Okay, we’ve talked about this before, but the closer it gets to noon Saturday the more surreal 10 wins seems. Wasn’t it just three months ago that we were thankful Florida Atlantic was on the schedule in November because the Gators might need a late season win to become bowl eligible?
Well, here we are three months later and 8th-ranked Florida (9-1, 7-1 SEC) is long since bowl eligible and the Southeastern Conference East Division champion. A win Saturday not only gets UF to the 10-win plateau but it seals Jim McElwain’s place in Florida football history as the winningest first-year coach ever. Ray Graves (1960) and Steve Spurrier (1990) turned in 9-2 records their first seasons on the job and Urban Meyer went 9-3 in 2005.
If for no other reason, getting Mac the record elevates the importance of the FAU game. A 10-win Florida team could very well move up in the College Football Playoff Rankings and, as one of two SEC teams with 10 or more wins (Alabama being the other), the Gators will be almost assured of either the Sugar or Peach bowls if they don’t make the final four.
A 10-win Florida team also carries plenty of weight on the recruiting trail. By all indications, McElwain and staff are gaining momentum daily that will ensure a very fast finish that could put the Gators in the top 6-7 classes. Recruits read the magazines and listen to the talking heads on ESPN who spent eight months forecasting a barely break-even season for the Gators. They can do the math, see 10 wins is a huge improvement, and figure out for themselves that this is a football program on a fast track to championship runs.
There are quite a few already committed or uncommitted 4- and 5-star high school football players who are rethinking their priorities and considering Florida a happening place to be the next four years.
Getting to that 10th win Saturday is going to do wonders for Florida’s image.
Last week: 4-4
#8 FLORIDA (9-1, 7-1 SEC) 38, FLORIDA ATLANTIC (2-8) 7: The Gators need a get well game and this is it. And think of this … Josh Grady might (a) get some snaps at QB and (b) throw the football.
#3 ALABAMA (9-1, 6-1 SEC) 56, CHARLESTON SOUTHERN (9-1) 7: Charleston Southern is one of the best teams in D1AA, which means the Buccaneers will give Bama a run for the money for maybe 7-8 minutes. After that, Derrick Henry gets to 200 yards quickly and takes a seat to watch the rest of the rout.
#25 OLE MISS (7-3, 4-2) 31, LSU (7-2, 4-2) 17: One of the worst things you can do is bet against Les Miles when his back is against the wall. His back is definitely against the wall Saturday night in Oxford. And just how much faith do I have that Les and LSU will win this game? Absolutely none.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-3, 3-3 SEC) 38, ARKANSAS (6-4, 4-2 SEC) 28: This game is being played in Fayette Nam and Arkansas is a pretty hot team right now, but the Hogs (a) can’t stop a good passing game, (b) rarely get a sack and (c) don’t pick off many passes. Mississippi State has a fine passing game and give Dak Prescott time and you have a recipe for disaster, especially since he rarely throws a pick (just 2 this season). Team Dak gets an 8th win.
MISSOURI (5-5, 1-5 SEC) 17, TENNESSEE (6-4, 3-3) 13: Temperature at game time Saturday night is expected to be 30 degrees. A few weeks ago, a friend who is also a Vol said it would be a cold day in hell before Missouri beat Tennessee this year. Is Columbia, Missouri hell? If the Vols lose Saturday night they might think so.
TEXAS A&M (7-3, 3-3 SEC) 21, VANDERBILT (4-6, 2-4 SEC) 7: There is growing dissatisfaction in Aggieland with Kevin Sumlin. If he figures out a way to lose to Vanderbilt he might consider looking for a new place to coach. Buyout won’t be a problem. The Aggies paid $500 million cash up front to renovate Kyle Field so $15 million is tip money but it won’t be necessary … this week.
GEORGIA (7-3, 5-3 SEC) 24, GEORGIA SOUTHERN (7-2) 10: The only thing standing in the way of Mark Richt coming back in 2016 is a loss to Georgia Southern. He wouldn’t lose to Georgia Southern, would he?
AUBURN (5-5, 2-5 SEC) 37, IDAHO (3-7) 14: Aubrin conveniently scheduled a paycheck game in week 11 with the idea that the Tigers would need an easy win and rest before playing Alabama for the SEC West title in the Iron Bowl. Lucky for Aubrin that the AD had the foresight to bring in Idaho. There won’t be a trip to Atlanta. Aubrin needs a win to get bowl eligible.
