Admit it. You live for this time of the year.
There is football season and then there are the agonizing months where you search for any tidbit of news about the Florida Gators. During football season you know you’ve got at least 12 weeks – maybe 14 if it’s a really great season – where you have something to live for. You’ve got someplace to be on Saturday, whether that’s in The Swamp or parked in front of your flat screen or in some sports bar with a bunch of Gator fans who are as hyped as you are, making it at least seem like you’re really there. And it is comforting to be with other Gators whether it’s sweating with them in the humidity and heat of The Swamp or in that bar or just in your home with a family that is also full of Gators beside you.
You plan your life around the Gators, don’t you? If you have season tickets, you have made your booster contribution so you’re invested in the Gators. Maybe you don’t have season tickets, but you never miss a game because you’re willing to go up to one of those people who has that sign that says “Need Tickets” and you pay whatever the going rate might be that day. If you live more than an hour or two away from Gainesville, you set aside money to travel and if you’re fortunate -- and fanatical – enough, you put money aside for at least one road game a year. If you’re one of the truly fortunate, you have tickets for Jacksonville, and so you binge on everything Gator for that one glorious weekend on the banks of the St. John’s River, hoping and praying to a merciful God that he will send the Poodles northward, tails tucked and filled with humiliation that will last an entire year.
It’s bad enough that when the clock strikes midnight in January and there are no more games for another eight months, you waste otherwise productive moments of your life agonizing over some 17-year-old kid who has never played a down of college football. You love him if he pulls that Gator hat out of the bag. You rationalize that his life is ruined forever if he puts on a Seminole ball cap or – even worse – a Georgia cap. And once National Signing Day is over, you’re into spring practice and make a big deal out of the Orange and Blue Game even though it’s nothing more than a glorified practice where you hope and pray nobody gets hurt. When it’s over you wonder how you’re going to make it until August when fall practice begins and once August gets here, you start counting the days until life has meaning once again.
This is the life of a Florida football fan.
You love it, don’t you? You’re addicted. Admit it. You know you’re so badly addicted that even the most stringent 12-step program known to man could ever hope to break your need for Florida football. Your mind tells you that if Douglas Adair Dickey couldn’t kill off your need for Gator football, that if the Ron Zook error couldn’t do it and that if Will Muschamp’s failure to communicate the need for offense couldn’t do it, then nothing on this earth or on any other planet in any other galaxy could dim your Gator heart light.
So, once again, it is almost here. In two more days, life has meaning once again. In two more days the sky is more blue and the sun is more orange, proof positive that God does smile on the Florida Gators.
Two more days. Take a deep breath. Stay calm. Forgive your wife for she knows not what she does if she happens to say the unthinkable – “It’s only a game” or “Aren’t those Seminoles cute the way they sing along and join in with their arms when the band plays that war chant.”
You know as well as I that it’s more than a game.
Bear Bryant was once asked if football was a life or death matter. The Bear replied, “No, it’s much more important than that.”
As a Gator, you know exactly what he meant.
Two more days. That’s all.
Notes for UMass: Jim McElwain says the Gators are in “pretty good shape” on the injury front although WR C.J. Worton will miss the game and TE DeAndre Goolsby will be limited … Mac says he won’t hesitate to send PK Eddie Pineiro out to kick a FG if the ball is at the 30 or 35. That means he’s comfortable with Pineiro kicking from 47-52 yards. Anything farther will be determined by weather, etc. … Both freshman QBs (Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks) might play. “We haven’t made a definitive decision there,” McElwain said … Five players are suspended for the game – TE C’yontai Lewis, CB Jalen Tabor, WR Tyrie Cleveland and WR Rick Wells plus one other player who hasn’t been named yet.
THURSDAY NIGHT’S GAMES
Vanderbilt 17, South Carolina 14: This is a mulligan year for Will Muschamp. Win or lose, he’s still got a job next year and probably the two years after. Ray Tanner understands how depleted the South Carolina roster is and he’s willing to let Muschamp rebuild the roster. That’s not the case for Derek Mason of Vanderbilt. The Vandy faithful would be happy for a trip to Shreveport but if Mason comes really close to a bowl, he’ll get another year. But what happens if he doesn’t? The first four games are all winnable. They’re also losable. Call tonight the closest thing you’ll find to a must win situation in game one as you’ll find anywhere in the country. Points will be hard to come by but Vandy is at home and that’s worth the three points that will decide this game.
#9 Tennessee 44, Appalachian State 24: There are folks out there who think the Vols have enough talent to win the SEC and make the final four this year. These same folks think Butch Jones has what it takes between the ears to coach a team to a championship. Sure he won a MAC title at Central Michigan and a Big East title at Cincinnati, but he’s never coached a team with the kind of expectations that he’s got this year at UT. Jones has never coached a team that lost fewer than two games. Lost two this year and he probably won’t win the SEC East and that would burst the bubble for Vol fans. The Vols will win their season opener tonight against the Happy Appys, but you shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if ASU scores some points on that Bob Shoop coached defense which is supposed to be so vastly improved.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
#1 Alabama: With all the concerns about who starts at QB, nobody has paid much attention to who is going to replace Heisman Trophy RB Derrick Henry. Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris combined for 64 carries, 261 yards and 2 TDs last year and they’re in line to take the bulk of the carries when the Crimson Tide faces Southern Cal Saturday night. The most talented of the backs might be true freshman B.J. Emmons but he’s behind when it comes to pass protection.
