy. I have no faith in John Hevesy.

Dan:                         Well, you did probably at the beginning. You would have at the beginning of the year. Revisionist history can say it hasn’t been a great offensive line this year, but last year we saw Florida have a patchwork offensive line come together and really start to improve towards the end of the season. Florida really doesn’t have a lot of young players on the offensive line. They had a lot of young players in terms of experience and starting, but not a lot of young players.

But at the end of the day, if I can tell you all of those things are true, you can also say that Florida did miss their starting running back. They have really struggled, or their starting quarterback. They’ve really struggled to get the ball going on the ground. They’ve really struggled on the offensive line and starting to figure that out, plus they’ve had some real key injuries on defense. If I can tell you all of that, and Florida still has a chance to go 10-2, I think that you can be disappointed that you didn’t get to Atlanta, but I don’t think the season is a disappointment in the way that we look back on it. Florida has really improved. They have some great players that are looking to come up, but Florida had some real key injuries. The fact that they’ve been able to be resilient, beat an Auburn team, beat a Missouri team that’s kind of always had a chip on their shoulder, let up one touchdown in the Swamp all season. I think that’s pretty good, man.

Andrew:                 Nick, go ahead.

Nick:                         I agree with that. I agree with that you can be disappointed, because you want your team to be Atlanta. Feel disappointment, but not be disappointed in the overall season.

Andrew:                 The reason I say you need to be disappointed is because, A, there is zero reason our offensive line should have no energy to push up front. There is zero reason for that. There is zero reason for you not to have a running game. There is zero reason for you not to be able to create a pass rush, even without your two guys, and to give up that many 3rd downs. That’s my whole thing. My gripe is the offensive line play and the lack of toughness.

Dan:                         You know, you make a point, but if I remember correctly, the three of us, as well as I’ve heard on your guys’ podcast, we’ve really talked about Nick Savage and what he’s brought to the team and how much of a difference maker he was last season, and then maybe even this season. So, I don’t know if you can point it all to Nick Savage, John Hevesy, the players that were recruited by a completely different coaching staff. I don’t know. There’s definitely some huge question marks on the offensive line. There’s going to be a lot of question marks going into next season. At the end of the day, these are the guys that Florida was dealt. These are the guys that were recruited when Jim McElwain was there. These are the guys that were there when Florida was coming off a 4-7 record. If you look at some of the guys, like Ethan White, that have come on board under Dan Mullen and John Hevesy, you’ve really started to see them improve.

So, while I think that it’s okay to feel disappointment in not making Atlanta, I don’t think you can look back on this season, when Florida has a really strong likelihood of going 11-2, and feel really disappointed. Sure, you can say they could have been better, and they could have done this. Frankly, they could be undefeated right now with a few plays that go their way, maybe a little bit of toughness. But you look back on the season, you count all of those things, Andrew, I think if I would have told you at the beginning of the year we were struggling in all these areas, there’s no way you would have thought Florida had a chance to go 10-2 right now with their combined losses being by 21 points, and really one was a late touchdown.

Andrew:                 You’re right. But let me throw this back at you, Dan, a little bit. Richard Gouraige and Ethan White are John Hevesy recruits. Both of those guys have had up and down seasons. Also, it’s John Hevesy’s job to recruit these guys to play. He hasn’t shown the ability to recruit anyone that has the ability to come in and play Year 1. Like it or not, Brett Heggie’s regressed under John Hevesy. Brett Heggies was one of the better ones. I’m with you. I won’t get on the Hevesy train again. I’m so sick of talking about it.

Dan:                         No, no. I mean, but you make a point. I’m not saying that these guards aren’t without fault. I mean, the same way you can say that with safety play too, right? There’s been some regression. There’s a lack of improvement in safety play. There’s been some question marks in a lot of different areas across the field, but I don’t think, when you look at this season in a vacuum, and then you compare it to the rest of college football, I think in both circumstances you can look back and say, Florida could have done a little bit better. They could have seen some improvement, but at the end of the day, they are looking like a really solid top 10 football team, and that’s two seasons after coming off a 4-7 record, and one season of a recruiting class where only two-thirds of the class, three-quarters of the class, made it in.

Andrew:                 You’re right.

Dan:                         There’s a reason to be optimistic.

Andrew:                 I agree with you. I agree with you on that part. Nick, go ahead on your quarterback question.

