Today we remember Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941 changed the world forever and the subsequent years brought out the very best in America. If you know any World War II vets, take a moment today, call or stop by to visit and tell them how much you appreciate the sacrifices they made to keep our country free.
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
1. A year ago we were wondering if Jim McElwain had what it takes to get Florida football out of a 5-year rut. We wonder no longer. In one year, McElwain has completely changed Florida’s football identity. There is an energy and expectation that hasn’t been present in years. It’s not like it was when Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer coached the Gators, but the arrogance – yes arrogance – is returning to the program, that feeling that UF is going to win and there’s nothing anyone else can do about it.
2. There is a reason why Jimbo Fisher recruited Treon Harris as a defensive back. I understand that playing QB was Treon’s dream, which has everything to do with why he’s at Florida instead of FSU, but sometimes dreams don’t come true. There’s nothing Treon can do that will make him taller and after all these years of throwing a football, it’s doubtful anything is going to make him more accurate. He’s a good kid who shouldn’t be abused by Florida fans. While his skills might be inadequate, no one can question that he works hard every day in practice or that he has a true burning desire to win.
3. We can all agree about all of Treon’s shortcomings, but be thankful he was here. Because of abysmal recruiting at the QB position, the backup could have been Josh Grady. Grady is a great kid, but when you can’t factor in the recruiting rotation at Vandy and switch to wide receiver, it’s pretty obvious you don’t have the skills you need to win in the SEC. If not for Treon, Josh Grady would have been the QB. As bad as Treon has been, he’s light years better than Grady.
4. One of the top priorities for McElwain is finding a placekicker. I don’t know what is the record for most blocked field goals and extra points in a single season, but Austin Hardin can’t be far off.
5. Jarrad Davis will be back for his senior season, which means the heart and soul of the Florida defense will be back. Davis went from a pretty good linebacker the past two seasons into one of the best in the SEC this year, which is a credit to his own hard work and the coaching of Randy Shannon. Take a look at how Arkansas went from a stalwart defense to one of the worst in the SEC after Shannon departed Fayette Nam for Florida’s greener pastures. Davis and Antonio Morrison proved during the 2015 season that they are as good as any two linebackers in the SEC and that includes those guys from Alabama.
6. Florida’s defense got absolutely no help from the offense against Alabama. From the Antonio Callaway punt return until the 3-play, 81-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, Florida ran exactly 17 offensive plays – five 3-and-outs and a two-play possession that ended in an Alabama interception. Total offense: 8 yards. If this were real life and not football, the UF offense would be declared deadbeats and would be spending time in county lockup for non-support.
7. The lack of productivity behind Kelvin Taylor has been disappointing. We’ve seen flashes of talent and skill from the two Jordans, but if you’ve watched them in pass protection, you understand why McElwain has had to limit their playing time.
8. Even with the Gators losing Vernon Hargreaves III, Jon Bullard and Antonio Morrison, Florida’s defense is going to be ferocious next year. If the offense makes significant improvement on the O-line and at QB, the Gators should be expected to win 9-10 games again.
9. I like this from Jarrad Davis post game Saturday: “We’re not the Florida Gators that you’ve seen the past two years anymore. We’ve got a lot of athletes, we’ve got a lot of guys who want to work and actually want to win. We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win, this offseason and the next coming year. So just look out.”
