Forget November and while you’re about it, forget the final score of last Saturday’s SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama. That the Gators scored only 55 points in November will actually turn out to be a plus and even though Florida got hosed by Alabama in Atlanta, it’s another plus.
Because the scores are irrelevant. What’s relevant is the Gators went 3-1 in November to finish the regular season 10-2 with an offense that was totally in the tank following the win over Georgia. What is also relevant is that the Gators won the SEC East and made it to Atlanta. A win would have been shockingly nice but just the fact the Gators were there for the first time since 2009 spoke volumes.
It’s the 10-3 record that matters. It’s the SEC East title that matters. It’s the fact that Jim McElwain and his staff won games in spite of an offense that should be sued for non-support that matters.
These things matter because during the next few days, some of the nation’s top recruits will be visited by Mac and his staff and you can almost sense that more than one of them is going to catch the vision that is being sold. Last year Mac was selling hope. This year he’s selling tangible results and he’s going to be able to look a recruit in the eye and say, “If we can win 10 games in the regular season in 2015 think of what we can do when we fill in all the gaps and put a team on the field that is every bit as talented as there is anywhere in the SEC or the country.”
So forget the scuds Treon was throwing. Forget the whiffed blocks by the offensive line. Forget that the defense wore down against FSU and Alabama because the offense couldn’t move the ball. Think instead about 10 wins and the possibility the Gators can win 11 if they beat Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
If you look long enough at the 10 wins the Gators already have banked then you’ll realize that there really is no such thing as an ugly win. Ask yourself this question: Would you prefer 6 wild west shootout wins and another bowl trip to Birmingham or 10 wins even if some of them are dogs butt ugly?
See. Ugly really can be beautiful. It’s all a matter of perspective.
While doing a 30-minute guest shot on a Monday afternoon radio show, I was asked how did Ole Miss score an Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup with Oklahoma State when Florida beat the Rebels by 28 points in their October matchup in The Swamp? Why is Florida playing Michigan in The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, which has a lower payout than the Allstate Sugar Bowl?
The answer isn’t all that complicated: (1) Once you get past the two playoff semifinals, it’s all about selling tickets and hotel rooms; and (2) the amount of the payout doesn’t matter since all 10 SEC schools will pool the bowl money and then it will be divided into 15 equal shares – 14 for the SEC schools.
All but one of the 40 bowl games will be televised and the networks have already wire transferred their payouts into the banks. This was done before the participants for each game were even selected. With the network money and sponsorship money banked, the chief function then becomes picking two teams that will (1) sell their ticket allotments while creating enough excitement that the locals will buy tickets to ensure a sellout and (2) will fill up hotel rooms.
In the case of the Sugar Bowl, the committee in New Orleans figured an Ole Miss-Okie State matchup would sell more tickets since Florida doesn’t travel well, it’s been 45 years since Ole Miss played in the Sugar Bowl and an Ole Miss-Okie State matchup promises plenty of points. The Citrus Bowl brings in low scoring defensive minded teams in Florida and Michigan, a game that could be boring unless you’re a fan of 2-yard runs and incomplete passes. While not that many Florida fans will buy hotel rooms and stay a week, Florida figures to sell out its allotment of tickets. The bowl people are counting on cold weather in Michigan that will motivate Wolverine fans to flock to Orlando and buy up every available ticket and thousands of hotel rooms.
Here is the interesting part about tickets. Each team is required to purchase a certain amount of tickets and then re-sell them to their boosters and fans. Any unsold tickets are not returned to the bowl. Since they’re already bought and paid for, the school eats the cost of unsold tickets. When Florida played in the Sugar Bowl in 2009, thousands of tickets from Florida’s allotment of 17,000 went unsold and UF ate that cost.
Each school gets an amount of money from the bowl game that goes toward expenses but it’s rare that it covers all travel costs unless it’s almost a local game for one of the teams. By playing in the Citrus Bowl, Florida’s expenses will likely be covered since there are no charter flights to deal with for the team and the band.
