By now, 43 games into the Will Muschamp era as the head football coach at the University of Florida, we should be accustomed to the fact that nothing ever comes easy. The wins feel like street fights where someone emerges with a nose broken and bleeding, teeth missing and an eye socket that looks like it has been caved in by a fist. There is that occasional all-star team from a homeless shelter like Eastern Michigan that picks up its paycheck and exits with as few bruises as possible but not all the sacrificial lambs refuse to put up a fight. There was Georgia Southern last year and Jacksonville State the year before if you do recall.
Then there are the losses, which seem to come in two categories – bludgeonings and Fred Sanfords. Alabama bludgeoned the Gators into submission three weeks ago. It wasn’t pretty and it left the Gators peeling themselves off the turf and wondering if someone got the license plate of the truck that ran over them. LSU was a Fred Sanford. You remember Fred gripping his chest and screaming, “I’m comin’ home Elizabeth! It’s the big one!” That’s the way it felt Saturday night when LSU beat the Gators, 30-27, on a 50-yard field goal with three seconds left.
Under Muschamp, the Gators are 25-18 overall, 15-13 in the SEC. In 12 years on the job, Steve Spurrier lost only 22 games, 12 in the SEC. In his six years at Florida, Urban Meyer was 65-15, 36-12 in the SEC.
Realistically, nobody with a functioning brain has ever expected Muschamp to match what either Spurrier or Meyer accomplished and folks could probably tolerate 25-18 better if the wins were somehow easier to come by and most of the losses didn’t come down to something unexplainable like Jordan Reed fumbling the ball into the end zone against Georgia or losing to Georgia Southern when the then D1AA Eagles didn’t complete a single pass.
It’s painful to watch.
Probably 90-95% of the Gators I encounter really want Muschamp to succeed. Everybody agrees that this could be a feel good story of Spurrier magnitude. Stevie Wonder was Florida’s favorite son who came back home to rescue the Gators from their tire-spinning ways and elevated them into the national rankings for 12 consecutive and into the hunt for the national title 10 of those 12 years. Spurrier was one of us. While Muschamp played his college football at Georgia, we all know his heart was always in Gainesville where he grew up, which is why it is truly painful to see the struggles.
We all know how much Muschamp wants to succeed. We all know how good it would make us feel if Will were the antithesis of Thomas Wolfe’s novel “You Can’t Go Home Again” but feeling good is difficult because for some reason nothing has come easy since 2011 and it doesn’t look like anything ever will.
That doesn’t mean he can’t succeed here. Jeremy Foley is determined to let the process play itself out and as long as he sees measurable progress, he’s going to continue to give Muschamp rope. At this point, the Gators are 3-2. With six games to go, they could still win the SEC East, which would end all discussion of whether there will be a year five.
If the Gators finish 7-4 you have to think in terms of 8-4 because no one in his right mind would ever think Idaho would have provided anything more than token resistance. Even as difficult as Muschamp-coached games typically play themselves out, Idaho would have been a blowout. So think 8-4 even if the final record is 7-4. At the beginning of the season, most realists took a look at what the Gators had then looked at the schedule and figured an 8-4 team that could go 9-3 with a break or two. Nine wins is still possible but not probable with Georgia and Florida State still on the schedule. It could happen, though.
But whether it’s seven wins, eight wins or nine wins that Muschamp finishes with – or worse – it won’t change the fact that it’s going to be painful to watch. Nothing has come easy since Muschamp got here and that’s not going to change in what’s left of this season.
1. (TIE) Ole Miss (6-0, 3-0 SEC): The Rebels have the SEC’s best defense and a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in Bo Wallace. After facing Alabama and then Texas A&M on the road the last two weeks, the Rebels come home to somewhat of a break this week – a team from the SEC East (Tennessee).
1. (TIE) Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0 SEC): The Bulldogs have won nine straight games dating back to last year and they’ve won the last three against teams that were ranked in the top ten at the time. This team is for real and it’s got maybe the nation’s best 1-2 offensive punch in Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson. The Bulldogs get an off week to bask in the glow of their success before they travel to Lexington.
3. Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC): When the Tigers lost last year at LSU it served as the wakeup call they needed to dominate the rest of the season. Will the loss to Mississippi State have the same effect? They’ve got a week to think about it before they play again.
4. ALABAMA (5-1, 2-1 SEC): The last two weeks have proven two things: (1) Blake Sims is the quarterback but not the answer and (2) the offensive line is the worst since 2007, Nick Saban’s first year on the job. If Saban can’t make the appropriate adjustments in a hurry the Crimson Tide is going to be on the outside looking in on the national championship race.
5. Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC): The Aggies have come back down to earth the last couple of weeks. They get another hard charging dose of reality this Saturday when they travel to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama.
6. LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC): Les Miles got his 100th win at LSU Saturday night. Look for Leonard Fournette to become more of a factor in the LSU offense the rest of the season. The Tigers won’t win any championships this year and they know it. They’re prepping for next year when all the kids are a year older when they should contend for a national title.
7. Arkansas (3-3, 0-3 SEC): The Hogs have lost 15 straight SEC games but they think that streak could come to an end this week with Georgia coming to town. Arkansas holds up the rear in the SEC West. Against an SEC East schedule the Hogs would be contenders.
8. GEORGIA (5-1, 3-1 SEC): That loss to South Carolina could come back to haunt the Bulldogs if they can’t get it done against Arkansas and Auburn from the SEC West. That 34-0 win over Missouri is a bit misleading. Georgia isn’t that good and Missouri really is that bad.
9. FLORIDA (3-2, 2-2 SEC): The Gators snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against LSU. They could still win the SEC East and go to Atlanta to be a human sacrifice for whatever beast comes out of the SEC West but that might take some help from Arkansas and Auburn and the Gators playing out of their gourds on November 1 in Jacksonville.