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF
Orange Bowl: #1 Clemson (13-0) vs. #4 Oklahoma (11-1)
Cotton Bowl: #2 Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1)
The CFB Final Poll
1. Clemson 13-0
2. Alabama 12-1
3. Michigan State 12-1
4. Oklahoma 11-1
5. Iowa 12-1
6. Stanford 11-2
7. Ohio State 11-1
8. Notre Dame 10-2
9. Florida State 10-2
10. North Carolina 11-2
The rest of the top 25: 11. TCU 10-2; 12. Ole Miss 9-3; 13. Northwestern 10-2; 14. Michigan 9-3; 15. Oregon 9-3; 16. Oklahoma State 10-2; 17. Baylor 9-3; 18. Houston 12-1; 19. FLORIDA 10-3; 20. LSU 8-3; 21. Navy 9-2; 22.Utah 9-3; 12. Tennessee 8-4; 24. Temple 10-3; 25. Southern Cal 8-5
WEEK 14: THE AP TOP 25
1. Clemson (13-0)
2. Alabama (12-1)
3. Michigan State (12-1)
4. Oklahoma (11-1)
5. Stanford (11-2)
6. Iowa (12-1)
7. Ohio State (11-1)
8. Notre Dame (10-2)
9. Florida State (10-2)
10. North Carolina (11-2)
(The rest of the top 25): 11. TCU 10-2; 12. Northwestern 10-2; 13. Oklahoma State 10-2; 14. Houston 12-1; 15. Oregon 9-3; 16. Ole Miss 9-3; 17. Michigan 9-3; 18. Baylor 9-3; 19. FLORIDA 10-3; 20. Utah 9-3; 21. Navy 9-2; 22. LSU 8-3; 23. Wisconsin 9-3; 24. Temple 10-3; 25. Western Kentucky 11-2
SEC BOWLING TEAMS
Cotton Bowl (CFB semfinal): Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1)
Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2)
Citrus Bowl: FLORIDA 10-3 vs. Michigan 9-3
Outback Bowl: Tennessee (8-4) vs. Northwestern (10-2)
Taxslayer Bowl: Georgia (9-3) vs. Penn State (7-5)
Texas Bowl: LSU (8-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Liberty Bowl: Arkansas (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Music City Bowl: Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Louisville (7-5)
Belk Bowl: Mississippi State (8-4) vs. North Carolina State (7-5)
Birmingham Bowl: Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3)
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
Second chances aren’t always the easiest thing to come by, so Will Muschamp should make sure he gets it right this time because if he fails at South Carolina there won’t be a third chance. Muschamp is bringing Travaris Robinson with him from Auburn as the defensive coordinator and he’s hiring Kurt Roper as his offensive coordinator. Roper had a reputation of being a very good offensive coordinator pre-Florida. If Muschamp is going to succeed at South Carolina then he’s got to keep his thumb off his OC and let him coach.
Kirby Smart got a 6-year deal worth $3.75 million a year at Georgia. He’ll bring the Alabama blueprint for defense to Athens. Early expectations are that he’ll bring in Tyson Helton from Western Kentucky as his offensive coordinator, which would seem to indicate the Bulldogs will be running a wide open spread attack.
Virginia pulled off the surprise of the weekend by hiring BYU’s Bronco Mendenhall. Because Mendenhall is a member of the LDS church and firmly entrenched as the face of the BYU program, no one could foresee him leaving Provo, especially to take a job on the east coast where he has no recruiting connections. Bronco is a very good football coach, but success at UVa is going to depend on recruiting Tidewater Virginia and metro DC. He better hire great assistants who have extraordinary connections in those areas.
It’s not a surprise that Bowling Green coach Dino Babers got a head coaching job at a Power 5 school although it is a surprise that he chose Syracuse as his landing spot. It starts with the fact that Syracuse plays in the same division with Clemson, Florida State and Louisville, which all have serious facility and recruiting advantages. Second, there is the weather. Syracuse is the beating pulse of the snow belt. You can’t beat Clemson, FSU and Louisville without great speed. Getting fast guys to Syracuse isn’t impossible, but it is whatever is next and Babers’ offense relies on very fast people.
North Carolina offensive coordinator Sean Littrell will be named head coach at North Texas. There are enough good football players in Texas that the right coach can do very well in Denton. UNT made the right call by going after a coach with a wide open offensive philosophy. The folks in Denton have had all the boring football they can handle the last five years.
Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Chris Ash is going to be the new head coach at Rutgers, which means he will be coaching in the same division with Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State. Can you say graveyard?
Tulane is likely to name LSU wide receivers coach Frank Wilson as its new HBC. Wilson’s departure is probably the first of several from the LSU offensive staff.
Sonny Dykes of California shopped himself for at least 4-5 job openings but he’s still at California.
Unless something changed over the weekend, Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kugliowski isn’t expected to be retained by new coach Barry Odom. If I’m Will Muschamp or Kirby Smart, that’s the guy I want coaching my D-line.
Alabama O-line coach Mario Cristobal is expected to be a free agent once the Crimson Tide’s season is over. There have been some rumblings that Nick Saban and OC Lane Kiffin will divorce as well.
FROM MARK BRADLEY OF THE AJC
Color Bradley, the columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, less than enthused by the hire of Will Muschamp at South Carolina. Writes Bradley:
“I do not understand South Carolina’s hire. I understand it less than any hire involving Lane Kiffin, lately the gold standard of tin-eared hires. If you can’t win at Florida, which is the best job in the SEC if not the nation, how can you hope to win at South Carolina, which is the fourth-best job in the SEC East?
