Idaho is the most important game on the Florida football schedule. We know that because (a) it’s game one and (b) Will Muschamp will spend the next five weeks reminding us that his focus and the team’s focus is getting that first win. Fair enough. You can’t get to 2-0 in the league until you’ve gone 1-0 and that means you have to win the first game. But let’s face it. The Gators are going to do unthinkable things to Idaho and Eastern Michigan in those first two games. Game three is Kentucky and they could very well be 100% improved this year. Okay, that means they win four games instead of the two they won last year. One of those four won’t be against the Gators in The Swamp on what should be your typical blast furnace September Saturday where you need a chainsaw to cut through the humidity. Kentucky hasn’t beaten the Gators since 1986 and hasn’t won in The Swamp since the 0-10-1 nightmare in 1979. It’s not going to happen this year.
So that brings us to September 20, Florida’s first road game and it’s in Tuscaloosa where we’ll hear all week about Will Muschamp going against his mentor, Nick Saban, and close friend and fellow Georgia alum Kirby Smart, who is Alabama’s defensive coordinator. Figure Alabama will also enter this game 3-0 and favored by 10 or more points. Not many are going to predict a Florida win, but win or lose, this game is going to tell us plenty about the kind of season the Gators are going to have.
Any chance the Gators have to win will depend on three things: confidence, focus and poise. Starting the season with three wins should give them plenty of confidence so figure it’s going to come down to focus and poise. If the Gators are able to stay focused for 60 full minutes and avoid losing their poise as they have the last two times they ventured to Tuscaloosa (31-3 loss in 2005; 31-6 loss in 2010), then it will bode well for the rest of the season.
The Gators have enough talent to play with anyone on their schedule. If they can stay with Alabama both physically and mentally in Tuscaloosa, then they should be able to deal with anyone in the remaining nine games and that includes Florida State.
Former Tampa Bay Bucs and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy is being ripped to shreds because he made the comment that he wouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam because he wouldn’t have wanted to deal with the distractions. For making an honest statement, Dungy is being portrayed as a religious zealot who is out of touch with society and anti-gay. What hogwash.
Dungy has repeatedly said that Michael Sam deserves a chance to prove he can play in the NFL. He has never once ripped the St. Louis Rams for drafting Sam, who outed himself as gay prior to the NFL Draft, nor has he said that as a Christian he thinks Sam is doomed to hell.
All Dungy said was he wouldn’t have wanted to deal with the distractions. Would Dungy be ripped if he said he didn’t want the distractions of Terrell Owens, who spent an NFL career making a spectacle of himself? Of course not, and everywhere Owens played there were distractions. Plenty of them. Do you think for one second there won’t be a media circus when the Rams open their training camp all because Sam is the first player in the NFL to declare he’s openly gay? You’re fooling yourself if you don’t think so.
Funny, but I am reminded at this moment of former Florida coach Ron Zook, who used to complain about “noise in the system,” meaning distractions that were keeping the Gators from playing their best football. Every single football or basketball coach I’ve ever known who was successful talked openly about the need to eliminate distractions so their teams could focus on the task at hand.
Michael Sam’s sexual preference has nothing at all to do with his ability to play football. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American. Anyone who can do that in the SEC deserves a shot at the NFL and he will get one with the St. Louis Rams. They know and understand that Sam will get far more scrutiny than he deserves simply because he is openly gay, but they’re willing to take that chance and deal with it. Without saying anything hateful or even remotely untruthful, Tony Dungy said he wouldn’t have wanted to deal with it.
Dungy is a fine man who deserves neither the criticism nor the character assassination. He was asked a question and gave an honest answer. The people who are ripping him should be honest enough to say they disagree without attacking his character. If they were honest, they would simply say, “I disagree that Michael Sam will be a distraction. I think nobody will care if he’s gay.”
