In an interview I did back in 2004, Mary Wise, who has won more volleyball matches than any coach in the country, described the pressure of coaching at the University of Florida: “It’s there and you can’t deny it. If you’re coaching here, you’re expected to win. You’re expected to compete for and win championships. If you can’t handle it, then this isn’t the place for you to be.”
I bring that up because I have received a barrage of calls and texts this week from fans asking me how Will Muschamp is handling the pressure after the loss to Alabama last week. Honestly, I’m not sure Muschamp feels any more pressure to win today than he did last week at this time. It’s Florida and any time a team he coaches takes the field, he’s expected to win, so win or lose, the pressure is always going to be there. He knows it. We know it.
Muschamp has coached in pressure situations before so he has the necessary experience to deal with what’s coming at him. His demeanor hasn’t changed all that much from the time he arrived at UF until now, so we can only guess that he’s dealing with the pressure just fine.
In reality, Muschamp isn’t the one we have to worry about. He’s being paid millions of dollars to deal with expectations that are borderline ridiculous and he has all those life experiences that prepared him for this moment. The kids on the team, however, are a different story. We saw last week when Demarcus Robinson retweeted a negative thought about quarterback Jeff Driskel. That’s a sign that the kids on the team are the ones most aware that losing by 21 to Alabama lights a fire of hostility among a core group of fans that are never going to be satisfied.
Where Muschamp is going to earn his paycheck next week and in the subsequent weeks when websites such as coacheshotseat.com and CBSSports.com make him the poster child for their most likely to be fired lists, is in dealing with the kids. He can’t shield them unless he can take away their cell phones, computers, car radios and televisions so there is nowhere to hide.
All Muschamp can do is lead by example. If the kids see him losing it, they’re going to lose it too. If they see him acting oblivious to all the negative chatter, they will follow suit. The best thing he can do is remind every player, assistant coach or staffer that one of the reasons you come to Florida is to take on the pressure and expectations. You beat the pressure and expectations by tuning out all the noise in the system and getting your team fully focused on one thing – whoever is next on the schedule. For Muschamp and the Gators, that’s Tennessee on October 4. Nothing else matters.
This season: 37-3
#5 Auburn (3-0, 1-0 SEC) over Louisiana Tech (2-2): Not that Auburn needs a get well game, but the offense didn’t exactly light it up in last week’s win on the road at K-State. A Skippy Holtz-coached team is just what the doc ordered for Gus Malzahn and the Tigers. This one will be all but over before halftime.
#6 Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0 SEC) over Arkansas (3-1, 0-1 SEC): Because they’ve won three in a row, those eternally optimistic Hog fans are thinking upset this weekend. Well, they won three in a row last year, too. Then they lost their next nine. Something similar could happen this year. As for Texas A&M, that offense is downright scary and the defense is vastly better than last year.
#10 Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC) over Memphis (2-1): Hugh Freeze spent the week trying to convince everyone that Memphis is a tough opponent who the Rebels are taking very seriously. Ole Miss might be taking Memphis seriously but the Tigers are definitely not a tough opponent. Tough is next Saturday when Alabama comes to Oxford.
#12 Georgia (2-1, 0-1 SEC) over Tennessee (2-1, 0-0 SEC): Nobody really expects the Vols to win in Athens but watch this game closely. If Tennessee makes it respectable or even white knuckles heading into the fourth quarter it’s not a good omen for Florida on October 4. Georgia’s defense really isn’t that good but the Bulldogs might look decent against a bad offensive line and quarterback Justin Worley. Worley and accuracy are often two ships that pass in the night.
#13 South Carolina (3-1, 2-1 SEC) over Missouri (3-1, 0-0 SEC): The way South Carolina plays defense has the talking heads picking Mizzou in an upset. Mizzou lost at home to Indiana and they’re playing South Carolina in Columbia. Stevie Wonder may think his team sucks but they’ll suck their way to another win. This, by the way, is Mizzou’s SEC opener. It’s the fourth SEC game for the Gamecocks.
#17 LSU (3-1, 0-1 SEC) over New Mexico State (2-2): What better way to hand over the reins of the offense to a true freshman than a team like New Mexico State on a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. By the time this one is over, Brandon Harris will have supplanted sophomore Anthony Jennings as the starting quarterback.
Kentucky (2-1, 0-1 SEC) over Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC): Kentucky hasn’t won an SEC game since beating Tennessee the last game of 2011. That will change Saturday night in Lexington. Come Monday you’re going to start hearing Mike Stoops name as a hot ticket item as Countdown to Firing Day begins to heat up. As for Vandy, the dream of the last three years is over and the nightmare of holding up the bottom of the SEC East is about to begin again.
June Jones, SMU: The team left behind at SMU is the worst in all of Division I.
Brady Hoke, Michigan: With Hoke it’s a lot like playing Monopoly. If he beats Minnesota this week it’s a Get Out of Jail Free card, good for one more week. Lose and it’s a Go to Jail, Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 card.
Charlie Weis, Kansas: The fun and games ended last week with the win over Central Michigan. Now the Jayhawks have to play nine conference games in a row against coaches who understand a loss to Charlie Cheeseburger is not exactly a resume builder. Charlie Strong, who is trying to clean up Mack Brown’s mess at Texas, understands he absolutely, cannot, under any circumstance lose to Kansas.
