“Losing to Florida anywhere is becoming less acceptable. Aside from Vanderbilt, every other team in the SEC East has reason to project the Gators as a probable victory this season.” – John Adams, columnist, Knoxville News-Sentinel
Adams is an award-winning columnist who has spent a lengthy writing career in SEC hotbeds of Baton Rouge and Knoxville. Along with Tony Barnhardt, he’s the most respected writer who regularly opines about Southeastern Conference football, so when he takes a hard look at the Florida program of 2015 and compares it to pre-Steve Spurrier Florida football with the note “maybe Florida football is what it used to be” we should all take notice.
Adams doesn’t take particular delight in trashing the Gators but he does state the obvious. Florida football certainly isn’t what it used to be. We could spend the next week discussing the reasons why Florida football is in such desperate shape now and moving forward but that would only tell us what we already know – that far too many mistakes have been made along the way.
It’s not like Florida is the only program that hit a wall and hasn’t recovered. Adams covers Tennessee, which hasn’t won an SEC title since 1998 and is only now showing real signs of life of becoming relevant for the first time in years. When Gators look at Tennessee, they should be reminded of what can happen if the program takes even one slight step in the wrong direction.
Florida certainly hasn’t hit skids greased by years of incompetence the likes of which we’ve seen at Tennessee but it would be untruthful to suggest the Gators aren’t walking a fine chalk line between a return to glory and falling further behind. The 2015 season isn’t make or break for Jim McElwain but it will go a long way toward determining the future of Florida football. No matter how many wins and losses, McElwain has to re-shape the culture of Florida football. When Florida football is at its best, there is a swagger. Call it the Gator brand if you will. Charley Pell gave the Gators swagger. So did Steve Spurrier and so did Urban Meyer. Was there a more hated team in the SEC when those three coaches were calling the shots? When the Gators have swagger, they are hated and they’re winning and winning big.
Nobody hates the Gators now. McElwain has to do something about it.
Florida 16, LSU 13; October 7, 1989
On the Monday before the Gators traveled to Baton Rouge, head coach Galen Hall was confronted with evidence that he had assisted the late Jarvis Williams with a child support payment and that he had paid assistant coaches money out of his own pocket. Because Florida was still within the 5-year probation window from the 1984 sanctions, these were considered major NCAA violations. Interim UF president Bob Bryan advised Hall to resign and Hall submitted his letter of resignation on Wednesday. However, he was given permission to coach the team against LSU on Saturday. None of the players nor the assistant coaches knew that Hall had resigned either when the game started or at its end. Tied at 13-13 and with time for only one more play, Arden Czyzewski kicked a 41-yard field goal to give the Gators the win. Sunday afternoon, Hall, with Bryan and athletic director Bill Arnsparger present, announced his resignation to the team with defensive coordinator Gary Darnell taking over as the interim. The Gators were 4-1 under Hall, but limped home 3-4 the rest of the way, finishing 7-5 with a loss to Washington in the Freedom Bowl. If Arnsparger had gotten his way, LSU coach Mike Archer would have succeeded Hall but the overwhelming choice of fans and boosters who supported the UF program made it abundantly clear that there was only one choice – Steve Spurrier, who had led Duke to the ACC championship. To say that Arnsparger is responsible for hiring Steve Spurrier is one of the great all-time myths. Spurrier became Florida’s head coach and went 9-2 in his first year with a team that couldn’t go to a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions and was ruled ineligible to win the SEC by a vote of the league’s athletic directors. Spurrier never forgot that 1990 team. Georgia’s votes against Florida in 1984 and 1990 were duly noted by the head ball coach, who added those grudges to his long list of why he should run up the score any chance he gets against Georgia.
1. Rhett Lashlee, Auburn: Lashlee has a fine offensive mind, but who are we fooling here? The real offensive coordinator is head coach Gus Malzahn. Auburn has scored 123 touchdowns in the last two years. Figure Lashlee will get a chance to be somebody’s head coach after this year, however.
2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: At South Carolina he’s become the pragmatic play caller, adapting to what his personnel does best. The Gamecocks have won running it and they’ve won throwing it. He’s still the most innovative and fearless play caller in the business.
3. Lane Kiffin, Alabama: Everybody predicted a quick divorce when he began working for Nick Saban but instead Alabama set offensive records by adapting to the personnel and throwing for a bunch of yards and 67 touchdowns in 2014. This year the personnel says run it and that’s what Bama will do. You may not like Lane, but he does know how to call plays and score points.
4. Jake Spavital, Texas A&M: See #1. Who are we fooling? This is Kevin Sumlin’s offense but Spavital is the guy in charge of quarterback development. Spavital could have had a couple of HBC jobs after last season but he elected to come back. This is probably his final year as a coordinator.
