Maybe the theme song for this week should be the old Jerry Butler classic, “Only the Strong Survive.” When Florida tees it up against South Carolina Saturday night at The Swamp we’ll have two teams who are in desperate need of a win and whichever team walks away with the W is going to look at the remaining two games on the schedule with hope while the other will be left to wonder about what might have been.
South Carolina started the season ranked in the top ten. Sporting News even picked the Gamecocks to win the SEC East and gave them a decent chance to score their first even SEC championship. Of course, it’s all gone south since August, starting with that first game disaster against Texas A&M in which South Carolina’s defense was exposed. Even though the Gamecocks have a win over Georgia and an offense that is scoring nearly 36 points a game, they can’t seem to compensate for a defense that has blown two touchdown leads in the fourth quarter of three straight SEC losses.
Still, the Gamecocks are 4-5 and a win over Florida coupled with a non-conference win over Sun Belt Conference South Alabama next week would assure them of at least making a bowl game. That’s not much consolation for a team that began the season with such high hopes, but some consolation is better than none at all.
And, there is the Steve Spurrier factor. This is the place where the Spurrier legend began and because of that, South Carolina might end up playing its best defensive game of the season.
For Florida and Will Muschamp, this game is another rung in the ladder the Gators have been climbing since hitting rock bottom against Missouri. The wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt have given the feeling that the ship is being righted but all that can change if the Gators can’t eradicate South Carolina. A win will make the Gators bowl eligible and likely to head into Tallahassee Thanksgiving weekend with a 7-3 record. Remember, also, that everyone looks at that 7-win total and considers it eight since the Idaho game got postponed. No way the Gators would have lost that one.
A Florida win, especially if it’s of the impressive variety, will almost certainly assure Will Muschamp that he will be gainfully employed as the Gators’ head coach next year. A loss and the speculation that has quieted down considerably the last two weeks will be heard loud and clear once again.
Hope will spring eternally for the team that wins this game Saturday night. For the loser, the season of discontent will continue.
Florida (5-3, 4-3 SEC) over South Carolina (4-5, 2-5 SEC): If you go by what the South Carolina defense has done lately, this is a no brainer pick. If you go by Steve Spurrier’s history of getting his team ready for big games, then it’s very shaky. There is no better way for Spurrier to right his listing ship than to beat the Gators but the way the Gators have played the last two weeks, it’s not wise to pick against them.
#1 Mississippi State (9-0, 5-0 SEC) over #5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC): Conventional wisdom says Alabama is going to do to Mississippi State what it did two years ago when the Bulldogs came to Tuscaloosa 7-0. That was then. This is now. Mississippi State has done whatever it takes to win every time out and the tougher the opponent, the better they have played. You never know which Alabama team shows up so the Tide could either play lights out or go belly up.
#9 Auburn (7-2, 4-2 SEC) over #15 Georgia (7-2, 5-2 SEC): If Georgia wins this game and Missouri loses one of its last three, the Bulldogs go to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. If Auburn wins this one and the Iron Bowl and Alabama and Ole Miss beat Mississippi State, then we could have a Georgia-Auburn rematch for the SEC championship. Georgia couldn’t stop the Florida running game two weeks ago. If the Bulldogs think Florida ran it well wait until they get a load of the Auburn run game.
#17 LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC) over Arkansas (4-5, 0-6 SEC): Every week the question is the same: Is this the week Arkansas finally wins an SEC game? The Hogs haven’t won in league play since 2012. They play everybody tough in Fayetteville, but they also figure out how to lose. LSU hands Arkansas its 19th straight SEC loss this week.
#24 Texas A&M (7-3, 3-3 SEC) over Missouri (7-2, 4-1 SEC): The Aggies are working their way back to respectability after that three-game losing streak. They can’t win the SEC championship this year but they can do their part to make sure Missouri doesn’t. If Georgia loses to Auburn, Missouri loses this one and next week to Tennessee and Florida beats South Carolina, the Gators are going to Atlanta.
Tennessee (4-5, 1-4 SEC) over Kentucky (5-5, 2-5 SEC): Butch Jones needs to ask his assistants to kick him in the butt multiple times for playing Justin Worley at quarterback the first seven games while keeping Josh Dobbs on the bench. All Dobbs has done in the last two games is throw for 493 yards and four touchdowns and rush for 241 and three more. The Vols need two more wins to go to a bowl. They get one of them this week.
June Jones, SMU: June is working on a movie about himself (it’s called “Born in June) back in Hawaii. Having him on Oahu will save the school the cost of flying out a coaching candidate when they fire Norm Chow.
Charlie Weis, Kansas: If Josh McDaniels gets another head coaching gig, which is entirely possible the way the Patriots are putting points on the board this year, Bill Bellichick will need a new offensive coordinator. Charlie is available and is sure to remind Bells he hasn’t won a Super Bowl ring since he left back in 2005.
Larry Blakeney, Troy: Blakeney will remain with Troy University as a consultant. They need to name the stadium after him. It’s ending badly for Blakeney but there is no disputing his accomplishments.
Jeff Quinn, Buffalo: You can bet the ranch that Quinn will be coaching next year at for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame or Butch Jones at Tennessee. After five years in Buffalo, South Bend and Knoxville will seem like a resort and he’ll probably make more money as an assistant for either of his former bosses than he made as Buffalo’s head coach.
