It is time for the Florida Gators to grow up.
Since winning the season opener against an Eastern Michigan team that would struggle to beat a Trappist monastery, the Gators have two unimpressive wins and a blowout loss to Alabama. They’ve struggled offensively in eight of the last 1o quarters of regulation football and looked woefully inadequate on defense in both the overtime win over Kentucky and the Bama loss. To their credit, they did turn in a superb defensive effort against Tennessee last week and they came away with a gut check of a win but here we are four games into the season and we still haven’t seen a complete game.
That’s cause for concern with LSU coming to town Saturday night. LSU has a world of incentive. No Les Miles LSU team has ever started the season with three consecutive losses in SEC play so count on the Tigers coming into The Swamp with a chip on their shoulders, convinced they have something to prove.
And you know that Miles is going to be saying the same thing in his locker room that Will Muschamp will be saying to the Gators – it’s time to grow up.
It’s more critical for the Gators to take that next step on the road to maturity than LSU, however. Win or lose and Les Miles is safe as safe can be in Baton Rouge. Oh, the fans will yell and scream if the Tigers drop to 4-3, but they do understand that things would be a whole lot different if all those underclassmen hadn’t bolted to the NFL and they do realize that there is no shortage of talent on the LSU sideline, just a shortage of experience.
Win Saturday night and Will Muschamp has climbed the first of a three-rung ladder that could not only save his job this year but earn a contract extension. Beat LSU and then follow it up with wins over Missouri at home next week and Georgia in Jacksonville on November 1 and the Gators are well on their way to punching the ticket to the SEC Championship Game the first weekend of December. Nothing will calm the henchmen in Gator Nation that would like to see Muschamp tarred and feathered quite like winning the SEC East, a goal that’s well within reach if the Gators go 3-0 between now and November 1.
Lose and it’s not the end of the world for either Muschamp or the Gators, but a loss to LSU would indeed be a setback, particularly in lieu of the suspension of last week’s hero, Treon Harris. Harris gave the Gators a ray of hope last week when he came off the bench to lead UF to the 10-9 win over Tennessee. His suspension cast a cloud of doom and gloom over the Gator Nation, one that will be darker than ever before should UF fail to come away with a win Saturday night. Win and the Gators are still in control of their own destiny the rest of the way. Lose and they not only require help but folks will be pointing fingers at the Harris suspension and asking what if? Nothing kills morale for both fans and teams quite like a case of the what ifs.
So indeed, it is time for this team to grow up. It’s time for the Gators to play a complete game, something they haven’t done yet. It’s time for the offense to function and produce and time for the defense to follow up the effort at Tennessee with a better effort against a team with better athletes.
It can be done. It needs to get done this week.
Todd Gurley, Georgia’s best player and everybody’s Heisman Trophy favorite, won’t be playing Saturday when the 13th-ranked Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) travel to Columbia to take on 23rd-ranked Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC) because of alleged NCAA violations regarding the sale of autographs. Citing a source in the autograph industry, ESPN.com reports that Gurley allegedly was seeking $8-25 per autograph.
With Gurley in the lineup and averaging 154 yards per game, Georgia was picking up the kind of momentum that had the experts predicting the Bulldogs would win the SEC East. Almost as important as the yards he picked up pounding the middle, Gurley provided the Bulldogs with the perfect decoy to freeze safeties on play action and a brutal blocker capable of leveling a blitzing linebacker or defensive end. Without Gurley, who has played his best football in the fourth quarter, Georgia is suddenly a very vulnerable team. Following Saturday’s game with Mizzou, the Bulldogs travel to Arkansas before facing the Gators in Jacksonville. If Gurley misses a second or even third game, it’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs winning the East. It might be hard for them to win the East Saturday if they can’t find a way to win without Gurley in the lineup.
This season: 47-6
Florida (3-1, 2-1 SEC) over LSU (4-2, 0-2 SEC): The Gators get the nod because (a) it’s a home game, (b) LSU’s young quarterbacks are still trying to figure things out and (c) with three wins in the next three games, Florida could find itself sitting on top of the SEC East. That’s incentive that begins with a win over LSU.