5. John Hevesy/Billy Gonzales, Mississippi State: Are we seeing a trend here? See #1. It’s Dan Mullen’s offense and it’s really good. The Bulldogs averaged 513.8 yards per game last year and scored 60 touchdowns, 31 passing and 29 rushing. There probably won’t be any dropoff this year.
6. Doug Nussmeier, Florida: He will have to be creative to keep the offense on the field this year, but history tells us that when he gets an offensive line and good personnel that he can chew up yards and put points on the board.
7. Brian Schottenheimer, Georgia: He won’t get a lot of credit this year because the bulk of Georgia’s offense will be simply handing the ball off to Nick Chubb and letting him grind opponents into submission.
9. Josh Henson, Missouri: Maybe nobody in the SEC does more with less talent than Henson. He’s starting from scratch for the second straight year at wide receiver. If he finds people who can catch the ball and stretch the field, Missouri’s offense will be fine.
10. Cam Cameron, LSU: He’s being paid $1.5 million and it’s time for his offense to look like a million dollars. He’s supposed to be a quarterback guru but only Vandy had worse quarterback play in the SEC last year.
11. Dan Enos, Arkansas: He’s been brought in to spread the field and make it impossible for teams to go eight in the box against the Hogs. What he did worked at Central Michigan. The proof will be against SEC defenses.12. Shannon Dawson, Kentucky: This is his first year after four years at West Virginia where he ran Dana Holgorsen’s offense. He’s from the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach school of offense which means Kentucky will be heaving the ball all over the place.
13. Andy Ludwig, Vanderbilt: He’s probably a better offensive coordinator than the stats Vanderbilt will produce this year. He did well at Wisconsin where he had running backs like Melvin Gordon. There isn’t an offensive player at Vandy capable of sniffing Gordon’s jock.
14. Mike Debord, Tennessee: The last time he called plays was 2007 at Michigan. He was out of football in 2013-14. UT head coach Butch Jones was one of Debord’s assistants when he was going 12-34 as the HBC at Central Michigan. This was a shock of a hire.
“You have some people that don’t play championship games because now they only have 10 teams. I get that, but if down the road, you really want to do it right, I think everybody’s in a league and everybody plays in a championship game, ideally.” – Gary Pinkel, head ball coach, Missouri
While speaking to ESPN Monday, Pinkel also said that all independents (Notre Dame, BYU and Army are the only three in Division I) should be required to join a conference. Pinkel took things further when it came to Notre Dame, saying the Irish should be given “a year to join a conference.”
Pinkel makes good points.
For years Notre Dame was able to tout its independence by claiming it was what college football was all about, that it did things the right way, that it graduated its players and was a cut above the mere mortals. Well, all that ended with Lou Holtz, who put Notre Dame on a two-year probation for violations committed from 1991-98, and the academic problems of the last four or so years under Brian Kelly have done nothing to help the school’s image.
Notre Dame isn’t different and even though it remains the biggest television draw in all of college football, shouldn’t be given any special privileges. Why should Notre Dame be included in the college football playoff when it doesn’t have the pressure of winning a league championship or playing in a conference championship game?
When the weather is fairly decent, St. Andrews isn’t such a tough course. If you don’t believe that’s true, then try to explain why Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman were -15 and in a playoff while eight other golfers including Jordan Speith were all at least -10. Speith will be kicking himself in the butt for a lifetime every time he thinks about that 3-putt double bogey on #8 and the inexplicable bogey on #17.
If I’m Larry Fedora, my resume is out there and I’m willing to take less money than I’m making now at North Carolina because the NCAA hammer is about to drop. Unsealed documents from before Fedora became the football coach in Chapel Hill indicate improper benefits and contact with agents. With the academic scandal and these new revelations you have to think the NCAA could be forced to resort to the death penalty as an option.
Joel Embiid has broken the same bone in the same foot that caused him to miss his rookie year in the NBA. There are serious concerns that Embiid will never suit up for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Big 12 commish Bruce Bowlsby doesn’t think the conference is at a disadvantage with 12 teams so he sees no need to expand. “I don’t believe we are at a disadvantage relative to the playoff,” Bowlsby said at Big 12 Media Days. “I don’t think one year makes a trend. We were very close to having two teams in last year. You really don’t have to have much of an imagination to see how that might’ve worked out.” Prediction: Unless a Big 12 team is head and shoulders better than a team from a power conference with a championship game, the Big 12 team will be watching the national title game on television.
Should Notre Dame and the other independents be required to join a conference?
Joe Bonamassa has churned out 13 albums in the last 15 years, establishing himself as one of the great blues guitarists of the last 30 years but he’s never forgotten the great blues artists of the past. His “Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks (Live)” is dedicated to the music of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Today’s music is the live performance of “Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks.”