Like all conferences, the SEC pools its money and then distributes at the end of the year. The Citrus Bowl payout last year was $4.55 million per team and it’s expected to stay the same this year. Overall, the SEC’s bowl teams brought in $87.5 million last year so the league’s 14 teams and the SEC each received a $5.83 million share. The payout system works well for SEC schools, especially since the conference gets a guaranteed $50 million payout as one of the Power 5 conferences, even for conferences like the Pac-12 that won’t have a team among the final four.
Fans might complain about bowl destinations, but in the SEC, at least, you rarely hear a complaint from an athletic director or head coach since everybody in the league comes away with the same amount of money.
WILL MUSCHAMP SAID IT
During his introductory press conference at South Carolina, a reporter asked Will Muschamp a rather long, multi-tiered question. Muschamp replied:
“Did you see where I got my undergraduate degree? I don’t think I understand the question.”
Steve Spurrier might be gone from South Carolina and Mark Richt might be gone from Georgia, but the tradition of the South Carolina coach taking a jab at Georgia lives on.
PHIL STEELE VS. THE FINAL REGULAR SEASON AP RANKINGS
1. Clemson (13-0): Preseason #17
2. Alabama (12-1): Preseason #4
3. Michigan State (12-1): Preseason #9
4. Oklahoma (11-1): Preseason #18
5. Stanford (11-2): Preseason #7
6. Iowa (12-1): Not in preseason top 40
7. Ohio State (11-1): Preseason #1
8. Notre Dame (10-2): Preseason #12
9. Florida State (10-2): Preseason #8
10. North Carolina (11-2): Not in preseason top 40
11. TCU (10-2): Preseason #2
12. Northwestern (10-2): Not in preseason top 40
13. Oklahoma State (10-2): Preseason #28
14. Houston (12-1): Not in preseason top 40
15. Oregon (9-3): Preseason #11
16. Ole Miss (9-3): Preseason #20
17. Michigan (9-3): Not in preseason top 40
18. Baylor (9-3): Preseason #5
19. FLORIDA (10-3): Not in preseason top 40
20. Utah (9-3): Preseason #27
21. Navy (9-2): Not in preseason top 40
22. LSU (8-3): Preseason #10
23. Wisconsin (9-3): Preseason #13
24. Temple (10-3): Not in preseason top 40
25. Western Kentucky (11-2): Not in preseason top 40
Big Misses by Phil Steele (Preseason prediction/final record):
3. Southern Cal: 8-5
6. Georgia: 9-3
14. Auburn: 6-6
15. UCLA: 8-4
16. Virginia Tech: 6-6
19. Penn State: 7-5
21. Miami: 8-4
22. Arkansas: 7-5
23. Boise State: 8-4
24. Missouri: 8-4
25. Tennessee: 8-4
PLENTY OF STAFF TURNOVER EXPECTED AT ALABAMA
Kirby Smart is leaving Alabama for Georgia and it’s expected he will take with him wide receivers coach Billy Napier, strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran and assistant director of player personnel Glen Shumann, who will assume an on the field role as one of the defensive assistants. There are rumblings out there that O-line coach Mario Cristobal is actively job seeking and will entertain all offers, both HBC and assistant. While there is the always- rumored impending divorce between Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, the two are out recruiting quarterbacks together. If Kiffin is gone, it’s more likely as someone’s head ball coach. While the coaching carousel has slowed down, it’s possible we could see three or four more openings develop in the next week or so.
The changes in the Alabama coaching staff should be expected. When a team is as successful as Alabama has been the last eight years – 95-11 record – it loses coaches. Additionally, because it’s Nick Saban heading up the Bama program, each year’s coaching changes fan the inevitable Saban bolts to the NFL flames. This year it’s expected there will be five openings and two of them could prove tempting. If Indianapolis and/or Detroit elect to change coaches, Saban could step into a situation with something he never had at Miami, a proven commodity at quarterback. Of the two openings, it would seem that Indianapolis would be the most attractive since Colts owner Jim Irsay has Andrew Luck at QB and a willingness to spend big bucks. Irsay is, after all, the same guy who spent $2.2 million to buy Ringo Starr’s drums from his days with The Beatles.
