Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; Dec. 5

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning...

Now that the required nastiness of having to play Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game is been there and done that it’s time for one of those these truths we hold to be self-evident moments. As in, Alabama kicked Florida badly because (1) Bama has better players; (2) when Bama loses a player to injury, a player of equal and sometimes greater talent takes his place; and (3) Bama does a far better job of developing players, especially quarterbacks, than UF.

This is not a rip and shred moment but for the Gators to level the playing field with Alabama Jim McElwain and his staff are going to have to address those three issues. This is nothing McElwain and his staff don’t already know and it’s something that you should know, too, if you’ve been paying attention.

Alabama has exceptional football players. That has to do with superior recruiting but it also has to do with a system designed to turn the program into a machine that churns out great players and national championships. Nick Saban and his staff do an exceptional job of convincing players that if they’re good enough to play as freshmen they will see the field, but if they can’t, they’ll undergo the process – redshirt as a freshman and transform the body into one that is going to become NFL ready in four more years; learn the system as a redshirt freshman; contribute on special teams and play mopup as a third year sophomore; and then get the experience to go on and play in the NFL in years four and five.

It is because the system works so well that Alabama can lose an All-American safety like Eddie Jackson to injury and never miss a beat. It’s because the system is so good at recognizing talent and adapting to the players on hand that Alabama can quick change its offense in three consecutive years and adapt to the skills of a quarterback who never started before.

Okay, now that we have turned to the sorest subject of all, were any of you the least bit chapped that Alabama can be unbeaten with a true freshman at quarterback and UF has struggled all season, first with a guy whose resume would qualify him as a football gypsy, and second with a quarterback who struggled with accuracy at Purdue for four years and brought his problems with him? Neither of Florida’s QBs seems to see the field very well and any three of us combined won’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the times receivers ran wide open only to see dumpoff passes thrown to someone else or the ball chucked up into double coverage.

McElwain has to recruit better at every position, no question about that, but he’s also got to take care of priority #1 which is to develop a quarterback that is capable of playing and winning in the Southeastern Conference. Yes, the quarterbacks Mac has put on the field have played and won in the SEC the last two years, but that has more to do with the fact the former coach left behind an NFL defense good enough that even mediocre quarterbacks couldn’t screw things up too badly.

Next year, the defense is going to be missing a lot of its more outstanding moving parts and that means the offense is going to have to carry more of the load. There isn’t a single senior on the offensive line, so we can hope it will be much improved. Antonio Callaway, Brandon Powell, Tyrie Cleveland and DeAndre Goolsby will all be back and Dre Massey should give the Gators another dynamic playmaker. UF is solid enough at running back.

But quarterback? The Gators figure out this development thing in a hurry there. Either Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask or incoming freshman Jake Allen will have to man up and do the job. Mac and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier spent Sunday with former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham and folks in South Bend say that Malik Zaire would give the Gators a rocket arm and the kind of mobility that none of the aforementioned quarterbacks or the two who were here in 2015 have.

Heading into 2016, the SEC was thought to be fairly devoid of quarterback talent but that is not going to be the case next year. There are quarterbacks who can play at just about every SEC whistlestop. Will Florida have a QB who can compete with the rest of the league? If the Gators fail to develop a QB next year will be bad. Very, very bad.

OUTBACK BOWL VS. IOWA

If you’re into bad offense, then this is the game for you. As bad as Florida’s offense has been this year, Iowa’s is worse. The Gators rank #115 nationally in total offense at 345.1 yards per game while the Hawkeyes rank #120 at 333.3 per game. On the other side of the ball, Florida ranks #6 nationally in total defense (298.6 yards per game) while Iowa is #24 (352.8). Florida scored 25 touchdowns this year while opponents scored (offensive, defense and special teams) 27. Iowa scored 26 and allowed 27.

The Hawkeyes are a ground and pound team that has a 1-2 punch of LeShun Daniels Jr. (6-0, 225, 1,013 yards rushing, 10 TDs) and Akrum Wadley (5-11, 191, 966 rushing 10 TDs). Ground and pound netted only 34 yards in the Hawkeyes loss to D1AA power North Dakota State and netted 79 in a loss to Northwestern, 83 in a loss to Wisconsin and 30 in a loss to Penn State.

The Gators, on the other hand, netted 12 in a loss to Arkansas, 58 in a loss to FSU and 0 in the loss Saturday to Alabama.