Nick:                         I think, when I look at the quarterbacks, you can’t say enough about Kyle Trask’s entire story, from high school to where he is now. When Feleipe Franks went down against Kentucky, I thought, I mean I had been on the Kyle Trask train for a while, but I hadn’t seen him really play ever, so I thought probably there goes the season. It obviously hasn’t turned out that way.

Andrew:                 You want me to tell him what you said in the text message, Nick?

Nick:                         No.

Andrew:                 Because you said, Nick’s comment in the text message was, we’re either going to have a good year or it’s going to be a long football season.

Dan:                         Yeah.

Nick:                         When I start looking at the future, I mean, I wanted to get your opinion, because I see, and I’ve commented. I think you’ve seen me comment on social media and some of the message boards. There’s just like two camps of fans right now. I don’t understand where the digging a trench for you guy and now if I like Emory Jones, I have to bring Kyle Trask down. He can’t do anything well. I have to find anything that he does bad to say that Emory would do this better, or vice versa, if you’re a Kyle Trask guy. I want to know where you think that mindset comes from. Me, I’m just sitting here thinking a kid who started one season on the freshman A team in high school and hadn’t started a game since then has led a team to 10 wins, really you could say 7 of the 10 wins are, I’m sorry. I’m already counting FSU. He had to lead a comeback against Kentucky.

Dan:                         Right.

Nick:                         To me, most of the season’s, obviously there’s other players, but a lot of it’s on Kyle Trask. To me, why is it so hard for fans just to get behind the guy that’s playing, and why is there this huge divide? Or is not huge, I’m just seeing a vocal minority?

Dan:                         I think it’s because they’re used to bickering about so many bigger issues over the last decade that that’s just what they do. They just bicker. I think, like we were just talking about, you look back on the season. You name Jabari Zuniga being out for a bit, Jonathan Greenard being out for a bit. Some question marks at safety. Some question marks at offensive line. Some question marks at running back. Obviously, a backup quarterback. You look back on it and say, you have a chance and a really strong likelihood to go 10-2, 11-2, people would be like, that’s incredible. But no, they continue to complain all the time. I think it’s truly just the nature of nobody’s ever really satisfied.

I’ll tell you this. This is my opinion. I think that Kyle Trask should be your starter. I think that Kyle Trask should be getting a majority of your plays and everything else. This is my question mark. It seems like throughout the season, and I think you guys even talked about it in your podcast, that it seemed very disjointed the way that Emory Jones would come in. It almost seemed like it was scripted to go in that play no matter how well the drive was or was not going.

Andrew:                 Almost forced.

Dan:                         It just never seemed fluid. Yeah. Right. So, we never got to see, in my opinion, a full grade version of Emory Jones, because it seems like he was just randomly put in and then randomly pulled out. To a point where teams really kind of knew what he was doing. I’ll give Emory Jones credit. It seems like he’s really improved in his accuracy and ability to throw the ball.

I think what I see out of Emory Jones though is I think Florida does run the ball a little bit better when Emory Jones is coming in, but I also don’t know, because he’s playing a lot more in the third and fourth quarter, where teams are usually a little bit more worn down. Plus you have to account for the fact that he can run the ball. So, I don’t know. I’d have to look at the numbers and stats. I know that that’s my job. That’s what I do when I write for you guys, but I don’t have those numbers with me.

It seems to me like the offense and Dan Mullen runs a little bit more fluid with him in there, because he is that dual threat. Kyle Trask was a guy that wore the jersey really proud. He’s really done a great job for Florida, but he was also not a guy that Dan Mullen recruited. So, it’s tough for me to say you have to throw your full faith, as Dan Mullen, behind him. You also have to see what you have, right? You have a guy in Emory Jones that you recruited. He was your prize recruit after that first year. You’ve got to see what you have.

I don’t know if we ever saw or will see what Emory Jones is this year, and that leads into some question marks of next year of what do you do if you have Feleipe Franks coming back, transferring or going to play baseball. You have Kyle Trask, who could technically leave, go transfer, or continue to come back, and you have Emory Jones who could transfer, come back. So, you have a lot of question marks. I’m glad I’m not getting paid to try to figure that situation out. But I don’t think we ever saw the full potential of Emory Jones this year.

