Thoughts of the day: November 5, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:


Week after week it’s the same old thing: the Gators fell behind in the first quarter and spent the rest of the game digging their way out of the hole. How bad is it? As Nick de la Torre reports for Gator Country, of the 137 points the Gators have given up in their eight games so far, 62 have come in the first quarter. The Gators, meanwhile, have scored only 29 first quarter points. That is ridiculous. When you are doubled up in the first quarter and nearly half the opponents’ points have been scored early, it tells us that the Florida coaching staff is doing a very poor job of preparing the team to play. There are no excuses for this.


Although Vanderbilt averages 402 yards and 32 points per game, the Commodores start slower than even the Gators. They’ve managed only 24 first quarter points while giving up 85. With a season on the brink, the Gators cannot afford another slow start, particularly against a team that has averaged 29 points a game in the final three quarters. The Gators need to make something happen early on both sides of the ball Saturday. The Commodores are going to throw the ball. Send Loucheiz Purifoy on a corner blitz and let him force a freshman quarterback into a mistake. Offensively, why not let Tyler Murphy throw deep again? And why not let him run the right side behind Trenton Brown? That 25-yard run and the 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter didn’t happen by accident. They were on Trenton Brown’s side of the field.


The Gators are 13th in scoring (21.0), 13th in rushing offense (159.4 yards per game), 13th in passing (175.2 per game), 14th in total offense (334.6 per game), 10th in sacks (13), 13th in sacks against (21), 13th in field goals (9-15), 14th in red zone offense, and 14th in penalties (62.1 yards per game). The Gators do fare better on the defensive side of the ball. They are second in scoring defense (17.1 points per game) total defense (290.8 yards), rushing defense (107.6 yards) and pass defense (183.1 yards).


Although it doesn’t have nearly the buildup of previous LSU-Alabama games, this year’s matchup in Tuscaloosa is every bit as important. Because of its balanaced offense, LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC West) might be the last chance for any team to beat #1-ranked Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC West) at least until the national championship game. LSU averages 40.2 points, 200.6 rushing yards and 279.4 passing yards per game and the Tigers will be going against a defense that has only given up two offensive touchdowns since giving up 42 points and more than 600 yards to Texas A&M and Johnny Football in game two. If there is one stat that might indicate an area of weakness on this Alabama team, it is the lack of sacks. The Tide have gotten to the quarterback only 11 times this year. Let Zach Mettenberger stand upright in the pocket and it’s just a matter of time before he hits the big pass to either Odell Beckham or Jarvis Landry. Conversely, Nick Saban has had a bye week to get ready for LSU. Nick doesn’t lose too many no matter the circumstance, but especially when he has that much time to get ready.


Florida State fans were chanting “We want Bama! We want Bama!” Saturday night after that impressive 41-14 win over previously unbeaten Miami in Tallahassee. Be very careful what you ask for. While this is a very impressive Florida State team with an outstanding freshman quarterback in Jameis Winston, neither the Seminoles nor Winston has seen a team of Alabama’s caliber. It’s one thing to rack up big stats against the likes of Maryland and North Carolina State. It’s something altogether different to do it against a team like Alabama with its roster of future NFL players.


The national championship picture will get an early jumpstart Thursday with two games that could factor heavily in the final picture. The game with the most hype is #5 Stanford (7-1) at #2 Oregon (8-0), but of equal importance is #12 Oklahoma (7-1) at #6 Baylor (7-0). This will be the biggest challenge yet for both Oregon and Baylor, which are the two highest scoring teams in the country. If Oregon survives it will have what seems to be a clear path to the national championship game. Baylor is farther off the championship radar, but the Bears can help themselves if they can beat ranked teams (Oklahoma, #25 Texas Tech, #14 Oklahoma State) in the next three weeks.


You’ve heard of battered wife syndrome. Well, now we have battered football syndrome with the Miami Dolphins, where offensive tackle Jonathan Martin has taken a leave of absence from the team and offensive guard Richie Incognito has been suspended, charged with verbally abusing Martin over a protracted period of time. Dolphins’ coach Joe Philbin says there is no place for this kind of conduct and he’s right, but apparently Philbin has known about this for awhile and is only just now doing something about it. That’s as unacceptable as the verbal abuse by Incognito.


Former University of Miami defensive lineman and sports talk personality Dan Sileo was fired by Miami radio station WMEN Monday because he posted a photo of FSU defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan on Twitter with an offer of $1000 to anyone who “takes this kid out.” Almost on cue, Sileo did what most people do when they get caught red-handed like this and claimed it was all a joke. Of course it wasn’t a joke. Sileo is nothing more than an obnoxious loudmouth who is the epitome of everything that is bad in sports talk radio. It’s no shock that he was fired Monday. It was just a matter of time before Sileo did something stupid enough that he couldn’t weasel his way out of.


One of the best tour bands on the jazz circuit is The Rippingtons, now in their 27th year. Since Russ Freeman started the band, The Rippingtons have helped to launch the careers of Dave Koz, Kenny G, Nelson Rangell, David Benoit and Greg Karukas among others. They were at their best in the early 1990s when the band consisted of Freeman, bassist Kim Stone, saxman Jeff Kashiwa, pianist Mark Portmann, percussion whiz Steve Reid and drummer Tony Morales. Freeman and Kashiwa remain with the group today. The song today is “Aspen,” which along with “Tourist in Paradise” has been a signature song for the band.

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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.