It seems only fitting that Will Muschamp’s final game as the Florida head coach is in Tallahassee against Florida State. If you’ve got to go, then why not go out in a blaze of glory? Could there be a better scenario for Muschamp than this one? He doesn’t know what his future holds – whether he’s going to be a head coach again or just someone’s high paid defensive coordinator – but he can certainly make a case for himself by knocking the Seminoles off their unbeaten, 27-wins in a row pedestal.
Think of it this way. Florida State has become the Darth Vader of college athletics. Is there a more reviled team in all of college sports than the Seminoles and is there an athlete you’d love to see go down in an embarrassing ball of flames more than Jameis Winston? Are you sick to the point of blowing chunks every time you hear Jimbo Fisher talk about the “high character” of this FSU team?
And then there is Will Muschamp. Okay, so he hasn’t won enough games and so he’s not going to be Florida’s head coach next year. His players absolutely adore him. He is a good guy. He’s got all the character that Jameis and Jimbo lack. And somehow you know in your heart of hearts that someday he will get another chance to be a head coach and he’ll make the best of it. Knowing what you know of Will, you know darn good and well that he would have run Jameis Winston all the way back to Hueytown, Alabama long before there was the alleged rape and you know he wouldn’t be babbling on and on about how Jameis is a great kid, just a teensy bit on the misunderstood side.
While FSU is Darth Vader, the football team that everyone in America except diehard Seminole fans hates with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns, for at least the next few days Muschamp is going to be viewed as a hybrid of Luke Skywalker or Captain America. In these last seven or eight days, Will has softened the hearts of so many of the same fans who chanted “Fire Muschamp!” just a month ago. Those same fans who wanted him gone now want him to do what the last 27 coaches haven’t been able to do and that’s vanquish the Seminoles.
In so many ways, Saturday’s Florida-FSU game is similar to 2004 when Ron Zook coached the Gators to a 20-13 upset of the Seminoles on the night they dedicated Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium. The luster was gone from Bowden’s coaching star and the FSU football program was seen as a hoarder of future felons and wayward delinquents. In the few weeks since his firing, Zook was viewed with a real measure of sympathy by the same folks that wanted him gone a month earlier. Everybody knew Zooker was a good guy and everyone hoped he could leave the Florida program with his head held high.
But no one expected him to knock off the Seminoles, just as no one expects Will Muschamp to do it next Saturday but just as Zooker sprung the upset 10 years ago, Muschamp and the Gators are more than capable of putting an end to the winning streak while at the same hijack the Seminoles chances of making it to Division I football’s first final four.
It might be a bit of a reach to call this game Integrity’s Last Stand – to paraphrase and take a bit of Biblical liberty, surely there is one righteous man on the Seminole roster – but if Muschamp can get the Gators to spring the upset it will be viewed as a triumph of good over evil. That’s how good Muschamp’s image is right now and how deep the Seminoles’ image is in the sludge on the bottom of the septic tank.
2. MISSISSIPPI STATE (10-1, 6-1 SEC): To win the West the Bulldogs need help from Auburn, but even if they don’t win the West and finish 11-1 they’ll have a real shot at the college football playoff.
3. Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC): The Bulldogs will win the SEC East if Missouri loses to Arkansas this week. Meanwhile, they’re facing Georgia Tech and that funky offense which could derail the momentum they’ve picked up since losing to Florida.
4. AUBURN (8-3, 4-3 SEC): Although they won Saturday, the Tigers had their third straight subpar performance against D1AA Samford. Can they right the ship in time to give Alabama a run for its money in the Iron Bowl?
5. MISSOURI (9-2, 6-1 SEC): All the Tigers have to do is beat Arkansas and they’re in the SEC Championship Game for the second straight year. Maybe they can do it if Good Maty Mauk shows up. If Maty’s evil twin Skippy Mauk shows up, the Tigers are in trouble.
6. ARKANSAS (6-5, 2-5 SEC): The Razorbacks are that team nobody wants to play right now. Their defense has shut out the last two ranked opponents and everybody knows the Hogs can run the ball.
7. Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3 SEC): The air in the Ole Miss balloon has definitely escaped. The Rebels that lost to Arkansas, 30-0, are a shell of the team that beat Alabama. They can salvage what’s left of their season by winning the Egg Bowl.
8. LSU (7-4, 4-3 SEC): The Tigers have as much outstanding young talent as anyone in the country. They also have as many quarterback issues as anyone in the country and that’s why they’re 7-4.
9. Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3 SEC): The Aggies’ defense will probably look a lot better than it really is Thanksgiving night but only because LSU has so many issues at quarterback. Texas A&M has found its quarterback of the future in Kyle Allen, however.