Andrew:                 I think that’s the biggest question mark. Will we ever see it? To top off your point real quick, on just the whole fan thing, Nick. I think this is something we have to remember, and that is with good seasons raises expectations. When you finish like last year, you raise the expectations for Year 2. Year 3, we can argue about what’s going to be on this roster. Expectations are going to be sky high next year. Just is what it is. You don’t win 10 ballgames back to back years and not have high expectations. But that leads me into that question to you, Dan, and that is does Emory Jones return? Does Feleipe Franks return? What would you say happens?

Dan:                         I don’t see a circumstance in which Feleipe Franks returns.

Andrew:                 Interesting.

Dan:                         I like him as a quarterback, but at the end of day, I see him looking at options elsewhere. He’s going to be out this spring, most likely, I think, still injured, so I think for him it might be an opportunity for a fresh start. This is the situation. If Kyle Trask is your starter, what does Emory Jones do? Emory Jones didn’t come here to be in his third year and still be sitting behind Kyle Trask. However, I don’t think that Kyle Trask has done anything to not deserve to be the starter going into the spring, so Emory Jones would have to beat him out.

That leads to a situation, if Emory Jones does transfer, what does Florida do? If Feleipe Franks transfer as well, what do you do, because then you have Kyle Trask and then Anthony Richardson, who’s a true freshman. Then do you go after somebody like a Joey Gatewood or something like that? If I’m Florida, that’s a really tough predicament to be in, because you have three guys, if they come back, all want playing time, and obviously there’s only one ball to give them. I don’t know. I would put the odds on favor of Kyle Trask being your starter next year right now, but I also see a pathway for Emory Jones, but I don’t see a pathway for Feleipe Franks to return as your starter next year.

Andrew:                 So, are you saying you think Trask and Emory are your two quarterbacks on the roster with Anthony Richardson next year?

Dan:                         I do.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Dan:                         If not him, then you might go after Joey Gatewood or somebody else. But Emory Jones is a Dan Mullen recruit. It’s Dan Mullen’s responsibility. He chose him. That’s his guy. He lost Jalon Jones. This is why you have to recruit a quarterback every year, right?

Andrew:                 Right.

Dan:                         You’re going to lose guys. Guys are going to leave. Guys are going to want playing time. Dan Mullen has to figure out, this is my guy, this is the guy that I went after, probably told he was going to be taking over, and if he’s not ready to take over, then you have to look back and say, what did we do in this evaluation or player development?

Nick:                         There you go. I also think you can’t coach scared, but you got to coach to win the games now. Kyle Trask is winning the games now.

Andrew:                 The best player has to play.

Nick:                         Dan.

Dan:                         And he’s playing a hell of a job. Yeah, buddy?

Nick:                         Thank you for joining us. Plug your stuff right now. I don’t think you’ve been able to plug the new podcast. Not new anymore, but I don’t think you’ve been able to plug the podcast on here.

Dan:                         We’re about six months in. I appreciate it, guys. I do still do writing every week for Gator Country, so I always appreciate that opportunity to do that. I also have a podcast with Ahmad Black and Corey Knowles, Uncle Silkk, called Stadium and Gale. We drop every Tuesday morning, so we don’t have to compete with you guys in those timeslots. We’ve been probably 30 episodes in. Our most recent episode had Errict Rhett on, which was a great guy to talk to. We drop every Tuesday. Stadium and Gale.

Andrew:                 There you go. Check them out, guys. We appreciate it. Nick, we’ll be right back, and we’ll finish talking about this.

Guys, we’re back. Good stuff from Dan, Nick. Really appreciate Dan coming on. Really appreciate all of his numbers columns and all that good jazz throughout the year this year. We’ll be ready to see how all this plays out. I want to get your thoughts on the quarterback situation, Nick. For me, Nick, it’s tricky. I said this on a radio show on Wednesday, and I said, if you’re Emory Jones, do you really expect him to sit another year behind Kyle Trask? It’s tricky, in my opinion. Let’s face it. The transfer portal, there is no hiding your backup quarterback anymore, like you used to in the old days.