Arkansas: Running back Kody Walker, who has been battling with injuries, is practicing this week and will play Saturday when the Razorbacks play host to Louisiana Tech … Trying to avoid another slow start to the season, HBC Bret Bielema has altered the way they prepare for games after talking extensively in the offseason to former Oregon HBC Chip Kelly and Iowa HBC Kirk Ferentz. The Razorbacks will take Thursday off and have a 45-minute practice on Friday instead of a walk through.
Auburn: Graduate transfer cornerback Marshall Taylor could be available Saturday night when the Tigers play host to #2 Clemson. Taylor is practicing for the first time in a week. Although nothing has been officially confirmed there are reports that Taylor was injured at a party he attended with former teammate Jovon Robinson, who was kicked off the team.
#17 Georgia: For the second straight practice, graduate senior Greyson Lambert took the first snaps with the #1 offense, leaving observers to believe he might start over true freshman Jacob Eason Saturday night against North Carolina … RB Sony Michel was still in a black non-contact jersey Wednesday but Nick Chubb is ready to go and has no limit for contact or carries.
Kentucky: Mark Stoops has great respect for Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens. On the SEC Teleconference, Stoops said, “He’s is very good, very poised, you can tell he has great vision. He’s seen everything. What I’ve been impressed with is how accurate he is and how beautiful he throws the deep ball” … 13,000 seats remain unsold for Saturday night’s game. The Wildcats could hold basketball practice on Bora Bora at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday and that many people would find a way to travel to the South Pacific to watch.
#5 LSU: Although players might be tempted to try a Lambeau Leap, Les Miles made it perfectly clear that it’s unacceptable and said anyone who tries will face consequences. On the SEC Teleconference, Miles said, “I promise you, if anyone jumps in that Lambeau Leap, they’ll end up with a thumb out for a ride home.”
Mississippi State: Jamoral Graham was slated to be a backup corner until Tolando Cleveland tore an ACL and Cedric Jiles broke an arm that will keep him out until mid-October. That thrust Graham into a starting role and Graham think she’s ready for it. “Confidence … I’m up here,” Graham said. I ain’t too much worried about that.”
Missouri: West Virginia’s chief concern against Missouri Saturday will be protecting the passer, particularly from Mizzou DE Charles Harris. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen says he is surprised Harris “didn’t come out [to the NFL Draft] a year ago. He would’ve been a first rounder.”
#11 Ole Miss: HBC Hugh Freeze has the Rebels preparing for a much different QB in Florida State redshirt freshman Deondre Francois than Sean Maguire, who is recovering from a broken foot. On the SEC Teleconference, Freeze said, “He [Francois] can hurt you with his legs or with his arm. So it adds a little bit of mystery into the preparation. But, I don’t think that they’ll venture too far from who they are, especially when they’ve got #4 (Dalvin Cook) back there.”
Texas A&M: Graduate transfer QB Trevor Knight made the transition from Oklahoma Sooner to Texas A&M Aggie without any friction. Said Aggie coach Kevin Sumlin, “That’s a special skill set for guys to come in and do that. Created friendships in a short period of time with guys in his room. That really helped his growth and helped the team’s growth and the offense’s growth. Wouldn’t say that was a surprise but it was just an added benefit he brought.”
ELSEWHERE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
ESPN analyst and former Miami All-American Jonathan Vilma says Houston QB Gary Ward will show up Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield when the two teams play Saturday night. Vilma told the Tulsa World, “You look at Greg Ward compared to Baker Mayfield, to me, it’s not even close. Greg Ward is a better quarterback. He’s more athletic. He’s more accurate. He doesn’t push the issue.” For a guy who might have pushed the issue, Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards and 38 TDs last year.
Since he can’t play for the New England Patriots for the first four games of the NFL season, QB Tom Brady is helping his alma mater out. Brady will be the honorary captain at Michigan for game three when the Wolverines face Colorado. Michael Jordan will be Michigan’s honorary captain in week one.
Sporting News reports that the Big 12 listened to 17 schools make sales pitches to join the league. Among the 17 were East Carolina, New Mexico and Arkansas State. The Big 12 still hasn’t announced whether it will expand by two or four teams.
Brett McMurphy of ESPN reports that the 17 schools have been trimmed to 12 possibilities: Air Force, BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, Colorado State, UConn, Houston, Rice, USF, SMU, Temple and Tulane. It’s interesting that Memphis is not considered one of the 12.
One NFL general manager told Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, “In my career, I have never seen a guy so hated by front office guys as [Colin] Kaepernick.” Freeman interviewed seven GMs who say that “90 to 95 of the NFL front offices felt the same way they did.”
The NFL has cleared Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and James Harrison of using performance enhancing drugs. All three along with QB Peyton Manning and LB Mike Neal were accused of PEDs in an Al-Jazeera America report last December.
Former Southern Cal AD Mike Garrett, who became the AD at Cal State-Los Angeles, has been accused of sexually harassing several female employees during his time at CSLA.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
The US Open tennis tournament has begun so this is a two-part question: (1) Have you paid attention to it and (2) will you bother to watch?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The Brothers Comatose are a San Francisco based band that was formed by brothers Ben and Alex Morrison. They’ve gained quite a following that extends beyond their progressive bluegrass roots. Today’s music is a live performance from 2014.