#2 Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) over #3 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0 SEC): If Mississippi State could stop the pass, this would be a no-brainer. Because they can’t and because Auburn has two exceptional receivers for Nick Marshall to throw to, the Tigers are the pick even though Dak Prescott is going to light them up a bit.
#3 Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0 SEC) over #14 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC): If the Rebels can handle Amari Cooper, they will find a way to cover the Aggies’ receivers. If Bo Wallace comes up big in this one, you’ll hear his name on everybody’s Heisman short list next week.
#7 Alabama (4-1, 1-1 SEC) over Arkansas (3-2, 0-2 SEC): If the Hogs played in the SEC East they would be play teams like Vanderbilt and would be favored to make it to Atlanta. Because they play in the SEC West, they get to play the likes of Alabama. This is not going to be pretty.
#23 Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC) over #13 Georgia (4-1, 2-1 SEC): With Todd Gurley, Georgia would have its trump card. Without Gurley, the Bulldogs are going to have to ask Hutson Mason to (a) stay upright with Shane Ray and Markus Golden breathing down his neck and (b) win a game. Odds are he spends a lot of time on his back and Georgia loses.
Kentucky (4-1, 2-1 SEC) over Louisiana-Monroe (3-2): With a win over Monroe Doctrine, the Wildcats are within one game of bowl eligibility. Show of hands. Did you really think the Wildcats could win five games this year? How about six? Count on five. Six is a real possibility.
Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-4 SEC) over Charleston Southern (5-0): If Vanderbilt loses this one, it’s back to college football’s equivalent of the Third World.
June Jones, SMU: When Hawaii pulls the plug on Norm Chow there will be plenty of folks who think June needs to come back home. He was 76-41 as Hawaii’s head coach. The good ship Chow is 5-24 and taking on water.
Charlie Weis, Kansas: Charlie’s days as a college head coach have come to an end. He’ll have ($)4.9 million reasons to enjoy that thought next year when he’s sitting in the booth calling plays for some NFL team.
Larry Blakeney, Troy: Because he’s won 175 games and taken the school from Division II all the way to a five-straight Sun Belt Conference championships (2006-10) in his career, Blakeney was spared the indignity of a firing. Instead he was allowed to “retire.”
Norm Chow, Hawaii: There are two ways to look at the job Norm is doing at Hawaii. You could say (1), “Gee, we’re 1-4, we’ve beaten a D1AA team and we’re playing everybody close.” Or you could say (2), “This guy hasn’t produced a winner in 2-1/2 years and there’s no way he’s going to produce one this year.” The folks that make the decisions will choose #2. It’s either that or see if there is a virgin who would leap into the volcano to appease the football gods.
Brady Hoke, Michigan: The AD says he isn’t resigning and says he has no plan to fire Hoke. That does not mean Dave Brandon will still have a job beyond November 29. Hoke won’t. Count on that. The Michigan short list is Jim Harbaugh, Les Miles and Dan Mullen.
Tim Beckman, Illinois: Beckman and Purdue coach Darrell Hazell get to switch places because Beckman and the Fighting Illini made the mistake of losing to the Boilermakers last week. The Illini have lost their last two games and they’ll make it three in a row this week at Wisconsin. There isn’t another win left on the schedule. Maybe the folks in Champaign-Urbana are starting to realize Ron Zook actually was doing a good job.
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: What does it say about your coaching career when you are a 17-point road dog to Shirley Temple? A second straight losing season is in the cards and that means Blankenship’s odds of being gainfully employed as Tulsa’s HBC grow larger by the moment. The Hurricane faithful have their fingers crossed that former assistant and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is ready to say yes to turning the program around.
Paul Petrino, Idaho: Give the Vandals some credit. The Vandals made it interesting last week at Texas State but sanity prevailed in the end and they kept a reverse run of the table intact. Georgia Southern will send the Vandals home to Moscow (Idaho) with the dream still alive this week. GSU is a 24.5-point favorite to win in Statesboro and put Paul Petrino one step closer to working for brother Bobby once again.