Nick:                         Yeah. I mean, we see it across the board, guys transferring and leaving. It’s just part of what the game is now. Listen, I’ve advocated for the players for a long time. I think they don’t, before the transfer portal, I didn’t think that they even got, once they signed basically, I felt like they didn’t have any power.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         They didn’t have any cards to play. Still, the NCAA makes sometimes some head scratching decisions on who’s immediately eligible and who isn’t, but I don’t have a problem with it. I like that the players are able to put their name in the portal, like Nick Sproles, and Dan Mullen was very supportive of him. Nick Sproles is staying with the team, and he’s going to practice and continue being the third team and scout team quarterback for Florida, but he’s a kid that’s going to graduate before the spring. It lets other schools know. Maybe not an Alabama or an Oregon, but it lets other schools know, I’ve got a year of eligibility left. I’m out here. You can come talk to me. I’m willing to talk. I’m looking for a new school. I think it works. We don’t hear about the players like Nick Sproles, but I think it’s really helpful for him. You kind of really hear about if Emory Jones were to do it, or when Justin Fields does it, stuff like that.

I like it. I like the rule. Certainly, if you’re looking at Florida, and we talked about it with Dan, I think if you’re putting odds on it, I would say Emory Jones would probably have the highest odds of transferring of the three guys. We can just put Kyle Trask at zero.

Andrew:                 I just don’t know, if you’re Dan Mullen, what do you say to Emory Jones? Do you say we’re going to give you a package? You can tell him he’s going to have every ability to come in and compete for the job, but it’s kind of like we said last year. It’s going to be hard to unseat a quarterback who wins, let’s just give him the FSU game, 10 games in the regular season, possibly 11 games. He won all but one of those games. It’s going to be tough to really come out and say, you’re not the starter next year. I mean, facts are facts. He won the games.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think in the spring you introduce Anthony Richardson. You won’t have Feleipe Franks, so you’ll have three guys. Like I said, I think just the kind of competitor that Feleipe is, he’s already beaten these guys to win the starting job. I don’t see him transferring in the spring, but if you’re going to transfer, you probably want to do it earlier rather than later. I just don’t see him transferring. Kyle Trask, you can find a year of eligibility for Brett Favre, and Brett Favre can come to Florida, and Kyle Trask would be happy to be here and be part of the program, so I don’t see him going anywhere.

Like you said, what do you tell Emory? You’ve been telling him that you have a package, and we see him for three, four plays a game, five plays, six plays maybe. The problem is you can’t coach afraid. If you don’t win games now, you’re not going to have a chance to win games tomorrow. You can’t coach and say I have to play Emory 15 plays this game and force it, because I think he’s going to leave.

Andrew:                 Right. I don’t know. It puts you in a bad spot, because let’s just say you say have Feleipe and Kyle next year. Who’s to say Feleipe doesn’t leave, and then you’re stuck with a situation where you have Kyle Trask and a true freshman in Anthony Richardson. That’d be really tough. Again, I don’t know. We’ll see. I think Emory Jones is a competitor. I don’t think he’s running away from that. I just think it’s going to be very interesting to really see what it is. Then the spring is definitely going to be interesting if one does leave, because then you could potentially just have Kyle and Anthony Richardson in the spring.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Does that make you go get a second quarterback?

Nick:                         Yeah. I think there was a report from Chris Hayes that Joey Gatewood is going to be coming to take a visit at Florida. Obviously, he’s a kid from just up the road in Jacksonville. Let Auburn in the middle of the year when he lost out to Bo Nix. It’s not just a Florida problem though. We’re not saying Dan Mullen created this, or it’s Dan Mullen’s fault.

Andrew:                 No.

Nick:                         This is all throughout the country, especially at the quarterback position.

Andrew:                 Hell, look what Nick Saban’s dealing with. He recruited Jalen Hurts. Jalen Hurts is now at Oklahoma.

Nick:                         Heisman contender at Oklahoma.

Andrew:                 Probably going to New York for a Heisman. Granted, Tua is better, but before the transfer portal Nick Saban’s probably playing Jalen Hurts this week.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Here’s my thing. If Emory does leave, the need for a guy like Joey Gatewood is huge. Here’s the thing too. Remember Joey Gatewood lost to Bo Nix. Remember what you’re going to get with him. You’re not getting a guy who you’re expecting to come in and compete or come in and take the job or anything else. You’re getting a guy that’s going to strictly come in to run a few plays here and there, have a package here and there. But you either have to go get a guy like Joey Gatewood, who is immediately eligible, or you have to go get a JUCO quarterback, in my opinion, someone who has some experience, because we all expect Feleipe to be ready for the fall, but what if he doesn’t? What if he has a setback in his rehab and isn’t ready till Game 5? Are you really expecting Anthony Richardson to be ready? I personally don’t, because here’s another thing. Anthony Richardson has a shoulder issue right now.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’ll be something to watch when the spring happens. I think, obviously it could change, but I think right now I would expect all three quarterbacks to still be on the roster in the spring. I would anticipate that.

