New seasons bring new expectations and while Jim McElwain is the new kid on the Florida block and the Gators lack experience overall and depth at a couple of key positions, this is Florida. This isn’t some place where an occasional bowl trip to Shreveport or Detroit will satisfy the masses. Call Gator fans spoiled if you will, but success does that for you and it hasn’t been all that long ago that the Gators were feared, envied and hated.
McElwain is here because the last coach didn’t win enough football games and never got the Gators to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game even once in four years. Urban Meyer was here six years. He got the Gators to Atlanta three times, won the SEC and the national championship twice. Before that Ron Zook went ohfer in three years although he may have set an SEC record for close encounters with victories that for whatever reason slipped through his fingers. And then there was Steve Spurrier – 12 years, six SEC titles, eight trips to the SEC Championship Game and one national championship.
In a perfect world, McElwain would be measured against the last guy, who was 28-21 in his four years but it’s not a perfect world. The comparisons to Will Muschamp will last one season, if for that long, and then the measuring stick will be Spurrier and Meyer.
Is that fair? Probably not, but it’s reality.
The good news is McElwain has never run away from the higher expectations. If he had been concerned about them, he wouldn’t have taken the Florida job. He could have stayed at Colorado State and built the Rams into a Mountain West Conference dynasty. Or he could have stayed out west – he’s from Montana, went to school at Eastern Washington, and spent 18 years of the 28 he’s been coaching college football west of the Mississippi River – and waited for a Pac-12 job. With the exception of Southern Cal and maybe Oregon, nobody in the Pac-12 has expectations nearly as high as Florida.
So it’s worth noting that Mac isn’t afraid to tackle the job of getting Florida back to a championship level. This is not a job for the faint of heart and it certainly isn’t a job for a coach without a long range plan for success. Mac was willing to contribute to his own buyout to come to Florida and tackle the job of restoring the Gators to the level of success they enjoyed under Spurrier and Meyer. That says plenty about the new era that beings at The Swamp Saturday night.
Record after Thursday night: 2-0
Florida 45, New Mexico State 10: New Mexico State’s D-linemen will be doing their dead roach imitations most of this game. Figure Treon Harris and Will Grier will split the snaps but save 10-12 at the end for Josh Grady. Expect a 60-40 run/pass ratio but both will be successful. Over on the other side of the ball, New Mexico State will discover those 3-yard passes that work so well in the Sun Belt are a bit more troublesome against a very good SEC defense.
#9 Georgia 54, Louisiana-Monroe 13: Greyson Lambert is Georgia’s quarterback. His main job will be to hand the ball off to Nick Chubb, but because Chubb is so good he will have chances to heave it deep off play action. Now, if only someone can remember to run the correct route, there will be touchdown passes to catch. It will be over before the midway point of the second quarter.
#18 Arkansas 37, UTEP 7: No Jonathan Williams, no problem. Alex Collins will do just fine and Ground Hog won’t miss a beat. Over on the defensive side, the Hogs will show that what they did to Texas in the bowl game is just a prelude for things to come.
#6 Auburn 28, Louisville 17: What makes this so interesting is that both defensive coordinators – Will Muschamp, formerly of Florida, and Todd Grantham, formerly of Georgia – are so familiar with each other. Both offenses are explosive but the defenses might slow things down a tad. Auburn’s offensive personnel are better and that will be the difference.
#24 Missouri 49, Southeast Missouri 7: We could have a quarterback controversy brewing after this one if Maty Mauk isn’t lights out and freshman Drew Lock is throwing lasers.
#25 Tennessee 39, Bowling Green 28: Bowling Green will score some points, but doesn’t have the personnel on the defensive side to stop the Vols, who are going to give the Falcons a steady dose of thunder (Jalen Hurd) and lightning (Alvin Kamara).
Texas A&M 47, #15 Arizona State 35: There will be points, points and more points at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Texas A&M has better receivers and the defense will be improved just enough for the Aggies to start the season 1-0 with a win over a ranked team.
Kentucky 30, Louisiana-Lafayette 28: The Wildcats think they are so much better than they were last year. If they show up the least bit overconfident, the Ragin Cajuns are very capable of an upset.
#14 LSU 56, McNeese State 0: Everybody knows Leonard Fournette will get his 100 or so yards. The real question is can Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings can throw the ball in the vicinity of the fastest set of wide receivers in the SEC?
#3 Alabama 33, #20 Wisconsin 24: Alabama is going to score 4-5 touchdowns but can that defense, burned so badly at the end of last season by both Auburn and Ohio State, stop a running game? Bama will win, but probably because of its offense and not so much its defense.
Just when the talking heads had written off Tim Tebow – again – the former Gator Heisman winner showed what he could do when given a chance to work with something other than the third and fourth teamers. Tebow completed 11-17 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns and ran four times for 32 yards in the Philadelphia Eagles 24-18 loss to the New York Jets. Tebow was sacked twice for seven yards plus he got called for intentional grounding and threw an interception, but his performance was certainly better than Matt Barkley (4-9, 45 yards, one interception, sacked once), who is in the battle for the #3 QB job. The question moving forward is did Tebow show enough in practice and in this situation to merit sticking with the Eagles when they cut the roster? Barkley is younger and some say has more upside, but he’s never started an NFL game nor has he ever won a playoff game. Tebow can say ben there and done that.