Saban, of course, will get irritated the moment someone mentions the NFL, but he’s the same guy who said he would never leave (a) Michigan State, (b) LSU and (c) Miami Dolphins. Nick says Alabama is his final coaching stop. Do you believe it?
(WINK! WINK!) THE PAIRINGS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH TV RATINGS
While Michigan State’s win over previously unbeaten Iowa produced plenty of drama including a clock draining 22-play drive as time ran down for the game-winning score, the College Football Playoff Committee is telling us that was enough to vault Michigan State past Oklahoma into third place in their final four. By virtue of the win, Michigan State is paired in the semifinals with #2 Alabama, which just so happens to be coached by Nick Saban, who spent five years as the head coach at Michigan State. What a story line that is. In the other game, we have #1 Clemson, whose defensive coordinator is Brent Venables, who spent 12 years on Bob Stoops staff, going against Oklahoma and its score-at-will offense so there is another great story line.
Of course, this gives us the potential of a championship game that features Alabama going against either Clemson, whose head coach is Dabo Swinney, a wide receiver on Alabama’s 1992 national championship team and a former Bama assistant coach, or Oklahoma. The people who do the metrics say that Alabama-Oklahoma would produce the best championship game and pit two of the three best coaches in all of college football in Saban and Stoops, but the secondary choice would be a Bama-Clemson game.
There are few doubts that the best five teams were Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Iowa and Michigan State but that Michigan State would jump Oklahoma raises questions. Did Michigan State, which was #5, get two spots better just by beating an Iowa team, whose best win was a close encounter with the same Wisconsin team that Alabama destroyed? How did Oklahoma, which ran a gauntlet of TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the last month of the season to go with a road win over Tennessee earlier, get one spot worse?
The answer is Michigan State didn’t get better nor did Oklahoma get worse, but because the Iowa-Michigan State winner was already in, the committee could easily shuffle the rankings for television. They can say the pairings had nothing to do with TV rankings, but you’ll never convince me.
As expected the three Heisman Trophy finalists are Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. Henry was thought a runaway winner prior to outstanding performances in conference championship games by Watson and McCaffrey. Henry is still expected to win but the voting is expected to have tightened up considerably.
As if they need any profit boost, Nike will score big with the College Football Playoff as all four teams wear the swoosh. And speaking of Nike, there are reports that LeBron James is about to sign a lifetime deal with Nike that is supposed to be the biggest deal in the company’s history – bigger than Kevin Durant’s $300 million, bigger than Tiger, bigger than MJ.
Bronco Mendenhall has reportedly stated he plans to bring as many as seven BYU assistants with him to Virginia. Memo to Bronco: Your staff at BYU is 5 white guys, 3 Polynesians and African-American and all of them are Mormons, which is not exactly going to resonate well in Tidewater Virginia or DC Metro.
Former Southern Cal coach Steve Sarkisian is suing the school for $12.6 million, claiming he was illegally terminated by the terms of the American Disabilities Act. Sarkisian showed up inebriated at a booster event in August and then was fired on October 12, one day after being suspended indefinitely for showing up to practice allegedly under the influence. Sarkisian’s attorney claims that alcoholism is a recognized disability under California law.
Nevada and Colorado State will square off in the Arizona Bowl on December 29. That a 6-6 team (Nevada) is playing a 7-5 team (Colorado State) is no shocker considering the plethora of bowl games that match up mediocre teams, but why match up two teams from the same conference? Not that it would draw much of an audience anyway, but this will be the first bowl game that isn’t nationally televised since the 1994 Freedom Bowl.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
With the hire of Will Muschamp at South Carolina, all seven schools in the SEC East have a head ball coach. In what order do you rank the coaches in the SEC East from top to bottom?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
From 1967-76, Aretha Franklin earned the title “Queen of Soul” with 11 albums that reached either #1 or #2 on the Billboard soul charts. Today’s music is her terrific 1968 “Lady Soul” that reached #1 and produced two #1 singles (“Chain of Fools” and “Since You’re Been Gone (Sweet Baby).”