Yesterday’s verbal sparring match involved Alabama coach Nick Saban and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Those two squared off in the Sugar Bowl back in January with Stoops embarrassing Saban and the Crimson Tide, 45-31, a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score might indicate. That win had plenty to do with Sporting News predicting Oklahoma will win the national championship this year. Most other preseason publications say it will be either Alabama or defending national champ Florida State.
But, on with the sparring, which started Tuesday with Saban comparing the Sugar Bowl to a “consolation game.” Alabama was unbeaten and rolling toward a third national championship when derailed by Auburn in the final game of the season. Instead of playing for a championship, Alabama went to the Sugar Bowl.
Per ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, when asked about the loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, Saban said it was like “getting them [Crimson Tide] to play in a consolation game.“
Stoops replied Wednesday: “They [Alabama] didn’t look like it was a consolation game on that first drive when they scored a touchdown and everyone thought they were going to rout us. I’ve been in plenty of those [non-national championship BCS bowl games]. We’ve played in a bunch of national championship games, right? That’s a good one.
“So that means I’ve got a built-in excuse the next time we don’t play for a national championship?”
Stoops wasn’t through. Saban made a remark that the Big 12 doesn’t have a conference championship game like the other four leagues among the five power conferences.
“Think about it: mathematically we play everybody (Big 12 has 10 teams and each team plays nine conference games); they [SEC] don’t play everybody. For instance, Texas A&M. They play eight conference games. They have Lamar, Rice, SMU and Louisiana Monroe. Boy those are a bunch of toughies, right?”
Former Gator Mike Pouncey, who made the Pro Bowl last year, will miss the first eight weeks of the season because his surgically repaired hip is taking longer than expected to heal ... Louisville stud power forward Montrezl Harrell, who calls himself “a football junkie,” says he would love to suit up for Bobby Petrino. “If Coach Petrino needed me to play any possession in football, I’d be ready to play one possession of defense a game.” ... Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge is about one month away from completion of the expansion which will raise capacity to 102,000 ... Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is stepping down because he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Bowlen is only 70 ... Steve Ballmer is buying the Los Angeles Clippers, who have never come remotely close to winning a championship, for $2 billion. At the trial that will determine if Donald Sterling’s wife has the right to sell the team to Ballmer without her husband’s approval, some genius revealed that $2 billion is way too much to pay. Ya think?
Tom Glavine (305 wins) and Greg Maddux (355) will enter baseball’s Hall of Fame this weekend, which is customary for any pitcher getting to 300 or more wins. The only two that aren’t there are Roger Clemens, whose legacy has been tainted by accusations that he used performance enhancing drugs, and Randy Johnson, who will be eligible the first time on the next ballot. Currently, the active leader in wins is Tim Hudson of the San Francisco Giants, who has 213. He’s 38 so it’s highly unlikely he sticks around long enough to get another 87 wins.
Maybe the most likely candidates to get to 300 wins among the active pitchers are Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kershaw has 88 wins and he’s only 26. Hernandez turned 28 back in April and he’s got 121. If both pitch with relative effectiveness until they’re 38, they will both have to average 18 wins a season to get to 300. Kershaw has only won 18 wins one time in his career (21 in 2011) while Hernandez did it once (19 in 2009). Prior to the last two seasons, C.C. Sabathia seemed on a path to win 300, but he’s 17-17 in the last two years with a combined ERA more than 5.00. He’s got 208 wins and he’s 34, but he needs to find the strike zone again, add some speed to his fast ball and put together five seasons in which he averages 18 or more wins.
Roger Clemens won 354 games over a 24-year career, which would be an average season of 15-8 over a 162-game schedule. Do you think he deserves to be in the baseball Hall of Fame even with the allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs?
The Box Tops defined blue-eyed soul Memphis style from 1967-70 when they put together eight singles that cracked the top 40. The band broke up in 1971 over disputes with the record companies, who they thought were ripping them off. The record management company that controlled the name “Box Tops” kept trying put out music with studio groups but it was obvious that things weren’t the same without Alex Chilton and Gary Talley. Their debut single was “The Letter” which hit number one, not only on the American but the international charts as well.