10. South Carolina (6-5, 3-5 SEC): The Gamecocks have won five in a row over cross-state rival Clemson. If they want to make it six straight then they need to find some defense between now and Saturday.
11. FLORIDA (6-4, 4-4 SEC): The Gators have nothing to lose Saturday so they’ll go into Tallahassee ready to destroy FSU’s college football playoff hopes. If the Gators can avoid turning it over, they’ll have a chance. This is the best defense FSU has seen all season.
12. Tennessee (5-6, 2-5 SEC): Just when we thought the Vols had solved their issues on offense, they laid an egg against Missouri. The Vols get to end the season on a get well note with Vanderbilt and a win makes them bowl eligible.
14. VANDERBILT (3-8, 0-7 SEC): The spin in Nashville is to overlook the losses and look at all the young talent. All those young talented guys keep getting their brains beaten in by everyone in the SEC.
(1) Florida State; (2) Alabama; (3) Oregon; (4) Mississippi State; (5) Baylor; (6) TCU; (7) Ohio State; (8) Georgia; (9) UCLA; (10) Michigan State; (11) Kansas State; (12) Arizona; (13) Arizona State; (14) Wisconsin; (15) Auburn; (16) Georgia Tech; (17) Missouri; (18) Ole Miss; (19) Marshall; (20) Oklahoma; (21) Colorado State; (22) Minnesota; (23) Clemson; (24) Louisville; (25) Boise State.
(1) Florida State; (2) Alabama; (3) Oregon; (4) Mississippi State; (5) Ohio State; (6) Baylor; (7) TCU; (8) Georgia; (9) UCLA; (10) Kansas State; (11) Arizona State; (12) Arizona; (15) Auburn; (16) Ole Miss; (17) Michigan State; (18) Marshall; (19) Missouri; (20) Wisconsin; (21) Colorado State; (22) Oklahoma; (23) Louisville; (24) Boise State; (25) Minnesota.
Did you catch the video of Jameis Winston shoving an official out of the way Saturday when Florida State was driving toward a game-winning field goal against Boston College? Florida State should have been flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Winston should have been ejected from the game. Of course, these are ACC zebras and since FSU is the only halfway decent team in the league, which is why the ACC issued a no harm, no foul statement Sunday.
Winston, meanwhile, came up with his usual brain dead, grin and it’s okay because I’m Jameis, excuse: “Oh, he [the official] was just holding it because he said we had a substitution,” Winston said. “It was actually a fast-tempo play, so I was trying to get up under there and let it ride.”
And of course, Jimbo Fisher, once again defended Winston: “He [Winston] didn't realize, he thought he could snap the ball. The kind of play we had was based off a quick run up the line, snap the ball. That's what it was based on. I don't know, we'll see.”
See for yourself if this didn’t deserve 15 yards and an ejection.
The in crowd:
1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Gordon followed up the 409-yard game of a week ago with 21 carries for 200 yards and two touchdowns plus four catches for 64 more yards against Iowa. Gordon now has the 10th best single season rushing total (2,109 yards) in the history of college football and he’s still got two games to go. He has 25 rushing touchdowns and has caught 15 passes for two more touchdowns.
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: He’s the best quarterback in the country, bar none. Against Colorado he was 24-32 passing for 323 yards, three TDs and no picks, 73 rushing yards and another TD. His season numbers are 3,103 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and only two picks, 597 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
3. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: He had a good bounce back game against Vandy, hitting 16-21 passes for three touchdowns and running for 30 yards and another TD. Any chances he has to win the Heisman are on the line at the Egg Bowl this week. His season numbers are 2,714 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, 891 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
4. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: After a rotten start in which he threw two interceptions, he came on strong at the end against Indiana, completing 25-35 passes for 302 yards, four touchdowns and 78 rushing yards. A good game against Michigan will seal his place on the Heisman podium. Season numbers are 2,658 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, 849 rushing yards and nine TDs.
5. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: He didn’t play a half against Western Carolina but made three catches for 46 yards. His season numbers are 90 catches for 1,349 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The out crowd:
Although the Gators have been established as 10-point road dogs, do you think they realistically have a chance to knock off Florida State?
You owe it to yourself to catch Malcolm John Rebennack in concert if you ever get the chance. You probably know him better as Dr. John, a true New Orleans musical legend who has won six Grammy Awards in a career that began in the 1950s when he moonlighted as a drug dealer and owner of a bordello. He did hard time in the Texas prison system during the 1960s. Originally a guitarist, he was forced to abandon the guitar for the piano when his finger got shot off while defending a member in his band. “Right Place, Wrong Time” is probably Dr. John’s best-known song but my favorite is “Such a Night.” This version features a full orchestra and Eric Clapton on the guitar.