Farewells will be bid at The Swamp Saturday. It’s Senior Day, so it’s the last home game for kids who have given their hearts and souls to the Florida football program. It’s also farewell for Will Muschamp, the last game he will pace the sidelines as Florida’s head football coach.
Both the seniors and Muschamp deserve a great sendoff. The seniors may not have won the championships they dreamed of winning when they signed with the Gators, but they’ve stuck it out through good times and bad and nearly every one of them is either honing in on a degree from UF or already in grad school. When you play football at UF you’re working a full-time job so the kids should be praised and given a great sendoff because that Florida diploma is a ticket to a better future.
Muschamp didn’t win the way he was expected to win so he won’t be the head coach at Florida after November 29, but he deserves the warmest possible sendoff Saturday, too. He has indeed turned the UF locker room into a better place than the one he inherited and he’s graduated his players. The team GPA is excellent and each year he’s been in Gainesville the number of arrests and off the field incidents dropped significantly. As one very prominent Gator booster who’s been around a long, long time told me: “Character really does count and we haven’t had a head football coach with the kind of character Will Muschamp has.”
That should count for something.
Saturday’s opponent is Eastern Kentucky, a D1AA power that is capable of knocking off a Division I team but not exactly the kind of marquee name that will have the Swamp filled and rocking. Unfortunately, unless there is a sudden surge of ticket sales between now and Saturday noon, there will be a lot of empty seats and it’s a shame. The seniors and Will Muschamp deserve better. Maybe they haven’t won as many games as we would have liked, but it’s not for lack of character or effort.
After my flirtation with the first reverse run of the table in more than 40 years of prognosticating (that’s pick’em for any graduates of a certain school out west and one in the high hills of a certain northern border state), a get well week is just what the doctor ordered. There is a reason why high powered Division I schools schedule a paycheck game late in the season. If you’re 5-5 and need one more win to become bowl eligible, there’s nothing like a visit from Tennessee Tech or VMI to spruce up the record and provide that elusive sixth win. This week four SEC teams play teams from D1AA.Last week: 1-6
Florida (5-4, 4-4 SEC) over Eastern Kentucky (9-2): The last D1AA team the Gators faced beat them. That won’t happen this year. The seniors will win this one for the coach and then ride him around the field on their shoulders.
#1 Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC) over Western Carolina (7-4): This will be over before the end of the first quarter. Jacob Coker will spend three quarters showing the Bama faithful what kind of quarterback they’ll have next year.
#4 Mississippi State (9-1, 5-1 SEC) over Vanderbilt (3-7, 0-6 SEC): The perfect season bubble has burst but the Bulldogs could still win the SEC if they win the next two and Bama figures out a way to lose to Auburn.
#8 Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2 SEC) over Arkansas (5-5, 1-5 SEC): This is the worst nightmare for Ole Miss – facing a grind it out team that brings out the worst in everybody the week before the Egg Bowl. Ole Miss should win it but the Hogs are going to get their pound of flesh.
#10 Georgia (8-2, 6-2 SEC) over Charleston Southern (8-3): Why did Mark Richt have Todd Gurley running the ball in last week’s win over Auburn with a 27-point lead and five minutes left in the game? If Richt has Nick Chubb in this one beyond the first quarter he should have his head examined.
#14 Auburn (7-3, 4-3 SEC) over Samford (7-3): After two straight losses that have taken the Tigers out of contention for both the SEC and the college football playoff, there will be hell to pay on Senior Day at Auburn Saturday.
Tennessee (5-5, 2-4 SEC) over #20 Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC): Missouri’s worst nightmare is a Tennessee team that suddenly believes in itself. The Tigers can lose this one and hand Georgia the SEC East title Saturday.
South Carolina (5-5, 3-5 SEC) over South Alabama (6-4): On paper the Gamecocks should win this one in a blowout and they might. But, they haven’t been able to put two good games in a row together this year so the expectation is white knuckles at Williams-Brice.
