To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Reports of Will Muschamp’s demise are greatly exaggerated.”
Just when everybody and his brother had written Muschamp off, he pulled off one of the more stunning victories in the last thirty years of Florida football. Even though Georgia was heavily favored, just beating the Bulldogs wouldn’t have rated more than a couple of blips on the surprise radar. Far too many strange things have happened over the years in Jacksonville for an underdog scoring a win to count as anything more than a surprise.
Just beating Georgia wasn’t the mind blower. It was the way the Gators did it. Florida went from looking like a bad Division IAA team the way they lost to Missouri to looking like a team capable of beating anyone in the country the way they dominated Georgia by pounding the ball on the ground for 418 yards. It’s not like there was any deception in what Florida was doing, either. The Gators did everything but line up and have Treon Harris shout across the line, “Okay, we’re running that power play off the right side with (fill in the blank: Matt Jones or Kelvin Taylor). See if you can stop us.”
Georgia knew exactly what was coming yet didn’t have a clue.
This was like 1984 all over again when the Great Wall of Florida just lined up every play and beat opponents unmercifully while Kerwin Bell handed off to Neal Anderson, John L. Williams and Lorenzo Hampton. Everybody knew what was coming. Nobody could stop it.
It was that way against Georgia.
And it begs the question: Is this the Florida team we can expect the rest of the way or was this a one-shot deal?
If it’s the Florida team we can expect the rest of the season then Will Muschamp will be able to say he was standing against the wall blindfolded, having taken the last puff off the last cigarette when all 12 guys in the firing squad pulled the trigger and missed. Yes, it was that close for Muschamp. If Georgia had done what Georgia thought it was going to do, then he would be discussing contracts to sell his home with his real estate agent this week instead of prepping the Gators to travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt.
Florida played like the Florida team that a lot of experts thought could win the SEC East this year. That wasn’t a team struggling to swim to shore while the captain went down with the ship. That was a team focused and well-prepared in every phase of the game to dominate. Maybe it was the thought that Muschamp could lose his job if they were no shows that did it. Or maybe it was simply everything finally fell into place in the same game.
Whatever it was, it worked and whatever it was, if that’s the way Florida is going to play the rest of the way, then there is still plenty to salvage of a season that everyone had already written off on October 31. If it is a one-shot deal and the Gators revert back to the team we saw against Missouri, then the buzzards will once again start circling on Gale Lemerand Drive.
Muschamp can’t survive another Missouri and he knows it. But if the Gators build on the Georgia game and suddenly become the team that everyone was expecting when the season began, then he will have indeed survived his own execution.
If the Gators can put it together like they did against Georgia these next three games, then maybe – just maybe – we can say that the corner has been turned on the Will Muschamp era at the University of Florida. If the Gators dominate this next game and the two after that and go into Doak Campbell Stadium 7-3, then yes, reports of Will Muschamp’s demise will have been greatly exaggerated.
It all starts Saturday at Vanderbilt.
Florida (4-3, 3-3 SEC) over Vanderbilt (3-6, 0-5 SEC): Whether the Gators run it 60 times or actually open things up on offense for Treon Harris, they should win this game decisively. Last week the Gators took two steps forward. Every week the Commodores take the field it’s two steps backward.
#1 Mississippi State (8-0, 5-0 SEC): over UT-Martin (5-5): This is manna from heaven for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs can send out Dak Prescott for a couple of series, then rest his tender ankle the rest of the way. It won’t do any good for Prescott’s Heisman hopes but it might do wonders for MSU’s national championship hopes with roadies to Alabama and Ole Miss still on the schedule.
#3 Auburn (7-1, 4-1 SEC) over Texas A&M (6-3, 2-3 SEC): Remember when everybody was penciling in the Aggies for the College Football Playoff? Now the Aggies are getting penciled in as the host team at the Weedwacker Bowl. If Auburn shows up focused, this will be over early.
#5 Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) over #16 LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC): This is a which team shows up kind of game. Does the Alabama team that blew out Texas A&M show up or the one that should have lost on the road at Arkansas? Does the LSU team that whacked Ole Miss show up or the one that got hammered by Auburn? If Bama doesn’t bring it’s A Game this could be a stunner.
#11 Ole Miss (7-2, 4-1 SEC) over Presbyterian (5-4): This will be over in a hurry but it’s not going to take any of the sting away from losing to LSU and Auburn by a combined seven points.
#20 Georgia (6-2, 4-2 SEC) over Kentucky (5-4, 2-4 SEC): This could get really interesting if Georgia is still asking out loud how is it Florida ran the same play 40 times last week and we never figured out what they’re doing? Kentucky is road kill but this is in Lexington where the Mildcats actually play like Wildcats.
June Jones, SMU: The Ponies rank dead last in the country in points for and points against. They are 0-5 since June was coerced into resigning. If SMU beats anyone in these last five games, the coach of the losing team probably will lose his job. Bad doesn’t even come close to describing how rotten this team is. There are high school teams in Texas that could hang with the Ponies.
Larry Blakeney, Troy: Blakeney will retire at the end of the year. The Trojans are 1-8 so far but the next two games are winnable.
Jeff Quinn, Buffalo: Buffalo was 3-3 when Quinn was fired. The Bulls are 0-3 since.