Andrew:                 I’m going to go against what you’re saying, Nick. I don’t think they all are.

Nick:                         I don’t think I’d be super surprised if they weren’t, but I think right now I think they are.

Andrew:                 Maybe. We’ll see. Before we move on to some picks and different things here, wanted to kind of talk about this whole FSU rivalry here and talk about these seniors. We all are a little bit of a victim of Mac’s gone, he didn’t know how to coach, but he’s left some very good players. I think we maybe don’t talk about the seniors that are leaving next Friday a lot in the aspect of the program in general, because they didn’t win a national championship, but I’ll ask you this question, Nick. Someone asked me, what’s the strength of this team? And I said I think their senior leadership on this ballclub is very good, and that’s led by the Van Jeffersons, the David Reeses, the Lamical Perines, the guys that are your veteran leaders on this team, who stuck it out through the coaching change and the terrible seasons. I think you have to commend those guys. The turnaround under Dan Mullen doesn’t happen without these seniors.

Nick:                         Yeah. These seniors, especially the guys, not to forget about the guys on defense like David Reese and Jeawon Taylor, guys like that, but especially the guys on offense. The guys on offense were brought in by Jim McElwain. If you remember back to the dark days that you’ve probably tried to forget, they were coming in and saying, we need to rebuild offense at Florida. Football has not been fun at Florida. We need you to come in, and we need you to bring the offense back to the Florida Gators. You look at the points that they’re putting up right now, and it wasn’t with the staff that recruited them, but I think they’ve done a tremendous job of just getting Florida back to where the fans and probably where college football needs Florida to be, just from an offensive standpoint.

Andrew:                 Agreed. You forget about Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain and the guys who just go out and do their job every day, but that consistency at the cornerback spot, that consistency at the receiver position is just, I think at the end of the day it’s big. I think while we don’t talk about these seniors a ton, these seniors have been very key in helping turn around this program.

Nick:                         100%. For a guy like Lamical Perine, for what he’s gone through. Just to get to Florida, first off. Coming when he was a highly rated recruit and making the trip on his own dime to come down and camp and earn a scholarship offer. You and I are very close with him and the family, and there was a time, I think it was around the LSU week of his freshman year, and he wasn’t playing as much. He started thinking about leaving. I asked him about that, and he said, I don’t even know where I’d be if I would have left; I’m really glad that I didn’t. He stuck it out. This season hasn’t gone the way he wanted it to, probably, running the ball, but he’s shown that he can be an every down back. I think just the example of, we talked about transferring so much in this podcast, just the example that Lamical Perine has shown and set by sticking it out. He’s going to be playing football on Sundays soon.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         For the hard work that he’s put in at Florida, and for being patient.

Andrew:                 I think the same thing can be said about Josh and Freddie. Two guys that came, and let’s just be honest with each other and be honest here, and that is the first two years they weren’t getting the ball very much. The quarterback wasn’t getting the ball to them very much. It wasn’t a situation where the passing game was there. I think those two guys, because of their ability to make every play, but also their ability to play on special teams, they’ll find a way on the 50-man roster in the NFL. I think, just to see these guys, overall I just think in this day and age, with the transfer portal, guys could have easily left. Like you said, Lamical could have easily left. Hammond could have easily left. Swain could have easily left. David Reese could have went to any Big 10 school in America, because of his style of play, but he didn’t.

Again, I don’t want to get onto this too much. We’ll talk a lot more about it next week, but it was something that hit me when I was asked about it. Give me the identity of this football team. I thought it was the veteran leadership. The more I think about where this program has come in two years, I think you can’t help but to point to those senior leadership and really veteran leadership. You can throw Kyle Trask in there as well.

