Thoughts of the day: October 14, 2013

Contenders or Pretenders?

By this time next week, we’ll know plenty more about both the Gators (4-2, 3-1 SEC East) and Missouri (6-0, 2-0 SEC East) than we know now. We’ll know if the Gators are resilient enough to bounce back from that loss to LSU and hang in the race to win the SEC Eastern Division championship. Florida only has to win its final four SEC games to win the division. If Missouri is able to win without stud quarterback James Franklin, sidelined for at least the next month with a separated (right) throwing shoulder, then the Tigers are definitely legit. When Franklin went down, the Tigers were on the verge of choking away an 18-point halftime lead that had shrunk to two points. In the final nine minutes with backups at quarterback, the Tigers put 13 points on the board and held Georgia scoreless


It is not the fact that Florida lost to LSU that has so many in the Gator Nation either singing the blues or venting their anger today. It’s how the Gators lost to LSU. Even before Zach Mettenberger morphed into the reincarnation of Johnny Unitas, most Gator fans had LSU in Baton Rouge tagged as a potential loss so it was no shock that the vastly improved Tigers took out the Gators Saturday afternoon. The final score was 17-6 and the score would seem to indicate that the Gators were in it from start to finish but they weren’t. LSU dominated every phase of the game and despite the closeness of the score, the Tigers had no reason to feel threatened and that is why so many Gator fans are on edge.


Les Miles was so confident that his team would win that he went retro and dialed back the LSU offense to the last two years when everyone in the ball yard knew the Tigers were going to line up and ram the ball between the tackles. Oh, they threw it 17 times, just enough to show the Gators they could fling it around any time they wanted, but they were content to knock the Gators off the football  and pound them into submission. At the end of the game, the Tigers looked like a team that could keep playing for another two or three quarters. Florida looked like a team that had just been thrown off a cliff.


There is no question the Gators need a substantial upgrade in the passing game, but if it happens the soonest will be against Georgia and not this week against Missouri. Why? Because there is a bye week after Missouri, so an entire week of practice can be devoted to implementing changes. The NCAA limits the time for practice, preparation and playing games to 20 hours per week so this week the Gators are limited in what they can change. Monday the team will watch film of Saturday’s game, then watch film of the next opponent (in this case Missouri) plus they get their game plans. Tuesday and Wednesday are full contact practices. The first part of the Tuesday practice is to correct mistakes made Saturday and the second half is spent working on the game plan. Wednesday is a full contact day going against the scout team and Thursday is spent clearing up any rough edges. Friday is travel day and Saturday they play. So any changes this week will be minor in nature and most likely will involve personnel.


Yes, I know … Florida State plays in the Almost Competitive Conference so it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. No matter which league they’re playing in, the Seminoles are playing lights out on offense with a redshirt freshman quarterback who is in the Heisman Trophy conversation. The Seminoles run the full playbook with Winston and cut him loose. Most of his throws are the downfield variety and he already has 17 touchdown passes. Meanwhile the Gators started the season with a third year guy and now the Florida offense is in the hands of a fourth year guy. Combine all their downfield throws in six games and you won’t have as many as Winston makes in a half of football. Florida fans see Winston and wonder how is it that none of the Gators quarterbacks can perform at anything close to that level?


The first week of the season fans saw an inept Alabama offense. Against Texas A&M they saw a defense that got torched for more than 600 yards and 42 points. That same team that couldn’t run the ball when the season is up to 188.3 yards per game on the ground. That defense that gave up all those yards and points to the Aggies has given up one touchdown in the last four games. The email, text messages and phone calls I am getting asks the same question: if Alabama can get better every week in every phase of the game, why can’t the Gators?


The SEC has three teams that could make the national championship game: Alabama (6-0) and LSU (6-1) from the West and South Carolina (6-1) from the East. Alabama’s only tough games remaining are LSU and blood rival Auburn while LSU still has to play Alabama and Texas A&M, which lost head to head to Alabama. The Aggies need Alabama to lose twice to make it to Atlanta to even have a shot at a national title. Bama isn’t going to lose twice. Period. Johnny Manziel will give LSU fits. South Carolina is the only team from the East that could finish the regular season with one loss but unbeaten Missouri, Florida and ACC rival Clemson remain on the schedule plus the Gamecocks would have to win the SEC title game, most likely against Alabama.


SEC East: Missouri (A); South Carolina (B+); Georgia (B); Florida (C+); Tennessee (D-); Vanderbilt (F). SEC West: Alabama (A+); Auburn (A-); LSU (B+); Texas A&M (B+); Ole Miss (C-); Mississippi State (D-). Midseason Coach of the Year: Gary Pinkel, Missouri; Midseason Offensive Player of the Year: Mike Davis, South Carolina; Midseason Defensive Player of the Year: C.J. Mosely, Alabama; Midseason Special Teams Player of the Year: Christion Jones, Alabama.


Because of their name, everybody in the 1960s assumed that the Sir Douglas Quintet was part of the British Invasion. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Doug Sahm, who had played with Hank Williams Sr. when he was just a kid, and Augie Meyers started the band with the idea of fusing Texas swing country, Tex-Mex, rock and roll and rhythm and blues. In all their songs you can hear the Tex-Mex influence that Sahm and Meyers grew up with in their native San Antonio. The song that got everybody’s attention was “She’s About a Mover” in 1965. My favorite was “Mendocino” which came out in 1968. The Sir Douglas Quintent hooked up with Freddie Fender and Flaco Jimenez in the 1970s to form the Texas Tornados, who are still around and still popular even though Fender and Sahm are deceased.

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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.