Thoughts of the Day: September 15, 2013


It’s officially Tennessee week but this just doesn’t feel of a rivalry game anymore. Back in the 1990s, Florida-Tennessee was the game the whole nation had circled because the winner was going to the SEC Championship Game but Phil Fulmer has been gone for years, the Gators have won the last eight and the last time the game was even close was 2006 when the Gators came from behind to beat the Vols, 21-20, in Knoxville. At best, the Vols are the #4 team in the SEC East behind Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Even though Tennessee is no longer relevant, the expectations in Knoxville remain the same. That’s like having champagne tastes and a beer budget.


After watching the way Marcus Mariota carved up the Tennessee defense for 456 passing yards and four touchdowns in only three quarters Saturday, Jeff Driskel should be drooling. This is a very bad Tennessee defense that he will be going against next week and it’s a game that he needs to come up big. He showed against Miami that he can make good throws down the field, but he also showed indecisiveness and committed three turnovers. Driskel cannot afford a second straight game in which he gives the ball away in critical situations and can’t get the ball into the end zone. It’s a long season and if Driskel doesn’t prove he can make plays, put points on the board and avoid turnovers, he’s in for a lengthy and disappointing season.


Prior to Saturday’s 49-42 win over Texas A&M, the last time a Nick Saban Alabama defense gave up 40 or more points was 2007, Saban’s first year on the job when eventual national champ LSU lit up the Tide for 41. Of course, that Bama team lost six times, almost as many as the Tide has lost since 2008 (7).  Saturday, Johnny Manziel torched the Tide defense for 464 passing yards and another 98 rushing as part of a 628-yard offensive assault. If not for a couple of stupid throws by Manziel that resulted in interceptions, the Aggies probably hand Alabama its first loss of the season. Now, there’s no doubt that Manziel is an absolute magician and perhaps the most difficult quarterback in America to defend, but Alabama’s defense got exposed Saturday. The pass rush is mediocre at best and the corners can be beaten, particularly by teams with tall wide receivers. This is a team that can be beaten.


Okay, so Florida State’s Jameis Winston hasn’t exactly faced the Steel Curtain in his first two games as a college quarterback, but anyone who is 40-45 for 550 yards and six touchdowns in his first two games out of the chute is indeed impressive – even if it is against defenses that might have trouble shutting down the JV team at Our Sister of Perpetual Motion in Fargo, North Dakota. There are a couple of schools of thought here: (1) He hasn’t been tested and he’ll wilt against the better competition that’s waiting down the line; and (2) playing the softer competition has given him a chance to get any jitters out of the way so it’s likely he will be a very confident quarterback once FSU’s schedule toughens up. From my perspective, I think this kid is a very special talent who has only had his confidence bolstered by the first two games. FSU’s players and coaches believe in him and that makes Jameis Winston a very dangerous man.


In the second quarter of Alabama’s win over Texas A&M, Bama safety Hasean Clinton-Dix was called for a targeting penalty (15 yards) and was ejected from the game. Under the new targeting rule, there is a booth review of ejections for targeting and the ruling on the field was overturned. That was the right call, because Dix was trying to intercept a pass intended for A&M’s Derel Walker and their helmets inadvertently collided. Under the rule, however, the penalty cannot be reversed. If the player did not target the receiver then how can there be a penalty? Common sense tells you that if the receiver wasn’t targeted and there is no pass interference, then there is no foul. The intent of the targeting rule is a good thing, as is the booth review to determine if targeting actually happened. The inability to reverse the penalty is something that better be changed before it costs some team a win, however.


Reports of a tornado in the area surrounding Ann Arbor, Michigan are greatly exaggerated. The big wind was simply 107,000 fans at the Big House collectively exhaling on the last play of the game when the zebras didn’t throw a flag when Kyle Pohl overthrew Zach D’Orazio in the end zone on the last play of the game. The zebras could have called a hold, which would have given Akron one more chance to stun #12 Michigan. It will go down as a 28-24 Michigan win but the real winner was The Little Dweeb, Terry Bowden, who bought himself a good bit of time for rebuilding the Akron program by almost winning a paycheck game.


No matter how hard she tries, Beth Mowins can’t make college football sound exciting. Mowins called the Kentucky-Louisville game Saturday and while she kept spewing out the facts, she lacked that ability to make the television audience feel the electricity that was being felt in Commonwealth Stadium. I’m not saying this because she’s a woman because I’ve heard Pam Oliver call a game and she does make the game sound interesting and exciting. Mowins on the other hand should volunteer for research at the UF Sleep Research Center. I’m sure she could cure insomnia.


My comments are in parentheses) The offensive center (What? You mean they have one on defense?) … The defensive linebacker (I’ve yet to see one on the offensive side of the ball) … The big tight end (Why is it that all tight ends are big tight ends? Some are bigger than others and that means that your big tight end might not be as big as my big tight end) … They really want to win this game (Maybe they had a coin toss in the locker room and it came up heads, we win?) … Very democratic with his distribution to a lot of guys (What? They take a vote in the huddle and decide how many different wide open receivers will get to catch the ball?).


One of the things I love about the “Daryl’s House” television show is the chance to hear new artists playing their music along with Daryl Hall’s band. I had never heard of Fitz and the Tantrums until I saw them on Daryl’s House. Their song “Picking Up the Pieces of Love” is a throwback type of song like we saw in the late 1970s and early 1980s when a lot of bands did remakes of Motown and other rhythm and blues songs. I am not a fan of too many of the bands or music that have taken over the radio airwaves in the last 10-15 years, but this is a great song.

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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.