Thoughts of the day: September 28, 2013


In public, Kentucky folks are saying isn’t it a shame that Jeff Driskel and Dominique Easley can’t play tonight when the Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) pay a visit to Kentucky (1-2, 0-0 SEC). In private, they’re going yahoo! With Florida down two of its most important players, Mildcat fans really do believe they’ve got a chance to beat Florida and end that embarrassing 27-year losing streak to the Gators. While losing Jeff Driskel and Dominique Easley does level the playing field a bit, it’s not like those are Florida’s only athletes. Like the other elite teams in the conference, the Gators pretty much have a three-deep of what could be termed SEC caliber athletes. Those average teams for whom getting to the Music City Bowl is a big deal, usually have the equivalent of a two-deep. The bottom feeders – and Kentucky is a bottom feeder – usually have around 30. That doesn’t mean a bottom feeder can’t spring an upset, it just tells you that there is a far greater margin for error for the elite teams than there is a team like Kentucky.


Remember Florida’s back-to-back losses to Auburn in 2006-07? Muschamp was the one who schemed that defense which shut down Chris Leak in 2006 and Tim Tebow in 2007. This is what Muschamp does as well if not better than any defensive coach in the country. He’s extraordinary at finding a weakness then drawing up a scheme that will allow his troops to exploit it. Losing Dominique Easley is a blow, but it’s not like Muschamp will be at a loss to design a scheme that will work. The tackles (Leon Orr, Damien Jacobs, Darious Cummings) will be gap sound and difficult to run on but none of them are really disruptive. My guess is he does a Bellichick and moves Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCallister up and down the line so that Kentucky’s O-linemen never know where the pressure is going to come from. We also might see a bit more wide open offense. It’s my guess that Muschamp has been so involved with the defense after losing Easley that he will let Brent Pease do whatever he wants do offensively. I like Florida to win this one something like 31-7.


Last year, Texas A&M came to Tuscaloosa with the cocky quarterback and the Star Wars offense but really, how many of you thought the Aggies could pull off the win? Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC) visits Tuscaloosa Saturday and while everybody predicts #1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) will win this game, nobody should be shocked if the Rebels pull off the upset. Alabama is indeed 3-0, but the defense isn’t shutdown like it’s been in the past and the Crimson Tide’s offensive line hasn’t shown much domination in the running game (Bama only got 66 yards last week against Colorado State). This is a team that has issues, something the last two Alabama national championship teams didn’t have. Ole Miss has exceptional but young talent and the Rebels have nothing to lose and everything to gain, which makes them a formidable foe. I think Alabama wins, but I think it’s going to be razor close.


Some of the experts who follow the Big Ten seem to think that #23 Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) has a pretty decent shot to upend #4 Ohio State (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten) in Columbus tonight. One reason for the optimism is Wisconsin’s first year coach, Gary Andersen, who was the defensive line coach at Utah when Urban Meyer took the Utes to a 12-0 season. Meyer will be across the field coaching Ohio State where he’s got a 16-game winning streak going. You would think that if anyone has a pretty good clue about defending Meyer’s spread option it would be a guy whose defenses went head to head with Meyer’s offenses every day for a year. Quarterback Braxton Miller is back from a sprained knee for Ohio State, which will get a Saturday morning pep talk from LeBron James. Urban is pulling out all the stops for this one.


There was hope at Southern Cal when the NCAA reduced the penalties against Penn State, but all hopes of having its sanctions removed or penalties lessened were quashed Friday. In a statement that ended any hope Southern Cal’s appeal would turn out favorably, the NCAA stated, “There is no comparison between USC and Penn State. USC”s appeal is denied, and there is no further consideration being given.” Due to injuries and scholarship reductions due to the sanctions, Southern Cal will dress 58 scholarship players for Saturday nights’ game at Arizona State.


Division I athletic scholarships are a one-year deal, renewable at the whim and fancy of the head coach. In other words, the coach can fire any player he wants at any point in his career. The player’s options are limited because even if he’s done everything right but just can’t cut it as a player at a certain school, he still has to sit a year if he wants to go somewhere else toplay. I’d like to see all scholarships become a five-year contract. The coach can still fire a kid if he wants, but change the rule so the kid can still stay in school at the athletic department’s expense and finish without counting against the scholarship limitations. If a kid is fired and wants to transfer, allow him to go anywhere he wants as long as he is in good academic standing.


When Matt Labrum, the head football coach at Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah, discovered that a large number of his players had been skipping class and cyber-bullying a classmate, he suspended all 80 of his players and gave them a letter outlining exactly what they had to do to earn back their jerseys. And, instead of football practice this past week, Labrum said his players were expected to do community service and attend study halls. In this era of win at all costs, isn’t it great to hear of a coach who says that character indeed counts?


In addition to taking Florida over My Old Kentucky Home, I like LSU over the Georgia Poodles, Alabama over Ole Miss in a game closer than anyone expects, South Carolina over UCF, Texas A&M over Bill and Hilary Clinton State U, Missouri over Arkansas State, Gloria Vanderbilt over UAB and Tennessee over South Alabama. Last week: 8-1. Season: 41-3


Since the Gators are in Lexington to play the Kentucky Mildcats I couldn’t resist the Deep Purple version of “Kentucky Woman” for today’s music. I got into Deep Purple in the fall of 1968 when they released their Book of Taliesyn album that included a kicking version of The Beatles “We Can Work It Out” and an ear-shattering version of the old Phil Spector song “River Deep, Mountain High.” I saw Deep Purple perform these songs and a remake of Billy Joe Royal’s song “Hush” at the Melbourne Civic Auditorium in May of 1969. I don’t think I could hear for at least a week.

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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.