POTENTIAL FLORIDA HEAD COACH PROFILE: Brian KellyAge: 53
College: Linebacker at Assumption, 1979-82
Assistant under: Tom Beck at Grand Valley State
Head coach at: Grand Valley State (118-35-2); Central Michigan (19-16); Cincinnati (34-6); Notre Dame (44-18)
Notre Dame salary: $4 million
Contract runs through: 2017
Buyout: Estimated at $5 million
Why he would stay at Notre Dame: Love them or hate them, the Domers are relevant. Maybe they aren’t the king of the college football hill as they once were, but they’re still breathing rarified air. Every home game is televised on NBC and all the networks scramble to get ND on TV when they’re playing away from South Bend. Because it’s Notre Dame, he can get in the front door of practically any kid in all 50 states.
Why he would leave Notre Dame: Life in South Bend is like living in a fishbowl and if you think expectations are Florida are through the roof, they can’t compare to those at Notre Dame where they still think any season without a national championship is a disappointment even though they haven’t won one in 25 years. The weather is better in Florida. There is more speed to be recruited. Florida gets kids in school that Kelly could never get into Notre Dame. His agent is former Gator Trace Armstrong and there is a connection with Jeremy Foley.
The stats tell the story: Kelly was a head coach at the age of 30 at Grand Valley State where he won back-to-back Division II national championships (2002-03). He was 40-3 his last three years at the school. He was 34-6 at Cincinnati winning 10, 11 and 12 games in his last three years. In his third year at Notre Dame the Irish went unbeaten (12-0) in the regular season and played Alabama for the national championship. Four of his five Notre Dame offenses have averaged more than 400 yards per game.
June Jones, SMU: If Hawaii isn’t smart enough to ditch Norm Chow and then promise to carpet the coaches’ offices and make sure the showers work in an attempt to lure June Jones back, then they ought to drop football altogether. June is the only one capable of saving the program.
Larry Blakeney, Troy: The Trojans have a week off to prepare for the sendoff soiree for Blakeney on November 29. He’ll take a two-game winning streak into the game with Louisiana-Lafayette. If he could find a way to make it three in a row it would be a great way to call it a career.
Jeff Quinn, Buffalo: Jeff Quinn must be giggling about now. He was fired with a 3-3 record. Since then, the Bulls are 1-3. Their game with Kent State, which was scheduled for Wednesday night, was postponed because of snow, which means the 4-6 Bulls lose any shot they might have had at bowl eligibility.
Will Muschamp, Florida: Now that the pressure is off and Muschamp is a goner, will he suddenly shed his conservative offensive ways to impress whoever might be considering hiring him once he’s a free agent on November 30?
Norm Chow, Hawaii: Hawaii actually won a football game last weekend, which had locals wondering if a virgin had leaped into Kilauea and temporarily satisfied the angry goddess who inhabits the volcano. Winning last week won’t save Norm’s job but it puts San Jose State coach Ron Caragher on the Irregular Heartbeat list.
Brady Hoke, Michigan: A win over Maryland Saturday and the Wolverines are bowl eligible. That won’t save Hoke’s job. The only thing that could possibly keep him coaching in Ann Arbor another year would be to beat Ohio State on November 29 and torpedo the Buckeyes chances of getting into the national championship playoff. Short of beating Ohio State, Brady’s a goner.
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: The Blankster did rather well when he had someone else’s talent to coach. Since he started coaching his own guys, he’s 5-17. If he coaches his own guys next year it will be at a high school in the Tulsa area where he’s somewhat of a legend.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: Memo to Paul Rhoads. If you ever get another head coaching job, try to be sure you’re not coaching at a graveyard. The only question remaining is can he get a third win this season over Texas Tech this week to avoid getting fired before the season comes to an end.
Tim Beckman, Illinois: Beckman has a chance to save his own skin. All he has to do is beat Penn State and Northwestern in his last two games and he’ll get the Illini to 6-6 and earn a trip to some exotic place like Shreveport or Birmingham, where if you lose the bowl game you are required to stay an extra week.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana: When you’ve lost five in a row and your job is hanging by the flimsiest of threads, the last thing you want to do is face Urban Meyer and Ohio State, who will be looking to run up the score to impress the playoff committee to move them into the top four. If Bob Stoops can be lured to Florida, maybe Wilson can be convinced to come join his old boss as the OC. They made dandy offensive music back in the day.