10. Kentucky (5-1, 3-1 SEC): The good news: Kentucky only needs one more win to become bowl eligible. The bad news: Kentucky has to travel to LSU and then Mississippi State comes to town. That will still leave three games against the SEC East and Louisville to get the sixth win.
11. TENNESSEE (3-3, 0-2 SEC): The Vols begin their two weeks of hell this Saturday when they travel to Ole Miss. After that they get Alabama. But all is not lost. The season ends with four straight games against the SEC East.
12. MISSOURI (4-2, 1-1 SEC): The first clue that these guys weren’t very good was when they lost to Indiana. The second clue was the way they played for 52 minutes against a bad South Carolina defense. The third and final clue was against Georgia when Maty Mauk made the Georgia secondary look brilliant.
13. SOUTH CAROLINA (3-3, 2-3 SEC): There was good news Saturday night for the Gamecock faithful. The Gamecock defense didn’t blow a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter for a third straight week. That might have something to do with the fact South Carolina had an off week. They should be able to beat Furman this week.
14. Vanderbilt (2-5, 0-4 SEC): They know that it’s possible to win at Vanderbilt. James Franklin proved that by going to three straight bowl games and winning nine in 2013. That seems like so long ago, doesn’t it? Now they have Derek Mason, who is doing a rather strong impersonation of Robbie Caldwell, the guy who inexplicably found himself head coach one morning when Bobby Johnson threw up his hands and decided he could no longer beat his head against the brick wall.
Mississippi State’s 38-23 win over then #2 Auburn vaulted Mississippi State from a third place tie into first place in the Associated Press poll. The Bulldogs were good for two first place votes last week but they got 45 in the latest poll. Florida State went from 35 first place votes to 12 but the Seminoles maintained a 2-point edge over Ole Miss.
(1) Mississippi State; (2) Florida State; (3) Ole Miss; (4) Baylor; (5) Notre Dame; (6) Auburn; (7) Alabama; (8) Michigan State; (9) Oregon; (10) Georgia; (11) Oklahoma; (12) TCU; (13) Ohio State; (14) Kansas State; (15) Oklahoma State; (16) Arizona; (17) Arizona State; (19) East Carolina; (19) Nebraska; (20) Utah; (21) Texas A&M; (22) Southern Cal; (23) Stanford; (24) Clemson; (25) Marshall.
I believe Mississippi State and Ole Miss are the best two teams in the country and that they would beat Florida State home, on the road or on a neutral site. But the Seminoles are the champs and haven’t been beaten, so they are an uneasy #1 in a week that could be their last atop the perch since Notre Dame comes to town Saturday. If the Seminoles don’t lose to Notre Dame, they probably don’t lose again until the national semifinals.
(1) Florida State; (2, Tie) Mississippi State; (2, Tie) Ole Miss; (4) Auburn; (5) Baylor; (6) Alabama; (7) Notre Dame; (8) Oklahoma; (9) Georgia; (10) Oregon; (11) Oklahoma State; (12) TCU; (13) Michigan State; (14) Ohio State; (15) Kansas State; (16) East Carolina; (17) Arizona; (18) Texas A&M; (19) Clemson; (20) Marshall; (21) Southern Cal; (22) Stanford; (23) Arizona State; (24) Utah; (25) LSU
2. Big 12
3. Notre Dame
5. Big Ten
The in crowd:
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: Prescott showed what he’s made of when he shook off two first half interceptions to lead the Bulldogs past Auburn for their third win in three weeks against an opponent ranked in the top ten. Against Auburn he threw for 246 yards and a touchdown and ran for 121 and two more. For the season he has thrown for 1,478 yards and 14 touchdowns, run for 576 yards and eight more.
2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Against Illinois, Gordon ran for 175 yards and four touchdowns, going over the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year. For the season he has 1,046 yards and 13 touchdowns with five games with at least 140 yards.
3. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: Petty led the Bears back from a 58-37 fourth quarter deficit to a 61-58 win that kept Baylor undefeated. Petty was 28-55 for 510 yards and six touchdowns against what was a top ten TCU defense. For the season, Petty has thrown for 1,534 yards and 15 touchdowns while running for three more.
4. Marcus Mariotta, QB, Oregon: Mariotta bounced back from the Arizona loss by accounting for four touchdowns in Oregon’s win over UCLA, throwing for 210 yards and two touchdowns while running for 75 and two more. For the season he has thrown for 1,621 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 290 and five scores.
5. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss: Bo Knows was 13-19 for 178 yards and a TD and ran for 50 more and two scores against the Aggies on the road. For the season he has thrown for 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns and has the Rebels very much in the national championship hunt.
The out crowd:1. Todd Gurley, Georgia (suspended indefinitely); 2. Jameis Winston, Florida State (brain dead); 3. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M; 4. Everett Golson, Notre Dame; 5. Brett Hundley, UCLA.
With six games to go in the regular season, what is a realistic record for the Gators to finish with?
Chester Arthur Burnett left the Mississippi Delta for Memphis to play the blues but it wasn’t until he hit Chicago that he became a household name. If you love the blues, then you know that Burnett went by the nickname given to him by his daddy, Howlin’ Wolf. Burnett learned guitar from the legendary Charlie Patton but it was his vocal style and harmonica which made him famous. Burnett left Memphis in 1952 and headed to Chicago where songs like “Smokestack Lightning” and “Spoonful” became blues classics. Rolling Stone calls Howlin’ Wolf one of the 100 most influential musical artists of all time. Today’s song is a live version of “Dust My Broom” which features guitar legend Hubert Sumlin.TAILGATER Wooden Ice Chest Giveaway