Nick:                         Kyle Trask. Shoot, guys that haven’t been here a long time. Van Jefferson, only two years, his leadership. Jonathan Greenard, only one year, not even a full year, his leadership. It’s taken a long time, but to go back to what you first said, they’ve helped reshape and rebrand a program that after Will Muschamp had fallen on hard times, was not where it needed to be.

Andrew:                 Yeah. By the way, I do have to give props to my man Jim McElwain though, Nick. He’s 7-2 up there.

Nick:                         7-4.

Andrew:                 I mean, 7-4. Sorry. 7-4 up there. Program that won, I think, three games last year?

Nick:                         They were 1-11 last year.

Andrew:                 So it’s even worse than I thought.

Nick:                         From 1-11 to 7-4. He’s on the Coach of the Year watchlist.

Andrew:                 Jim McElwain can coach some ball. Just didn’t work out. Jimmy Mac can coach some ball though, Nick. Any other things you want to talk about? We still got a few minutes before we make some picks here. Not a lot of picks here. Actually, I do want to get into something. You wrote the story about the bowl game. Before we make picks here, make the complicated version sound a little simple for me this weekend. Who are Florida fans rooting for, and who are they rooting against? Make it easy on me, now. I don’t want to do rocket science.

Nick:                         It made me pull my hair out. Florida wants Ohio State to win. You’re rooting for the Buckeyes. I know you probably don’t want to hear that, but you want Ohio State to win. You don’t want a situation where Ohio State drops out of the playoff, and then they end up going to the Rose Bowl, which would push another Big 10 team that’s rated ahead of Florida, like a Penn State, who would be ranked ahead of Florida if they beat Ohio State on Saturday, that would push Florida out. If we’re talking about New Year’s Six Bowls, you want Oklahoma or Baylor to kind of run away with the Big 12. You don’t want a situation where they’re each 12-1. You want the chalk to kind of hold up. If two teams get into the playoff, that’s really good for Florida.

Really the two New Year’s Six Bowls we’re looking at are the Cotton Bowl, which would be against whoever is the highest ranked non-Power 5 team, so one of the Group of Five teams. Right now, that’s Memphis. The only other one would be the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl is contractually obligated to take an ACC team, even though only one ACC team is currently ranked. They’ll take an unranked team. They can pick literally anyone. That’s where you’re getting talks of Miami getting into the Orange Bowl. Florida can get there if they’re the highest ranked team left after, I think the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl pick before the Orange Bowl would.

So, you’re rooting for Ohio State, and you want whoever it is, Baylor or Oklahoma, to kind of run away with the Big 12.

Andrew:                 Do you want LSU to win against Georgia, or does it matter?

Nick:                         Well, here’s the situation. Georgia’s #4, so right now they’re both in. If Georgia loses to LSU, like they should, does Alabama sneak in? Does Oregon get in as 12-1 PAC-12 champion over an Alabama? That probably depends on how does Alabama look with Mac Jones against Auburn, because no one cares how they look this week against Western Carolina, something like that?

Andrew:                 Yeah. Directional school.

Nick:                         Yeah. How does Mac Jones look against Auburn? Do they look like Alabama? If they look like Alabama, Alabama could sneak in at the #4 spot. I think if LSU loses, there’s a strong case, especially with the way Jo Burrow and that offense has looked all year, to say they had a bad day, let’s leave them in the playoff. They’ve earned a playoff spot already, even if they didn’t win their conference championship. To me, if LSU loses to Georgia in the SEC Championship, I would personally keep LSU in, and you’d have to have Georgia in as a one loss SEC Champion. Then that would help Florida out. Maybe.

I’m not going to ask Gator fans to root for Georgia. I know that’s not going to happen, but a Georgia upset could help Florida to get into a New Year’s Six Bowl, because I think that would help the SEC get two teams into a playoff. I just think it will be hard to put in Alabama without Tua over a 12-1 PAC-12 champion Oregon.

Andrew:                 I’ll just tell you this, and I don’t care what anybody says. If you’re asking me to choose Alabama or Oregon, give me Alabama.

Nick:                         I’m with you. I’m not on the committee.

Andrew:                 Especially if Alabama goes and blows Auburn out, and that’s the same Auburn team who on a neutral field beat Oregon, and Alabama’s going to go on the road and beat Auburn? That’s just me. It doesn’t always have to make sense.

Nick:                         It’s kind of like I said. You got to see. It’s not computers making the decision anymore.