Norm Chow, Hawaii: Back when he called the plays for Jim McMahon and Robbie Bosco at BYU, everybody thought Norm was an offensive genius, which only goes to show there is something to The Peter Principle because he’s clearly over his head as a head coach. Hawaii is now out of bowl contention. Not that they ever were actually in contention but it’s official now that they’ve lost seven games. Firing day is when not if.
Brady Hoke, Michigan: The Wolverines are on a one-win hot streak and that could actually expand to two this week since nose diving Northwestern is next on the agenda. Win or lose, Hoke won’t be coaching Michigan next year. Even though Jim Harbaugh still has an NFL job, the booster campaign to bring him home to Ann Arbor is already in full swing.
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: Tulsa will look like a world beater this weekend. That’s because the Golden Hurricane is playing SMU, which is 0-7 and hasn’t held a team below 40 points all season. This is good news for Blankenship, who has lost seven in a row by a combined 144 points. If Tulsa figures out a way to lose this one then Blankenship will probably make the Extinct Species List sooner and not later.
Paul Petrino, Idaho: The Vandals aren’t bad offensively. If they only had to play offense, Paul Petrino’s job wouldn’t be in jeopardy. Unfortunately, they have to defend and that’s a serious problem. Idaho gives up 37 points a game and that would be even worse had the Florida game not been rained out.
Bobby Hauck, UNLV: Bad went to worse last week when the Rebels took it on the chin against New Mexico. They’re 2-7 right now with four games to go, three of which are extremely losable. If the Rebels lose to Hawaii, then Hauck might not get to coach the final game of the season. He’s actually a good coach, but he’s coaching in a graveyard.
Ron Turner, Florida International: The Golden Panthers have lost their last three, they’re 3-6 on the season and they rank #118 in scoring defense. With three games to go this is a bad season that will get worse. FIU needs a housecleaning starting at the top with athletic director Pete Garcia, who has (a) hired Isaiah Thomas as the basketball coach, (b) fired Mario Cristobal as the football coach and (c) hired Ron Turner as the football coach. Dumb, dumber and dumbest.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: When your defense is giving up 38.3 points a game there’s nothing like a game with Kansas to make you forget your troubles temporarily. You could give the Jayhawks eight cracks at first and goal from the one and they’d be hard pressed to get the ball into the end zone. Beating Kansas won’t help the cause. Rhoads has goner written all over him.
Tim Beckman, Illinois: Ohio State hardly broke a sweat in pasting the Illini, 55-14 last week. Beckman’s background is defense but the Illini are 113th nationally stopping the other team from scoring and they’ve given up at least 34 points in six of their nine games. Beckman has to get to five wins to remain gainfully employed. There’s a potential win in the last game of the season at Northwestern but that’s about the only promising game left on the schedule.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue: Hazell probably gets another year at Pur-Don’t but he didn’t exactly help his cause last week when Nebraska blew his doors off even without Ameer Abdullah, who hurt his knee early in the first quarter. The Hoosiers are 3-6 and it’s going to be hard to do better than 4-8. That’s improvement over last year, but is it enough?
Bob Davie, New Mexico: Last week was the big showdown with UNLV. Davie walked away with a 31-28 win that doesn’t save his job – the Lobos are only 3-5 with three very losable games ahead of them in the next three weeks – but it does take the pressure off for at least one more week. No matter what, New Mexico is still in better shape now than when Mike Locksley was doing his best to run the program into the ground.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana: Wilson missed a golden opportunity to make a case that he should get another year on the job last week when the Hoosiers got blown out by Michigan at The Big House. It’s the same old story for Indiana – can’t stop anybody – and that’s why things are not looking good for Wilson to be gainfully employed at IU next year.
Will Muschamp, Florida: A funny thing happened on the way to the Extinct Species List. The Gators blew the doors off Georgia which raises the question: Are the Gators are a late bloomer ready to make a late season run or is Georgia about as over-rated as it gets? The next three games are very winnable – at Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Eastern Kentucky – so it might be very hard for Muschamp to lose his job. If he goes into the FSU game 7-3, you can almost count on him being back next year.
Randy Edsall, Maryland: Did you watch last week when Maryland’s players refused to shake hands with Penn State? Edsall can apologize until his face turns blue but it was a low class showing by a coach who the folks in College Park would gladly jettison if they could only afford to buy out the contract.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska: The Huskers are 8-1 and are favored to win the Big Ten West. Instead of talking about the eight wins, Husker fans dwell on the one loss. If anyone offers Bo a job that pays as well as what he makes in Lincoln, he would bolt in a heart beat.
Al Golden, Miami: He’s not going to lose his job this year even though Hurricane fans would be happy if he left on his own. His season will be measured by what he does next week when Florida State comes to town. If Al wins that one, he might get back in the good graces of Cane fans who don’t seem to understand it’s been 13 years since they were any good.
Which game could produce the big upset: Alabama at LSU or Georgia at Kentucky?
One of my favorite new groups is Chicago-based The Main Squeeze, which will be appearing next weekend at the Bear Creek Music Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park outside of Live Oak along with Mingo Fishtrap, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Nth Power and others. Today’s song is their recently released single, “Message to the Lonely.” These guys put on a great show and are going to be around for a long, long time.