Bobby Hauck, UNLV: Not that the Rebels were going bowling for a second straight year – the NCAA took care of that because UNLV has this teensy problem graduating its players – but one win over a D1AA team and five bad losses have folks forgetting that it was just a few months ago they were talking about building a 60,000 seat ball yard to replace decrepit Sam Boyd Stadium. Hauck is about one loss removed from going the Dead Man Walking List.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue: The Boilers are a shocking 3-3 right now. Folks in West Lafayette need to treasure this moment because it’s as close as they’re going to come to a winning season. Barring something catastrophic, like an entire team being declared ineligible, the next five weeks are going to be worse than having to listen to Beth Mowins call a football game on ESPN. The next time the Boilers will have a chance to win is November 29, when they face Indiana. In the coach job security business, this is what is known as hanging by a thread.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana: The Hoosiers aren’t very good but they are halfway to bowl eligibility, the one thing that might save Wilson’s job. He’s got three games in which a win is possible (Michigan, Rutgers and Purdue), one that could be close (Iowa this week) and two potential embarrassments (Michigan State and Ohio State). Six wins will save Wilson’s job as long as one of them is Purdue.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: The Lobos have won two of their last three. That the two teams they’ve beaten have a combined 3-8 record and probably would be underdogs to a homeless shelter is of no consequence. This is New Mexico we’re talking about where a win truly is a win no matter who you’re playing. What’s really exciting is that the Lobos are only a 4-point dog at home this week against San Diego State, which is coached by Rocky Long, the guy who used to break even and occasionally go to bowl games at New Mexico before they thought they could do better.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: It is true that Rhoads is actually a pretty good football coach. It is also true that he coaches in Ames, Iowa, which is a graveyard. The Cyclones get Holy Toledo at home this week and Kansas on November 8. The other five games on the schedule are all losses. He’s one good loss away from going On Life Support.
Ron Turner, Florida International: The Golden Panthers are a rather surprising 3-3, which nobody expected. If they go 3-3 the rest of the way then Pete Garcia won’t have to do something he’s good at – tell the world he’s got to fire another bad coach that he hired. The Golden Panthers are 10-point road dogs at Texas-San Antonio this weekend. UTSA is 1-4 and lost to New Mexico. That should clue you in about FIU.
Will Muschamp, Florida: Muschamp controls his own destiny. Win the next three games and it’s going to be really hard to keep the Gators out of Atlanta, which means year five of the Muschamp era will be 2015. Lose Saturday to LSU and the season could collapse. Things are really fragile in Gainesville.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: The Mounties need three more wins to become bowl eligible. That’s the good news. The bad news is they face five ranked teams and the best defense in the league (Texas) in their last seven. They do have a chance to win this week, however, when they travel to Texas Tech, which is a mirror image of WVU on defense. Can you say ole’? The only thing standing between Holgorsen and the door is his buyout clause.
Randy Edsall, Maryland: The only thing better than a good buyout clause to keep a very dislikeable coach gainfully employed is an open date. The Turtles are open this week and don’t have to worry about losing again until the 18th when they play Iowa.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska: He would have been a hero in Lincoln if he had led the Huskers past Michigan State last week. Because the Huskers lost, he’s the same Bo Pelini that the fans have been hating on since they figured out he’s not the second coming of Tom Osborne. They fired Frank Solich who averaged nearly 10 wins a year. They might fire Bo, too. That is, unless he can find a job somewhere else.
Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech: His name might be Holtz but he can’t coach a lick. Fortunately, he plays a pansy Con-USA schedule that is conducive to a bowl game. Of course, this is the guy who couldn’t win at USF with all the talent he needed in his own back yard so don’t count on anything.
Is this the week the Gators grow up and play a complete game?
I was a big fan of Eric Burdon and the Animals during the 1960s and was disappointed when Burdon left the band and headed to California. While searching for a band to back him up, Burdon discovered The Creators playing in Hollywood. Renamed War, they became his backup band from 1969-71. When Burdon split the band had already found its own niche as a soul/funk/R&B/fusion band. Their 1975 album “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” remains my favorite and the best track was “Low Rider” which has become a cult classic among the Mexican communities in the border states.