Andrew:                 Listen, I don’t what anybody says, PAC-10, PAC-12, whatever you want to call it. I don’t care what anybody says. There’s still love for them. They would love for them to go back into the playoffs.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 It is what it is. Yeah. I get what you’re saying. I think right now probably Cotton Bowl bound is what I would say, but there’s still a lot to be played. If we learned one thing, that is anything can happen these last few weeks. Who knows? Auburn may upset Alabama, and then Georgia may win and be top 4, and Florida go to the Sugar Bowl.

Nick:                         There you go. I think they won’t get rid of the conference tie-ins. The contracts are running up, I think, after 2021.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         It’s just ridiculous. Obviously, this is a strange year that Clemson is the only ACC team, but I think it’s ridiculous that a Miami team that has losses to Georgia Tech is going to be a New Year’s Six Bowl, just because they’re in the conference. Then the other thing there is you have to think about if Miami is picked, Florida’s already played them.

Andrew:                 I don’t think it happens.

Nick:                         Does the Orange Bowl committee go with Notre Dame? Notre Dame’s already played Virginia and Virginia Tech. Virginia and Virginia Tech are both bowl eligible and teams that could potentially go to the Orange Bowl, if the Orange Bowl committee selects them. Then do you schedule a rematch of Notre Dame-Virginia Tech? Is that a bowl game that you can sell?

Andrew:                 I don’t think you get many rematches there.

Nick:                         If not for the ACC, I think a Notre Dame-Florida Orange Bowl would be a huge sellout, huge ratings.

Andrew:                 That’s where, I like the bowl tie-ins to an extent. You and I talked about this off the air. I think it has to be some adjustments made. For instance, in this situation with no other team ranked in the bowl game. I think then the ACC’s bid to the Orange Bowl should go away. Maybe have it to where it has to be top 15 or top 20, or just have some kind of tie-in.

Nick:                         A stipulation there.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Stipulation. Kind of like it is with the non-Power 5 teams. I just think, I love the tie-ins. For instance, I couldn’t imagine a Sugar Bowl without an SEC team.

Nick:                         Rose Bowl is always PAC-12 and Big 10.

Andrew:                 Yeah. You and I talked about it. Would we love for the SEC to go? Sure. But let’s also be honest. It wouldn’t have the same prestige. It wouldn’t have the same history that it does with that. I’m with you on that, but in this situation, and in situations where there’s not another team ranked, I think their bowl has to go away. It doesn’t make any sense that Miami should get, A, the payday that comes from the Orange Bowl, and, B, the recognition of being a New Year’s Six Bowl. I know the bowls don’t mean anything anymore, per se, but there’s still a little bit of reputation of if you’re a New Year’s Six team you had a good year. Are we really going to say Miami had a good year?

Nick:                         I don’t think they did. I mean, not terrible.

Andrew:                 I don’t think they did terrible, but New Year’s Six Bowl?

Nick:                         No.

Andrew:                 No. That’s just may take on it. I don’t know. Let’s go pick some games though, Nick. There’s a couple of big ones. What you want to do first?

Nick:                         The biggest game of the week, obviously, is #8 Penn State at #2 Ohio State. That’s a noon kickoff in Columbus. Like I said, just one of the games you should be watching. Literally the only really good game this week, but also if you’re looking at Florida’s bowl chances, a game that you will be keeping a close eye on.

Andrew:                 I’m torn here. I got Justin Fields, who I’m a huge fan of, and then I got Ja’Juan Seider, who I’m a huge fan of. I like Ja’Juan Seider with Penn State. Like what they’re doing up there. I’m going to go Buckeyes though, because I just, no offense to Ja’Juan and Penn State, I just think Ohio State’s really good. I think Ohio State’s the second best team in the country.

Nick:                         I’m with you.

Andrew:                 I’m all here for some Jo Burrow, Justin Fields action in the College Football Championship. I’m here for it.

Nick:                         I’d love to see that. I would love to see that. I’m going with you too. I think they’re the better team, and they’re at home. They’ll take care of business.

Andrew:                 What if Burrow beats his former school and hometown school in the championship?

Nick:                         Talk about emotions for him in that game.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’d be big. What’s the spread on this game, by the way?

Nick:                         Let me look that up. Let’s see.

Andrew:                 Shouldn’t be much.

Nick:                         Let me see.

