Thoughts of the day: October 11, 2013


On paper, it would seem that LSU is going to pound Florida’s vaunted defense into submission Saturday in Baton Rouge. The Gators are only giving up 65 yards a game (second in the NCAA) but LSU has four running backs who will all play someday in the NFL, led by stud Jeremy Hill, who comes into the game with 594 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and a gaudy 7.5 yards per carry. LSU’s ability to throw the ball (Tigers are averaging 291.5 yards per game) makes it nearly impossible to load up the box to stop the run, so the perception is that LSU has a hefty advantage over the Gators. In this game, however, the perceptions might be a bit deceiving. LSU gives up 159.5 rushing yards per game, which means that the Gators could have some success on the ground.


Last year, the Gators ran the ball 26 consecutive times as they pounded out a 14-6 win over the Tigers in Gainesville. Florida’s ability to run the ball allowed Will Muschamp to play defense with his offense. Figure he will try to employ the same strategy this year because Zach Mettenberger can’t throw touchdown passes and Hill can’t shred Florida’s defense if they are on the sideline. For Florida to win this game, Matt Jones and Mack Brown (a) have to come up big in the running game and (b) have to hold onto the football. Florida and LSU are 5-5 in the last 10 meetings. The team that has run for the most yardage has won without fail. Don’t expect anything different this year.


Most fans remember this game for Tim Tebow’s exploits – one rushing touchdown and two touchdown passes including the jump pass to Tate Casey, who caught the ball falling down in the back of the end zone – but the real story in #5 Florida’s 23-10 win over #9 LSU was defense and special teams. Florida’s defense picked off three JaMarcus Russell passes while the special teams forced two fumbles, one of which resulted in a safety, blocked a punt that led to a touchdown and forced a shank on another punt that gave the Gators a shot at a field goal.


Ryan Smith picked off two passes and broke up two others. Reggie Nelson blocked a punt and created an interception for Smith when he gave Brandon LaFell an all expenses trip to never never land. Brandon Siler came up with a Russell fumble at the Florida one with the score tied at 7-7 in the second quarter. On the opening kickoff of the third quarter, Riley Cooper jarred the ball loose from Trindon Holliday, who picked it back up only to be nailed in the end zone by Jermaine McCollum for a safety. Lutrell Alford hustled down under an Eric Wilbur punt to recover a fumble by Chevis Jackson. People still rave about the game Tebow had, but the real story that day was defense and special teams.


Against a Rutgers defense that gave up 52 points to both Fresno State and SMU, Louisville managed only a 24-10 win Thursday night on ESPN. This was an audition game for Charlie Strong’s Cardinals. If the Cardinals had any hope of playing in the BCS National Championship Game in January, they needed a take no prisoners win on national television and to finish the season unbeaten. Louisville will go unbeaten against the collection of mangy hounds still on that weakling schedule, but after flunking the eye test against Rutgers, they can forget a national championship bid even if they’re the only unbeaten team left in the country.


Louisville getting to the national championship game was a longshot because of the weakness of the schedule, but Teddy Bridgewater had a legitimate Heisman campaign going until Thursday night. His numbers weren’t that bad – 21-31 for 310 yards and two touchdowns, but he missed the kind of throws that you have to make on national television if you want to impress Heisman voters. Bridgewater is talented enough to get on the podium in New York, but the combination of good but not great numbers in a less than impressive Louisville win have torpedoed his chances to win the big trophy.


Coach O is 1-0 in his second go-round as a head coach after Southern Cal knocked off Arizona, 38-31, Thursday night, the first game in the post-Lane Kiffin era. The Trojans seemed to take on the personality of interim coach Ed Orgeron. They were loose from the start and were seen dancing and having fun on the sidelines. Coach O knows he has no chance to become the permanent head coach at USC, but he can use the rest of the season to audition for another shot as a head ball coach somewhere. I am well aware that Ole Miss is probably good for the long haul with its current coach, Hugh Freeze, but I do miss Coach O in the SEC.


I cringe when people call this year’s Kentucky basketball recruiting class the greatest ever because the experts believe these guys will all make it big in the NBA. Maybe all of them will become big stars in the pros, but what does NBA stardom have to do with college success? I think it’s a bit stupid to call a class best ever before they’ve ever played a game. Let them win a championship before you start labeling them best ever. I think Kentucky will really good this year, but will they win it all? I can think of three teams that are quite capable of winning it all that aren’t named Kentucky. If you ask me, the greatest recruiting class in college basketball history is Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor (you know him as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Lucius Allen, Kenny Heitz and Lynn Shackleford who went 88-2 in their three varsity seasons and brought home three straight NCAA titles at UCLA (1967-69). That Florida class of 2004 wasn’t so bad, either. Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Taurean Green and Corey Brewer won two in a row. Does anyone doubt for a second they would have won three if they had come back for their senior seasons?


I saw Steely Dan for the first time at The Big Sombrero, which was the nickname of old Tampa Stadium, in May of 1973. I will admit it. I didn’t go to see them. I went to see Chicago, which was the headline act that day. When I left the stadium, I was far less enamored with Chicago, although I did like the rendition of “25 or 6 to 4,” and about to begin a 40-year love affair with the music that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have turned out over the years. My all-time favorite – “My Old School” – was released in July of 1973 on the “Countdown to Ecstasy” album.

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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.