KENTUCKY (4-6, 3-3 SEC) 40, CHARLOTTE (2-8) 17: Kentucky would get more benefit out of game against a really good D1AA team. Charlotte is Division I but has no business playing any team – even Kentucky – from the SEC.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: WEEK 12 EDITION
EXTINCT SPECIES LIST
1. Tim Beckman, Illinois
2. Dan McCarney, North Texas
3. Randy Edsall, Maryland
4. Steve Sarkisian, Southern Cal
5. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina (retired)
6. George O’Leary, UCF (retired)
7. Al Golden, Miami
8. Jerry Kill, Minnesota (retired)
9. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (retired)
10. Norm Chow, Hawaii
11. Gary Pinkel, Missouri (retired)
12. Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe
ON LIFE SUPPORT
1. Mike London, Virginia (3-7): This is year six of the Werewolf of London in Charlottesville and for the fifth time in six years, the Cadavers won’t go bowling. He’s coaching this season because they didn’t want to pay the buyout last year. This year, it’s more affordable.
2. Trent Miles, Georgia State (2-7): The word around coaching circles is that Trent has his resume out to some Power 5 Conference and NFL teams. No, silly. Not for an HBC job. Running backs coach. What does that tell you about his future?
3. Kyle Flood, Rutgers (3-7): A losing season is assured. The alumni want a new coach. What they need to do first is fire AD Julie Newmann, then hire an AD who will (a) fire Flood and (b) hire a decent coach.
4. Scott Shafer, Syracuse (3-7): The Orange played Clemson fairly tight last week, which means (A) perhaps Syracuse has really improved or (B) Clemson was sleep walking and still won the game. If your choice was B, then give yourself three attaboy pats on the back. Two more games before it’s time to pack up the stuff in the office.
5. Chuck Martin, Miami Ohio (2-9): There is good news and bad news. The good news is Miami could actually beat UMass Saturday. The bad news is even if Martin wins, he’s a goner.
6. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (3-7): About the only thing that could save Rhoads job would be to end yet another losing season with consecutive road wins against K-State and West Virginia. This isn’t a donkeys would fly first situation but it’s close.
7. Paul Haynes, Kent State (3-8): What does it say about the excitement you’re generating as the HBC when your own publicity staff is wowing about punter Anthony Melchiori unloading punts of 54 yards or longer in eight of the 11 games?
8. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State (3-7): The Bulldogs were 21-5 in DeRuyter’s first two years. They’re 9-15 in the last two. If he’s coaching next year it’s because they don’t want to spend the money on a buyout and to ante up for a new coach and assistants.
9. Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic (2-8): FAU went 3-9 in year one of the Partridge in a Pear Tree era. The Owls are 2-8 this year with pending losses to Florida (paycheck game) and Old Dominion. All the folks in Boca want is progress. Do you call this progress?
10. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (5-4): The good news is the last three games are winnable. The bad news is Holgorsen has to win all three to have a job next year. WVU alums have their hearts set on RichRod or Doc Holliday as their coach next year so nobody would be too upset if Holgorsen stumbles once or twice in the next three weeks.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
1. Curtis Johnson, Tulane (3-7): The only thing that’s saving Johnson’s job right now is Two Lane trying to settle on a new athletic director. If they bring in the guy from Auburn or the one from Baylor, Johnson can kiss this job good bye because they’ll want to bring in someone who can actually win football games.
2. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (4-6): A win against Charlotte this week is all but assured, meaning the Tennessee game probably will determine whether Stoops is the Mildcats’ head ball coach next year or working for big bro Bobby at Oklahoma.
3. Paul Petrino, Idaho (3-7): Saturday’s game with Auburn is a paycheck game so it will have no bearing on the future. Next week’s game with Texas State is very winnable. A 4-win season and a couple of games that Idaho should have won means the HBC won’t be standing in the unemployment line.
4. Dennis Franchione, Texas State (2-7): He was actually in pretty good shape to come back next year but then he committed an unpardonable sin and lost to Georgia State. Any chance of coming back next year hinges on beating Lousy Monroe and Idaho in the next two games.
5. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (6-5): Kliffy has the Red Raiders bowl eligible but the only way he knows for sure he comes back next year is to beat Texas Thanksgiving day.
6. Ron Turner, Florida International (5-6): It wasn’t so much that he lost to Marshall last week – that was more or less expected – it was how he lost. A 52-0 hosing followed by the one FIU will take Saturday at the hands of Western Kentucky will have the faithful wondering if Geoff Collins or Randy Shannon is stupid enough to work for AD Pete Garcia.