Andrew:                 I wouldn’t think it’d be much.

Nick:                         Pulling up. -17.5.

Andrew:                 Wow.

Nick:                         Ohio State’s favored by 17.5 over Penn State.

Andrew:                 I was thinking 6 or 7. I didn’t think 17.5. I would have to go the under, if I was doing that.

Nick:                         You would take Penn State with the points, getting 17 points.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I would take Penn State with the points. Anyway, we’re not doing that, so give me the Buckeyes.

Nick:                         You’re picking on point spread here.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Arkansas at LSU.

Andrew:                 This is like 37 or something, isn’t it?

Nick:                         LSU is a 44.5-point favorite.

Andrew:                 It’s went up. It was 37 on Sunday.

Nick:                         They were hammering LSU.

Andrew:                 44. Geez. Everything tells me Arkansas covers, but Arkansas is pitiful.

Nick:                         Awful. So terrible. Like a disgrace to the entire conference terrible.

Andrew:                 Jo Burrow. Is it in Arkansas or at LSU?

Nick:                         At LSU.

Andrew:                 Oh, unless Burrow stays at home in his house or dorm, wherever he stays, then I got LSU.

Nick:                         I’m bold. I’m bold with you. I’m laying 44.5. LSU. Arkansas is just so terrible.

Andrew:                 They are. They’re awful. What we got next?

Nick:                         Pretty bad games. We’ll pick this one, we’ll pick all these with the spread, because they’re pretty bad.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Texas A&M at Georgia. Georgia’s a 13.5-point favorite. Big opportunity for Jimbo.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         In what’s been a pretty disappointing year for Texas A&M, I’d say.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I got Georgia. I don’t, A&M hasn’t shown me that they can play with the big boys.

Nick:                         Yeah. What are they? They’re third in the West right now. What’s their record? 7-3, with losses to Clemson. Kept that one probably closer than I thought they would.

Andrew:                 Clemson, Alabama, and Auburn?

Nick:                         Yeah. They lose to Auburn, 28-20, and then they lost to Alabama, 47-28. Were not competitive in that game. They struggled with Ole Miss the following week. Mississippi State hung around for a little while.

Andrew:                 Give me the Dogs.

Nick:                         I’m going to take Texas A&M with the points. Georgia wins the football game.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I think Texas A&M will lose by less than, what was that?

Andrew:                 13.

Nick:                         13.5. I think they lose by less than two touchdowns.

Andrew:                 Okay. What’s our next game?

Nick:                         Next game. We’ll do this one. Oregon at Arizona State. +14.5. Oregon is a 14.5-point favorite. That’s another game that we talked about with playoff and Florida’s New Year’s Six implications.

Andrew:                 Give me Oregon. I don’t believe in Arizona State anymore.

Nick:                         Don’t believe in Herm?

Andrew:                 Nah.

Nick:                         Nah. I’m going Oregon as well.

Andrew:                 I think Oregon’s on a march. They understand that, you don’t believe this, but I still do. I still think blowout wins are more appealing.

Nick:                         Here’s one. To get bowl eligibility, Tennessee at Missouri.

Andrew:                 I watched Missouri play last week, and they’re awful, Nick. They’re awful.

Nick:                         I think Florida’s a good team and made Missouri look bad. Other than that, they looked really, really good at home.

Andrew:                 Jeremy Pruitt’s building something up there, and Jeremy Pruitt and his boys looked different since those beatings early on. Give me the Vols. I don’t know. This is a bad football game all around. Give me the Vols.

Nick:                         I’m taking Missouri.

Andrew:                 I would, but, Nick, I watched Kelly Bryant not even be able to throw the ball decently. I don’t know. That the last game?

Nick:                         Last game. Yeah.

Andrew:                 Okay. Nick, we will get back here on Monday, and we’ll recap some games and get ready to do this rivalry game. Do it one more time for the regular season. Tell everybody where they can find us, and we’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Monday.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can find the podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. Just search Gator Country. Hit subscribe. Never miss an episode. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. You can find me @NickdelaTorreGC, and him @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. Guys, we appreciate it. Stay tuned. Basketball plays. We’re taping this Thursday. They play Miami at noon. If you guys are listening to this in the morning, check us out about noon, as Gators and Canes get underway. As always, guys, we appreciate it. Chomp, chomp and go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.