Thoughts of the day: October 20, 2013


On his first carry of the game, Kelvin Taylor ripped off a very impressive 17-yard gain to the Missouri seven. He only carried the ball three more times in the first half. Taylor carried the ball eight times in the second half including five times for 53 yards including a 20-yard touchdown run that showed he has a real nose for the end zone. It was Florida’s only drive of the game that netted a touchdown. For the game Taylor had 12 carries for a net of 74 yards while the rest of the team combined for 19 carries for -15 yards. Last week Taylor had 52 yards on ten carries, 9-51 in the second half. It’s obvious that the kid is Florida’s most explosive back and knows exactly what to do when he touches the ball. So the question is this: What is it that the Florida coaching staff is seeing that keeps Taylor from carrying the football more? This is an offensively challenged team that needs a running back who can consistently pick up yards to give the passing game a chance. Giving the ball to Taylor seems like your basic no-brainer.


The way the Gators have lost their last two games, you have to wonder if they can hold off the doubts much longer. The doubts are contagious. The doubts are what happens when a team hits the skids and one side starts blaming the other for all that is going wrong. Saturday at Missouri it was reported that Ronald Powell, injured and unable to play, had to step in between the secondary and defensive linemen who were about to get into it on the sidelines. Maybe it was only a small rift that will be smoothed over during the bye week, but what if it’s one of those cracks that only keeps getting wider? If the Gators get consumed by the doubts, then the rest of the season is going to be something less than memorable.


What are we supposed to make of a shakeup Saturday in the SEC in which saw sixth-ranked LSU, seventh-ranked Texas A&M, 11th-ranked South Carolina and 15th-ranked Georgia lose to lower ranked teams? Is the league that good that there is never a day off, or, as many suspect, has the Southeastern Conference taken a couple of steps backward this year? Judging by the lack of defense being played in the league, the logical answer is that the SEC is not nearly as strong as it was the previous seven years. Florida was the conference’s defensive bell cow for 2013 until giving up 500 yards to Missouri Saturday. LSU gave up 550-plus yards to Ole Miss. Auburn and the Aggies combined for 86 points and 1,217 yards and South Carolina couldn’t get a challenged Tennessee offense off the field when it counted most. What has made the SEC the dominant conference in this run of seven straight national championships is dominant defense, but the only team that’s playing much of it right now is Alabama.


That the rest of the SEC isn’t holding up its end of the bargain doesn’t seem to faze Alabama (7-0) in the least. Since its 49-42 win over Texas A&M in the second game of the season, Alabama has allowed only 16 points in five games. In taking apart Arkansas, 52-0, Saturday, Alabama put up 532 yards including 352 on the ground, didn’t turn the ball over, wasn’t flagged for a penalty and didn’t allow a sack. Quarterback A.J. McCarron continued his quiet but effective Heisman Trophy run with by hitting 15-21 of his passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns. He is now 33-2 as a starting quarterback with two national championships. If Alabama goes unbeaten in the regular season then wins the SEC Championship Game it might be difficult not to give him the Heisman.


Florida State (6-0) looked a contender while Clemson looked the part of a pretender Saturday night in Death Valley. The fifth-ranked Seminoles looked like the FSU of the dynasty years the way they took third-ranked Clemson (6-1) to school, 51-14. That was an old-fashioned beatdown, the kind that will elevate FSU’s profile in the national championship picture. FSU got 444 passing yards and three touchdowns from freshman Jameis Winston, who won the personal duel with Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. Winston remains in the Heisman Trophy picture while the best Boyd can hope for at this point is a seat on the podium for lifetime achievement.


The last three games have been anything but smooth sailing for Ohio State (7-0), but the Buckeyes find ways to keep winning. Their streak is at 19 straight right now and with a schedule of Penn State, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana, it doesn’t look like there is a team capable of challenging them until the regular season finale at the Big House and even then they’ll be going against a Michigan team that won Saturday but still gave up 47 points. If Ohio State runs the regular season table and then wins the Big Ten championship game, the Buckeyes will have won 25 in a row but as impressive as that might be, the lack of strong competition will keep them out of the national championship game if both Alabama and Oregon finish unbeaten.


Iowa State got Baylored Saturday night in Wacky Waco. Baylor (6-0) had a 37-0 lead and 461 yards of offense – in other words about four games worth of points and yards for the Gators – at the half. By the time the dust settled Art Briles and his 12th-ranked Bears had a 71-7 win and a 714-177 yardage differential. It might be time to pay more attention to quarterback Bryce Petty, who has 2,058 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and only one interception through six games. It might also be a good time to start paying attention to the Bears. They might be capable of scoring 40 points on anyone in the country. In their six wins, the Bears have scored 70 or more four times, 69 once and in their worst output of the season, 35.


My top 25 would be: (1) Alabama; (2) Oregon; (3) Ohio State; (4) Florida State; (5) Miami; (6) Baylor; (7) Stanford; (8) Missouri; (9) Texas Tech; (10) Clemson; (11) LSU; (12) Texas A&M; (13) Virginia Tech; (14) Oklahoma State; (15) Fresno State; (16) South Carolina; (17) Louisville; (18) UCLA; (19) Auburn; (20) Michigan State; (21) Georgia; (22) Michigan; (23) Wisconsin; (24) BYU; (25) Texas.


One of the highlights of living and traveling in Europe during the 1990s was the chance to see the Gipsy Kings live and in concert. Because I speak combat Spanish – enough to start a fight if I’m not careful – I had no idea what they were singing but neither did about half the audience. It didn’t stop us from joining in on the chorus of “Bamboleo” or “Volare” or several other songs with a recognizable word or two. Incredible Flamenco guitars and fun music. If these guys ever come to a venue near you, I highly recommend buying the tickets. It’s one of the better shows you will ever see.

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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.