7. Larry Coker, Texas-San Antonio (2-8): The Roadrunners needed overtime to beat Charlotte. The curtain hasn’t come down on Coker’s coaching career, but it’s descending rapidly.
8. Todd Graham, Arizona State (5-5): The Sun Devils won 10 games last year and were expected to be at top 15 team this year. Graham hasn’t done himself any favors by being difficult to deal with. The administration would greatly appreciate it if he would voluntarily find himself a new place to work.
9. Pete Lembo, Ball State (3-8): The Cards have lost seven of their last eight games and they have a blowout loss to Bowling Green still remaining on the schedule. The only thing saving Lembo is a 33-27 record through five years, which raises the question: how many MAC-caliber coaches could do better?
1. Willie Taggart, USF (6-5): He’s gone from On Life Support to the Endangered Species List to Still Breathing all in one season. He’s got the 6 wins he needs to get to a bowl game so no intimate, late night chats with real estate agents are required. Taggart will get a $25,000 bonus for getting to a bowl game.
2. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (4-6): The problem with making statements that your team is as good as Florida is that the alumni believe they should be winning games and going to exotic bowl locations such as Shreveport and Birmingham. If Vandy wins the next two, a bowl game will be a rather unexpected reality. He’ll be coaching here next year regardless, but his words could come back and bite him in the butt if he doesn’t win soon.
3. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (4-6): The fine folks in Bloomington are going to give him another year regardless of whether the Who’s Yours beat Maryland and Purdon’t in the next two games. Win the next two and go to a bowl game and Wilson might still be coaching a couple of years down the road.
4. Doug Martin, New Mexico State (2-7): The folks in Las Crusces must believe that the Patron Saint of Lost Causes has taken up residence because Martin will be back next year even though he has never had a winning season in 10 years as a head coach.
5. Darrell Hazell, Purdue (2-8): The athletic bean counters have spoken. Purdon’t can’t afford $60 million in facilities improvements and a $6 million buyout, so Hazell will get a fourth year … and Purdon’t will get another losing season.
6. Terry Bowden, Akron (5-5): Little Terry has two shots at bowl eligibility – Buffalo and Kent State. Win them both and he probably adds two years to his coaching life.
7. Mark Richt, Georgia (7-3): As long as he doesn’t do the unthinkable and lose to Georgia Southern his job is safe. Where have we heard that statement before?
KUDOS TO EARLHAM COLLEGE: First year coach Nick Johnson is the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. What makes that amazing is Earlham finished 0-10 this year. The conference coaches and athletic directors voted Johnson coach of the year because “Coach Johnson instills life lessons to his student athletes on the field while embodying real life challenges.” Read the following story and you’ll understand:
The very human story behind Earlham's winless football record
Houston approved a measure to up Tom Herman’s salary to $3 million and commit to facilities upgrades to keep him from bolting to a Power 5 Conference job. If $3 million isn’t enough to keep Herman, the board of regents say more money is available. If Herman stays, bet the ranch that South Carolina will turn its full attention to hiring Alabama DC Kirby Smart.
Clemson has won at least 10 games for five consecutive years. Maybe it’s time to give Dabo Swinney his due. Yes, he coaches in the ACC but you don’t win 10 or more five straight years if you can’t coach.
If he comes up big this week against TCU and next week against Okie State, Baker Mayfield is going to thrust himself into the thick of the Heisman race. He’s thrown for 3,082 yards and 31 TDs (only 5 picks) and run for 301 yards and 6 more TDs. Not bad for a kid who had to walk on at Texas Tech and then walk on at Oklahoma after transferring out of Texas Tech.
Baylor might be down to its third string QB Saturday against Okie State. Jarrett Stidham, the freshman who took over when Seth Russell broke a bone in his neck, injured his back last week and he’s listed as questionable.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Who are your winners for LSU at Ole Miss, Mississippi State at Arkansas, Tennessee at Missouri and Texas A&M at Vanderbilt?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Joan Osborne will be playing the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater Sunday night. If you’ve never heard her live, it’s well worth the price of admission. She’s done 10 albums mostly of her own music, but her best work is covering the music of Motown from the 1960s and ‘70s. Today’s music is her 2007 “Breakfast in Bed” CD which was mostly her versions of someone else’s music, but it’s really good stuff.