It was the French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr who coined the expression “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” You know it better as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” He could have been writing about the Florida offense in 2014 except he wrote it in 1849, a good 57 years before the Gators fielded their first football team.
It is 2014 and it’s hard to tell much difference in Florida’s offense this year than what we’ve seen the past three. It’s dull. It’s unimaginative and most importantly, unproductive.
With all due respect to Abraham Lincoln, we could describe it this way: Three offensive coordinators and three offensive line coaches ago, our football coach brought forth on the hallowed ground of The Swamp a new offense, conceived in simplicity and dedicated to the proposition that whatever you do, don’t lose the damn football game.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way, at least this year. Back in August this was called the most talented offense of the Will Muschamp era at the University of Florida yet here it is in late October, the week of the Georgia game, and it’s simply more of the same things we’ve seen for much of the last 44 games.
The numbers really don’t lie. In Florida’s first two games of the 2014 season, the Gators gained 1,187 yards – 496 on the ground and 691 through the air, an average of just under 591 yards per game. The Gators scored 101 points, an average of 50.5 even though 16 of the points in game two against Kentucky came in three overtime periods. In the four games since, the Gators have gained only 1,021 yards, an average of 255.25 yards per game and have scored only 71 points, just six more than they scored in the season opener against Eastern Kentucky. The Gators have gained more than 300 just once (306 vs. LSU) and they have managed only five more first downs (32) than they had in games one and two combined. The Gators turned the ball over only once in the first two games but they’ve lost the ball 15 times in the four games since including six in the 42-13 loss to Missouri.
“It’s been disappointing coming out of training camp and thinking about where we were and where I thought we were,” Muschamp said Monday at his weekly press conference. “For whatever reason, from a confidence standpoint, lack of production has been there.”
“From a confidence standpoint” … whose confidence? If productivity is tied to confidence, then the confidence has to start with the head football coach turning the offense totally over to Kurt Roper and saying, “It’s your baby. I’ll take care of the defense; you take care of the offense and let’s go win a football game.”
If the Gators are to send a confident offensive unit onto the field against Georgia, then Muschamp has to lead from the top and show the guys who play on that side of the ball that he’s willing to sink or swim with Roper.
Right now, that seems to be Florida’s only chance to beat Georgia Saturday.
While it has to be tough on any dad, particularly one in such a high profile position, to explain to a 9-year-old why the folks in a stadium can be so mean and cruel, Muschamp knew exactly what he was getting into when he signed on the dotted line to become the football coach at the University of Florida. As the head football coach, he is paid $3 million a year to be a lightning rod for both the praise and the criticism. That’s more money than any three average citizens of Alachua County will make in a lifetime and while money can’t buy you love, it certainly buys you the criticism that comes with the big bucks, high profile and the championship expectations of Florida fans accustomed to competing for Southeastern Conference championships. Barring a miracle of feeding the 5,000 proportions, Muschamp and the Gators will avoid Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game for the fourth consecutive year of his UF coaching career.
Fair or not, the Florida job is always going to generate more than its share of criticism. There is no immunity, not even for the coaches who won national championships. Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer combined to win 187 games, three national championships and eight SEC titles in their 18 years on the job but that didn’t stop fans from getting on their case. Even when the Gators were winning big, the fans wanted more. It was that way when Spurrier and Meyer were winning big and it’s that way now when Muschamp is 25-19 and struggling to avoid a second straight losing season.
Muschamp may not deserve the amount of criticism that he’s had to endure, but he is compensated quite well to handle it and if fired, he would still walk away with an additional $6 million padding his bank account. Fans and boosters alike see those numbers and see no reason to bite their tongues. The criticism comes with the salary.
When Treon Harris was accused of sexual battery, the University of Florida suspended him immediately, causing him to sit out a football game (LSU) that he might have impacted in a positive way. Harris was never arrested and never charged with a crime. When his accuser withdrew her complaint, he was reinstated to the Florida football team. How Florida handled it is text book for doing it the right way.
Contrast that to Florida State’s handling of sexual battery allegations against running back Karlos Williams. The Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) has turned over allegations of sexual battery against Williams to its Criminal Investigation Division (CID), claiming it received the case Saturday night and turned it over immediately to the CID. This is the same Karlos Williams who failed to show up to an interview with the TPD for questioning about his possible involvement with a robbery and shooting of an FSU student back in June. As of Monday, Williams was still practicing with the team and there are no plans to suspend him.
Back on Friday, a Jacksonville radio station stated that Williams would be suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules and that evoked this response from head coach Jimbo Fisher:
“It’s funny. That guy [Williams] who’s a tremendous kid, a tremendous ambassador, I don’t even know where that [suspension report’ would come from. It kind of caught me off guard like, ‘Whoa! Karlos has been wonderful.”
Wonderful? Maybe on the football field.
It’s the kind of response we’ve come to expect from Jimbo Fisher. The fact that Williams practiced Monday tells you everything you need to know about Fisher and FSU. Sexual assault? Sexual battery? Stonewalling an investigation into a robbery in which a student was shot? No problem. That’s just business at usual at FSU, which is starting to make the Miami Hurricanes of the 1980s look like a troop of Boy Scouts.
The first poll by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee comes out today and while there is still an entire month to be played that could scramble the won-lost standings, we will at least get an idea of how they look at strength of schedule. Specifically, how will the committee view the strength of the SEC schedule against the relative weakness of the non-conference schedules of Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss? Since they all play in the SEC West, once the non-conference schedules are done, it’s like a demolition derby as they beat each other up.
It’s entirely possible that all four could finish the season with two SEC losses and it’s also possible that the SEC West could produce either an unbeaten and a one-loss team or two one-loss teams. We know for sure that whoever emerges as the SEC champ will make the playoff just as we know that FSU will make it if the Seminoles finish the regular season unbeaten with a 29-game winning streak.
But this is where it will get tricky. While there might not be a single team in the country capable of beating the top four teams from the SEC West, we know the league will be lucky to get more than one team in the playoff. If FSU runs the table and finishes the regular season with a 29-game winning streak, figure the Seminoles are as good as in, too. That would be two Deep South teams making the final four. Would the committee allow a second SEC team and therefore a third team from the Deep South at the expense of adding a one-loss Oregon from the Far West and either a one-loss Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State or TCU from the Midwest?
If they base it on strength of schedule, the SEC should get at least two in. If they base it on television ratings, then SEC champ will be the only representative in the final four.
Do you think there is a chance the SEC will get more than one team into college football’s final four or will television ratings demand the committee take a more national stance?
If ever someone was born to sing the blues it was Jim Morrison, whose life came to an end far too early in 1971, allegedly of a heroin overdose in Paris. Morrison was born in Melbourne, went to St. Petersburg Junior College and spent a couple of years at FSU before moving to California where he graduated from the UCLA film school and discovered LSD. Morrison founded The Doors in 1965 but it wasn’t until 1967 that they hit the big time, first with “Break on Through to the Other Side” and then with “Light My Fire” which hit number one on the US and international charts. The Doors’ fifth album was “Morrison Hotel” which was a step back to the band’s blues roots. Today’s music is “Roadhouse Blues,” the first track on that album.