Paul Petrino, Idaho: Since Idaho really can’t afford to pay its players a stipend like the big schools are about to do, Paul Petrino should try offering his players frequent flyer miles. They’re going to pick up 5,000 this weekend when they fly from nearby Spokane, Washington to Asheville, where they’ll bus up to Boone to take their beating like men at the hands of Appalachian State. Petrino will be able to point to the fact that he avoided back-to-back 11-loss seasons. Of course, the postponement of the Florida game back in August might have something to do with that.
Ron Turner, Florida International: The season – and quite possibly the very unremarkable tenure of Ron Turner – comes to a merciful end Saturday. If he wins he will buy one more year of mediocrity for a program (and an idiot athletic director named Pete Garcia) who should have never fired Mario Cristobal. If Turner loses, then maybe Garcia will have a lucid moment and put him out of his misery.
Trent Miles, Georgia State: They thought they had it bad when Bill Curry was the coach. Well, they’d gladly trade Dollar Bill for Trent Miles about now. The Panthers are 1-21 under his direction. With all the talent in the Atlanta area how can you (a) play in the Sun Belt Conference and (b) lose 21 out of 22 games?
Darrell Hazell, Purdue: A 4-18 record hasn’t exactly warmed the heart of the Purdon’t faithful. He’s on shaky ground but a win over either Northwestern or Indiana in the last two games would buy one more year.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: Nobody expects the Lobos to beat Colorado State this week. That’s a pipe dream. But, the last game with Wyoming is VERY winnable. There is a really good chance Bob’s back next year if the Lobos split the last two games on the schedule and finish 4-8.
Mike London, Virginia: Here’s the deal. Miami and Virginia Tech remain on the schedule Win the last two and he’s coaching next year to the groans of the alumni. If he loses one or both, then he’s as good as gone. Even with the big buyout, they’ve just about had enough in Charlottesville and another season without a bowl would do it.
Randy Edsall, Maryland: They aren’t going to fire Randy Edsall at Maryland – at least this year – but someone needs to send him to a self help course. Maybe he could reinvent himself and people would actually like him.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska: Bo and the Huskers didn’t just lose to Wisconsin, they were obliterated. If the Huskers follow up last week’s disaster with a loss this week to Minnesota, Bo is going to shoot right up to the On Life Support list.
Al Golden, Miami: When Al had the Hurricanes attacking on offense, they had Florida State on the ropes. When he thought he could let the air out of the ball and cruise to an upset win, it let the Seminoles back in the game. Miami fans could have dealt with a blowout loss easier than the way this one was lost. Al’s not a popular guy in Miami but he’s not going anywhere.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: The folks in Blacksburg really think Frank ought to retire, but he’s got two winnable games that will probably get him to a bowl game. We’ll be having these same discussions next year. Count on it.
Willie Taggart, USF: The Bulls (4-6) have doubled last year’s win total but they needed a touchdown pass with four seconds left and the extra point to beat lowly SMU last week. Folks are starting to ask if maybe Taggart is in over his head, particularly with two almost certain losses remaining on the schedule.
Ron Caragher, San Jose State: When you not only lose to Hawaii but get shut out along the way, you might want to scrap plans to build the big house and take on the big mortgage.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: It would be a shock if the fine folks in Lubbuck send Cliffy packing, but he’s definitely on notice for next season. The people who write the checks are asking why is Mike Leach coaching in Pullman, Washington?
What is your estimate for the crowd at The Swamp Saturday: above or below 80,000?
Blues Traveler has never lost that ability to play and sound like a good bar band. Their shows are spontaneous and fun, and if you ever catch them in a smaller, more intimate setting, the show often turns into audience request time, which means the joint becomes a sing-along. They’ve done 13 albums since 1990. My favorite is “Four” which features the best two singles they ever released, “Run Around” which made it to #8 on the Billboard singles chart and “Hook” which made it to #23.