Ron Turner, Florida International: Is there a dumber athletic director in the country than Pete Garcia? He’s the guy who hired Isaiah Thomas to run the FIU basketball team, the same guy who fired Mario Cristobal as the football coach after two bowl games in the previous two seasons. He is also the guy who hired Ron Turner to replace Cristobal. It’s just a matter of time before he fires Turner.
Mike London, Virginia: No way the Cadavers lose to Kent State this week so the buzzards won’t start circling until October. The lucky number for Mike London is six as in six wins as in bowl-eligible. If he doesn’t get Virginia bowl-eligible this year then those tight wallet boosters are going to pony up the big bucks to send him on his way.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue: Hazell bought a reprieve by beating D1AA Southern Illinois last week. Think of that game as the end of the honeymoon. This week the Boilermakers play Iowa. Win and it’s another reprieve for Hazell. Of course, if Iowa loses, the fire Kirk Ferentz folks will be screaming once again only to realize it would take about a half bazillion dollars to buy him out.
Larry Blakeney, Troy: Just days after he got the dreaded vote of confidence from the AD and president, the Trojans were waxed by Georgia, 66-0, and thanks to the SEC Network about a million people probably saw it. When you’re on life support you really don’t want everyone to see it. This week Troy travels to Louisiana-Monroe, which is playing very well. It’s not going to be pretty.
Tim Beckman, Illinois: The only loss is to the only decent team the Fighting Illini have played – Washington – and that one was a hosing. Now the Big Ten games begin and that means Nebraska (this week), Wisconsin and Ohio State are among the next five. The natives are restless, the same natives who fired Ron Zook for going to three bowl games including the Rose in six years.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: Given the mess Mike Locksley left, Davie is actually doing a great job. He’s won eight games (1-2 this year) since taking over, which is outstanding considering Locksley made the Lobos the worst team in all of college football (2-26) in his three years at the helm. Davie could quiet the masses in Albuquerque if he could somehow manage to beat Fresno State this week.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana: Time was bought for Wilson when the Hoosiers inexplicably upset Missouri on the road last week. If the Hoosiers can figure out a way to beat Maryland this week there is a really good chance Wilson will join Randy Edsall (Maryland coach) on the Irregular Heartbeat list.
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: Todd Graham left a healthy program that won games and went to bowl games when he departed for Arizona State. In the last 15 games, Tulsa is 4-11. In three games this year the defense has given up 133 points. A loss to Texas State of the Sun Belt Saturday will probably signal it’s time to bring on the oxygen and get Blankenship on life support.
Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech: The folks in Ruston are figuring out that just because his last name is Holtz is no guarantee that he can actually coach. Losing to D1AA Northwestern State, which is practically in Louisiana Tech’s back yard, didn’t exactly give the faithful the warm and fuzzies. They will be far less enamored with Skippy Saturday night after Auburn has to call maintenance because the scoreboard has overheated and is threatening to catch fire.
Bobby Hauck, UNLV: Hauck had folks talking about building a new stadium to replace decrepit Sam Boyd Stadium before the season started. Now that the Running Rebels have only a win over a D1AA team and three losses to teams that have scored at least 47 points, the only thing the folks are asking is who’s available to come coach here? This week’s loss will be San Diego State.
Will Muschamp, Florida: Jeremy Foley has Muschamp’s back and says as long as he’s satisfied with the progress there will be no coaching change this year. The loss to Alabama is a thing of the past. An open date is the present. That brings us to the future. Next week in Knoxville could be the defining moment for a coaching career.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: No buzzards will be circling in Morgantown the next couple of weeks. Amazing what an open date and a close encounter with Kansas will do for your perspective. The Mounties are good enough to go to a bowl this year but whether they do or not, Holgorsen is probably back for at least one more year because of this ridiculous buyout clause. The boosters really don’t like Holgorsen, but they’re not going to pony up the bucks to make him go away, either.
Randy Edsall, Maryland: Edsall made it through the non-conference portion of his schedule with a 3-1 record. He’ll be seriously fortunate to win three more the rest of the way. The boosters hate Edsall and would send him packing except the athletic department is swimming in red ink, especially since having to pay to leave the ACC. Nobody, not even the Under Armour boys, want to deal with buying out Edsall.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska: Nebraska is 4-0 and ranked. Most folks would be totally thrilled with a record like that, except this is Bo Pelini and the fans are those fickle folks at Nebraska. Even if Bo runs the table this year they aren’t going to like him. They may let him coach another year but they won’t like him. This week it’s Illinois. Lose to the Fighting Illini and they won’t just dislike Bo. They’ll hate him.
Who do you think is the bigger candidate for an upset this weekend: Texas A&M, Georgia or South Carolina?
What is called The Little River Band still tours today, but it’s nothing more than a cheap imitation of the real thing. The new guys are all Americans. The original band out of Australia had a really nice run from 1975-85. The best song on their 1978 album “Sleeper Catcher,” which went platinum, was “Reminiscing,” a great arrangement by Graeham Goble and the terrific vocals of Glenn Shorrock.That’s one of my all-time sing-along songs. If I hear it on the radio I’m singing. Pity those in the car who have to listen.