A few thoughts to jumpstart your Wednesday morning:
NICK THE SECOND OR WILL THE FIRST?
Back in 2007 when he turned down Kentucky, one of the reasons Billy Donovan Billy Donovan elected to stay at Florida was because at Kentucky you’re just another coach until you’ve won as many national championships as Adolph Rupp. At Florida he’s the first and only Billy Donovan. At Kentucky he would always live in the shadow of Rupp until he had multiple titles. I bring that up because a friend asked these questions two days ago: Is Will Muschamp trying hard to become a mirror image of Nick Saban or simply trying to follow the Saban blueprint? Is he so concerned with doing it like Nick that he’s lost track of simply being himself? I’ve thought about it a lot since asked but I really don’t have answers for those questions and I’m not sure there is a writer or broadcaster out there that can say for sure which it is although I would lean more toward the Saban comparison. In everything Muschamp does, I see a copy of something that Saban does at Alabama or did at LSU. I think I’d like to see more Will Muschamp in the program and less Saban.
THERE IS NO CONNECTION WITH THE FANS
The total control with which Muschamp tries to assert on the Florida football program is pure Nick Saban. The media isn’t allowed to talk to freshmen. The only players allowed to speak to the media are hand selected which is why it’s the same players who say little or nothing or have zero in the way of personality every week. Muschamp is available on Monday for 20 minutes, then the only times he will speak with the media are on the mandatory SEC coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday mornings (10 minutes) and post game for approximately 10-12 minutes. One reason there are so many empty seats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is the disconnect with fans, who don’t know the players or the head coach. Back in 1979 when the Gators were 0-10-1, the stadium was packed every single game and nobody lost hope. Why? Because fans felt connected with Charley Pell, who talked to the media every day, as well as the players. If you wanted to talk to a player, you simply asked and the player was made available. CONCLUSION: If you’re going to take on Saban’s sour puss personality and run the program with a Saban-like bunker mentality, then you better win like Saban.
THERE IS NO CONNECTION WITH THE FANS, PART II
The prevailing attitude at Florida right now is that as long as the Gators are winning, the fans will spend the big bucks for tickets and spend all that money to come to Gainesville for every home game and follow the Gators on the road. There was a time when maybe that was true, but not anymore. Have you seen all the empty seats at BHG lately? It’s not just about winning. Florida fans sold out every home game during the 1980s when the Gators were struggling. Why? Because they felt this was indeed “their” team. I can’t tell you how many fans I have talked to who tell me they feel zero connection with Muschamp or this team. One fan told me last week, “Muschamp says that’s a nameless, faceless opponent each week; well we’re treated like nameless, faceless fans. We got every UF head coach for years to come to our Gator Club. Now we’re not big enough and the coach is too busy. He makes $3 million a year and he’s too busy to come speak to our club and help us raise scholarship money to send worthy kids to our school? This is why I don’t go to the games or pay booster fees to the UAA anymore.”
GOING RADICAL IN COLUMBIA
The Gators could be down to their third quarterback in Columbia Saturday night when they face South Carolina. Skyler Mornhinweg has never taken a snap and Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles will be drooling at the thought of sacking him if he gets into the game. The expectation is that the offense will be seriously dumbed down and everything will be so conservative – as if it’s possible to be more conservative than it is now. Here’s a thought. Go radical. Do something that will catch South Carolina by surprise, something they couldn’t have prepared for. How about lining up and let Trey Burton get under center and run the wishbone for a series or two to shake things up? Nobody runs it anymore so there is that chance it would catch South Carolina by surprise. How about going up tempo? It’s a coach’s job to give his team the best chance to win, but injuries and conservative play calling have gotten the Gators to this point in the season with a 4-5 record. If things stay the same, there is a really good chance the Gators lose Saturday. Given the circumstances, I say go radical.
CLOSE CALL IN MADISON
With 42 seconds left in the game Tuesday night, the Gators were within three points of Wisconsin in Madison. What was remarkable was that it was even this close since freshman point guard Kasey Hill had a bad day at the office and sat six minutes in the first half with foul trouble and the last 3:25 of the game after fouling out, leaving the Gators without a legitimate point guard. That the Gators gave themselves a chance to win is because the guy in the sideline is about as good as it gets. Billy Donovan used to be known more as a recruiter than a coach, but that has changed. Oh, he can still recruit, but there are very few who can X and O with him or who get more out of their talent. One NBA advance scout told me that Florida runs more offensive sets than any team in the country and that the Gators run as sophisticated defense as you will see anywhere. Ask the NBA people and they’ll tell you Donovan is one of the four or five best coaches in the college game today and on a fast track for the Hall of Fame.
MISSOURI OR AUBURN: WHICH IS THE SEC’S BIGGEST SURPRISE?
When he came out with his preseason magazine, Phil Steele had Auburn finishing sixth in the SEC West and Missouri finishing sixth in the SEC East. So, here we are with three weeks left in the season and both are 9-1, ranked in the top 10 nationally and both still have a shot to make it to Atlanta. Missouri wins the East with wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M while Auburn wins the West with wins over Georgia and Alabama. Although I don’t think either one of them makes it to Atlanta, I do think that either Auburn’s Gus Malzahn or Missouri’s Gary Pinkel will be SEC Coach of the Year. If I were voting on it I would go with Gus. Pinkel started the season with a two-year starter at quarterback. Gus has had to do it with a juco transfer who can’t throw at quarterback. To me, that’s more remarkable.
SO MUCH FOR 40-0
Before the season ever began, Kentucky’s Alex Poythress was talking about a 40-0 dream season for the Wildcats. Two games into the new season that dream is over after #1 Kentucky dropped a 78-74 decision to #2 Michigan State Tuesday night in Chicago. Kentucky has plenty of talent and the Wildcats are going to be really, really good before the season is over, but it’s going to be awhile to develop any chemistry, evidenced by only eight assists on 25 made baskets. Best player on the floor was Kentucky freshman Julius Randle, who had only four points at the half but finished the night with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
That’s where Notre Dame could be heading for its bowl game. By losing to Pitt last Saturday the Irish are out of the BCS picture and since they don’t have any conference tie-ins, they have to settle for whatever is left over. Right now it looks like the Irish will wind up in something called the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. We used to know it as the Weedwacker. It’s in Shreveport. This is like the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, another potential destination for Notre Dame, in that if you win you get to go home but if you lose you have to stay another week.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Cream was only together for two and a half years, but the band turned out four incredible albums. It was a three-man group consisting of Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and the incredible Ginger Baker on drums. My favorite album was “Wheels of Fire,” which came out in 1968, but my favorite song was “Sunshine of Your Love” which was off the Disraeli Gears album. This is “Sunshine of Your Love.”