Miami 38, Florida 33; September 6, 2003
When Ran Carthon scored on a 4-yard run with 2:43 left in the third quarter, the Gators had a 33-10 lead over Miami. At that point in the game, the Gators had held Miami to 139 total yards. On the Hurricanes next four drives, they gained 313 and scored four touchdowns. Adding insult to injury, the Miami win was led by former Gator QB Brock Berlin, who threw touchdown passes of 26 and 6 yards during the four TD blitz that won the game. Berlin finished the game 27-41 for 340 yards but on those four drives he was 19-21 for 269 yards. When Miami closed the gap to 33-32, Ron Zook tried to shake things up offensively by inserting Gavin Dickey into the game to run the option. It worked for awhile. Dickey led the Gators to three first downs, even completing a couple of passes along the way, but on a third and six at the Miami 33 Dickey fumbled the shotgun snap and lost eight yards to take the Gators completely out of field goal range. When the Gators were dominating the Canes, the defense was swarming – Keiwan Ratliff gave UF a 16-10 lead when he returned a Berlin fumble 34 yards for a TD in the second quarter – and Ingle Martin and true freshman Chris Leak were splitting the snaps and moving the offense. Martin threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Perez in the second quarter while Leak went 9-15 for 93 yards. Florida ran for 196 yards with DeShawn Wynn going for 100 including a 62-yard TD run in the third quarter. But once the Gators built up the big lead, they couldn’t stop Berlin and the offense tanked. On their final four drives, the Gators punted three times, threw an interception and managed only 85 offensive yards. Florida lost four times during the regular season in 2003. Eleven points separated the Gators from a 10-1 regular season.
South Carolina (1-0) was outgained 440-394 by North Carolina but the Gamecocks turned the Tar Heels over three times including two end zone interceptions by middle linebacker Skai Moore and won the scoreboard battle, 17-13 … Vanderbilt’s attempt to tie the game with a 2-point conversion failed as the Commodores (0-1) dropped their season opener to Western Kentucky of the Sun Belt Conference, 14-12 … Florida International shocked UCF in Orlando by blocking a field goal in the last seconds to score a 15-14 upset … Jim Harbaugh’s debut at Michigan came up short as the Wolverines lost on the road to Utah, 24-17 … Georgia Tech ran for 476 yards in a paycheck game beating of D1AA Alcorn State, 69-3 … Oklahoma State went on the road to Central Michigan (why?) and came away with a 24-13 win … Former Bishop Kenny star John Wolford threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns as Wake Forest knocked off Elon, 41-3.
For all we know, Tom Brady might have been in cahoots with the people in charge of the footballs that caused the big Deflate-Gate stink but when Judge Richard Berman vacated Brady’s 4-game suspension Thursday, it had nothing to do with evidence but everything to do with the way Roger Goodell acted as judge, jury and executioner. Goodell consistently violated the rules of due process that should have been afforded Brady and then took things a step further by comparing what Brady might or might not have done to users of performance enhancing drugs. Judge Berman’s ruling essentially said there is hard evidence – a drug test – that merits a 4-game suspension for users of banned substances and that the commissioner offered “no scientific, empirical or historical evidence of any comparability between Brady’s alleged offense and steroid use.”
Even though he announced the NFL will appeal the decision, Roger Goodell just got run over by a 200-car freight train steaming down the tracks at 90 miles per hour. Goodell talks about defending the integrity of the game, but the integrity of the game should be defended from Roger Goodell. It’s quite obvious that Goodell was so determined to make Tom Brady his own personal example of just how much power he wields that he was willing to skip a few steps in the due process that should be afforded to any player, much less one with Brady’s popularity and stature. When the commissioner of an entire league puts his own personal agenda above the rules he is in charge of enforcing, he is nothing more than a menace.
Pittsburgh Steelers corner Ike Taylor unloaded on Roger Goodell while talking about the Tom Brady ruling on the Jim Rome Show. Taylor said, “We’ve been saying this, and we meaning Steelers, been saying this since 2011. We felt like the guy just had too much power. We always felt like that, but it took four years after that for a judge to see that.”
East Carolina suspended wide receiver Trevon Brown for the first three games of the season for violation of the school’s student conduct code. Brown, who caught 14 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns last year, will miss ECU’s game with Florida next week. It’s the second big blow for ECU in a couple of weeks. The Pirates lost starting quarterback Kurt Benkert to a knee injury back on August 26.
How ridiculous and how Dan Snyder. The Washington Redskins are going to charge a $50 “envelope fee” for fans who leave a ticket at will call. The fee only applies to non-season ticket holders. This is just further proof that Dan Snyder is without question the worst owner of a professional sports team in the US and perhaps the worst in history.
Rutgers suspended five players who were arrested and charged with robbery and burglary while armed and conspiracy to commit an armed robbery in a home invasion. This could lead to the dismissal of head coach Kyle Flood, who allegedly violated both school and NCAA rules by sending an email to a faculty member regarding a player’s academic standing. Any contact with a professor or teacher that can possibly be deemed as an attempt to change a player’s grade is an NCAA violation.
When you look at the slate of SEC games for Saturday, who do you see as winners?
In 1969, blues legend Muddy Waters collaborated with Otis Span, Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Sam Lay and Buddy Miles for the album “Fathers and Sons.” The album was the brainchild of Bloomfield and Butterfield, who had always wanted to do an album with Waters. The result was one of the great blues albums ever recorded. “Screaming Guitars Week” ends with “Fathers and Sons.”