Norm Chow, Hawaii: Simply throwing a virgin into the volcano won’t stop the lava flowing and frying everything in its path on the Big Island. A virgin AND firing Norm Chow might do it, however. At least that’s what the folks who regularly talk to Pele, the goddess of fire are saying and they’re sticking with their story.
Brady Hoke, Michigan: Did Brady Hoke get a mulligan from the Michigan president? They’re asking that question in Ann Arbor after the president spouted off about the poor academics on the football team only to discover that all 69 of Hoke’s seniors have graduated and the school has an exemplary 975 APR, highest in school history. There are concerns among the Fire Hoke folks that Mark Schlissel might have shamed himself into keeping Hoke another year.
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: The Blank had one foot out the door last week when SMU led the Golden Hurricane 13-7 after one quarter, the most points the Mustangs have scored in the first quarter all season. Tulsa rallied but all that did was save the school from firing Blankenship and playing the last three games with an interim. He won’t last past Thanksgiving weekend.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: The Cyclones lost to Kansas last week. That’s not the worst thing in the world that could happen but it makes the short list. Rhoads needs to spiff up the resume to remind potential employers that he was once a fine defensive coordinator.
Paul Petrino, Idaho: It will be a cozy 72 degrees in the Kibbie Dome Saturday night, which is good since it’s going to be about 20 at 5 p.m. when the game begins. A warm Kibbie Dome is a rocking Kibbie Dome and that means all 14,000 fans will have a chance to watch the Vandals (1-8) have a chance to double their win total against Troy. This is as dead end a job as it gets. Paul Petrino deserves better.
Bobby Hauck, UNLV: The bad news is the wind chill factor at game time Saturday in Provo will be 22 degrees. The good news is it probably won’t snow. When you’re UNLV and you go on the road to BYU you look for small victories wherever you can get them because you won’t get one on the scoreboard. Hauck moves to the Dead Man Walking List after this one.
Ron Turner, Florida International: The Golden Panthers have won only three games this year even though they’ve played seven of their ten games at home. Making matters worse is they’re averaging fewer than 14,000 fans a game. Turner is a bad coach and this is a bad program.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana: What saved Wilson’s job last year was the offense was exciting and the Hoosiers at least scored points even though they lost. This year’s offense is dull, they aren’t scoring points (just 34 combined in the last three games) and they’re losing. If the Hoosiers lose this week to Rutgers Wilson will go to Dead Man Walking.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue: It’s going to snow Saturday when Northwestern comes to town. The folks who elect to stay home will not only avoid the possibility of frostbite but they will also avoid watching one of the worst games of the year played in abysmal conditions. Hazell might get a fourth win, which is a 400% improvement over last year but it won’t make his hot seat any cooler.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: This is the kind of year it is for Davie and the Lobos. Last week New Mexico ran for 505 yards against Boise State. And lost. By 11 points. This week the Lobos travel to Utah State and next week they go to Colorado State, not exactly the kind of schedule you need when you’re trying to remain gainfully employed.
Tim Beckman, Illinois: It is entirely possible that Beckman is going to dodge the bullet. If he wins two out of three to finish the season, which is entirely possible with Iowa and Penn State at home and Northwestern on the road, Beckman and the Illini might get to spend a glorious week in Detroit as the host team of the Quick Lane Bowl.
Will Muschamp, Florida: Muschamp’s life on the edge tour continues this week against South Carolina, a very winnable or losable game, depending on your perspective. Win and the buzzards on Gale Lemerand Drive will scatter for at least one more year. Lose and they’ll be flying in reinforcements.
Randy Edsall, Maryland: Edsall is still getting heat from two weeks ago when his team refused to shake hands at Penn State. The Terps are going to get hosed this weekend when they play Michigan State in East Lansing without their best player, Stefon Diggs. The Terps are going to a bowl this year no matter what happens against Michigan State, but it doesn’t mean the folks actually like Edsall.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska: The love-hate relationship will be put to the test this week when the Huskers go to Wisconsin. Win and they’re a step closer to the Big Ten Championship Game. Lose and someone will have a for sale sign in Bo’s front yard before the team charter gets back from Madison.
Al Golden, Miami: Even if Al beats the Seminoles this weekend, he won’t be the toast of the town, but at least they won’t talk about firing him again until next year. It’s all talk, though, whether it’s this year or next. Donna Shalayla isn’t going to fire him and the boosters are too tight to pony up the bucks to buy him out.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: The Hokies are terrible and Frank is 68 years old. A good many of the Hokie faithful seem to think Frank’s sell-by date expired about two years ago. They aren’t going to fire him, but they might encourage Frank to “resign.”
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: Iowa is bowl eligible but the Hawkeyes are almost always bowl eligible. They just aren’t very good. Based on the way they got hosed by Minnesota last week (51-14), Hawkeye fans are thinking another 6-6 season isn’t out of the question. At a lot of places that would get you fired, except at Iowa they have to pay Ferentz $2 million a year until 2020 if they can him.
One of the best bands at this weekend’s Bear Creek Music Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park outside Live Oak is Austin, Texas-based Mingo Fishtrap, which features a unique father-son combo of Roger Blevins Jr. on guitar and lead vocals and dad Roger Sr. on bass. The band has a fine horn section to back up a nice array of original soul and funk selections. The band has been around for 15 years and has produced six albums but their live performances are far better than their extremely good studio work. Today’s song is “On Time,” the lead track from the 2014 album of the same name. Saturday night they will be playing The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton and Sunday at the Dunedin Brewery. They’re well worth the price of admission.