“Put it this way: Jim McElwain just took Muschamp’s leftovers and won 10 games and the SEC East. Muschamp never won the SEC East. And he’s going to do it at South Carolina which has won the SEC East once ever?”
THE HEISMAN RADAR
These three guys will be on the podium and for good reason. All you have to do is look at what they did in their conference championship games. If anyone else is up there it’s just window dressing.
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Vs. Florida: 44-189 rushing, 1 TD; Season: 339-1,986 rushing, 23 TDs
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Vs. North Carolina: 26-42 passing, 289 yards, 3 TDs; 24-131 rushing, 2 TDs; Season: 287-413 passing, 3,512 yards, 30 TDs; 163-887 rushing, 11 TDs
3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Vs. Southern Cal: 32-207 rushing, 1 TD; 4-105 receiving, 1 TD; 1-1 passing, 11 yards, 1 TD; 5-120 kickoff returns, 2-29 punt returns; Season: 319-1,847 rushing, 8 TDs; 41-540 receiving, 4 TDs; 2-3, 39 yards passing, 2 TDs; 36-1,042 kickoff returns, 1 TD; 14-67 punt returns
Leave it to ACC zebras to blow a call at the most critical point of the conference championship game with a bazillion people watching on national television. That phantom offsides call wasn’t even close and it cost North Carolina a chance to upset Clemson. If you watch the replays, that same crew on that same play missed an obvious targeting call against North Carolina. ACC zebras have a well-deserved reputation as the worst in all of college football and they proved it by blowing calls at the most critical point of the most important game of the season.
The ACC defended its officials regarding the offsides call with this statement:
"Offsides is not a reviewable play. Dennis Hennigan (ACC Director of officiating) said that mechanically the officials were in the correct position. The rule as it relates to to an onside kick that the 35-yard line is treated as a plane and if any part of a player breaks that plane before the ball is kicked it's offsides. The officials saw a member of the kicking team break the plane before the ball was kicked."
Every single year ACC officials cost teams opportunities to win ball games with their ineptitude. Every single year ACC commissioner John Swofford spends far too much time admitting errors or trying to defend his officials. And nothing changes. ACC officials aren’t getting any better and they get no help from instant replay. Instead of helping ACC officials get the calls right, instant replay only shows just how many calls they miss.
When Steve Spurrier resigned at South Carolina, the Gamecocks had a head start on landing a quality head coach replacement. Some 54 days later, South Carolina has hired Will Muschamp. Now, Muschamp might turn out to be the exact right coach at the exact right moment for the folks in Columbia, but in the previous 54 days, it seems that every head coach with a pulse was interviewed. It’s fairly obvious that Muschamp wasn’t Plan A. He very well may be Plan H, I, J or K. He might turn South Carolina into an SEC East powerhouse, but the fact he was down at the bottom of a short list that kept expanding will be a fact opposing coaches will constantly bring up on the recruiting trail. Given the lack of talent he’s inheriting at South Carolina, Muschamp needs as few obstacles as possible.
This isn’t related to college football, but former Gator Darren O’Day signed a 4-year deal to stay with the Baltimore Orioles. He’ll have to scrape by on $31 million.
With Will Muschamp taking the South Carolina HBC job, Auburn is now looking for its third defensive coordinator in the last three years and the fifth in the last six. Some of the early rumblings are former Georgia DC Jeremy Pruitt or Louisville DC Todd Grantham as the successor to Muschamp.
Mind boggling is the only way to describe that Texas could beat Oklahoma and Baylor yet finish with a losing record and stay home for the holidays instead of going bowling.
Just in case you don’t follow what goes on in Division IAA (I refuse to call it the Football Championship Series), North Dakota State beat Montana in round two to move to the quarterfinals. North Dakota State is going for a fifth straight national championship.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Are you content with the current 4-team playoff format or do you think the playoff should be expanded to eight teams?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Mark Knopfler just finished his world tour to promote his latest CD, “Tracker.” I’ve been a big fan of his from his days fronting Dire Straits and I find that I appreciate him more the older I get. He writes great songs about the things that inspire him and the events he experiences in every day life and his work on the guitar is absolutely flawless. Today’s music is live concert on his “Tracker” tour from Seville, Spain, recorded last spring.