Maybe both these teams should wear throwback uniforms to the 1950s because on paper, this game has 10-7 or 14-13 written all over it.

THE COMMITTEE GOT IT RIGHT

It’s Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington in the final four. Those were the four teams heading into the weekend and except for a slight adjustment – Clemson moved up to #2 and Ohio State dropped one spot to #3 – that’s the way it will be for the College Football Playoff.

The Penn State people think they got jobbed because they beat Ohio State and because Ohio State got in without being a conference champ. Big 12 commissioner Bruce Bowlsby is screaming that his league got screwed two years ago when both Baylor and TCU were shut out. They can scream about injustice all they want but the committee got it right.

They got it right because Alabama, Clemson and Washington all won their conference championship games. They got it right because Ohio State was #2 heading into the weekend and didn’t do anything to knock itself out of the playoff picture. How could Ohio State be #2 and then suddenly drop out because Penn State beat a Wisconsin team for the Big 12 title that both Ohio State and Michigan beat in the regular season? How could the committee overlook the fact that Ohio State got a win on the road against Oklahoma, which finished seventh in the final CFP poll and won its last 9 games? How could the committee overlook the fact that Penn State lost at home to Pitt and got drilled on the road to the Michigan team that lost to Ohio State?

When it came time to vote, the committee couldn’t answer any of those questions in a way that would elevate Penn State in and keep Ohio State out. Nor could the committee elevate Penn State ahead of Washington, which began the weekend at #4 and scored an impressive win over a top 10 Colorado team to win the Pac-12.

As for Bruce Bowlsby, the Big 12’s dysfunction is one of the primary reasons the league is disrespected. That, and the fact that you typically have 2-3 teams at the top who can play with anybody in the country and the rest of the league which is really, really bad. Two years ago, the lack of a championship game hurt the Big 12 because the four teams that got in had impressive wins in their conference championship games while the Big 12 couldn’t decide if Baylor or TCU deserved to be a conference champ. And the dysfunction continued this year when the league invited 20 schools to make elaborate presentations for league membership and then sent them away without an expansion vote. Until the Big 12 figures things out, its champion is going to have to be near perfect to get into the playoff.

Now, with that being said, I do believe the playoff should expand by two teams. That way you could accommodate all five conference champs and a wildcard team. If that were the case this year, then Oklahoma and Penn State would be in as champs and Ohio State would be your wildcard. Expanding by two games means you could play the first two games before Christmas and have your final four set up at New Years. That makes sense. 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF TOP 25

SEC teams in bold face
1. Alabama 13-0
2. Clemson 12-1
3. Ohio State 11-1
4. Washington 12-1
5. Penn State 11-2
6. Michigan 10-2

7. Oklahoma 10-2

8. Wisconsin 10-3

9. Southern California 9-3
10. Colorado 10-3

11. Florida State 9-3

12. Oklahoma State 9-3

13. Louisville 9-3

14. Auburn 8-4

15. Western Michigan 13-0

16. West Virginia 10-2

17. FLORIDA 8-4

18. Stanford 9-3

19. Utah 8-4

20. LSU 7-4

21. Tennessee 8-4

22. Virginia Tech 9-4

23. Pittsburgh 8-4

24. Temple 10-3

25. Navy 9-3

COACHES TOP 25

SEC teams in bold face
1. Alabama 13-0

2. Ohio State 11-1

3. Clemson 12-1

4. Washington 12-1

5. Penn State 11-2

6. Michigan 10-2

7. Oklahoma 10-2

8. Wisconsin 10-3

9. Southern California 9-3

10. Florida State 9-3

11. Colorado 10-3

12. West Virginia 10-2

13. Oklahoma State 9-3

14. Western Michigan 13-0

15. Louisville 9-3

16. Stanford 9-3

17. Auburn 8-4

18. FLORIDA 8-4

19. Virginia Tech 9-4

20. LSU 7-4
21. Nebraska 9-3

22. South Florida 10-2

23. Utah 8-4

24. Temple 10-3

25. Iowa 8-4
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS

Where the SEC teams will spend their holidays

Peach Bowl (semifinal): Washington (12-1) vs. Alabama (13-0)

Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Auburn (8-4)

Citrus Bowl: Louisville (9-3) vs. LSU (7-4)

Outback Bowl: Iowa (8-4) vs. Florida (8-4)

TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)

Texas Bowl: Kansas State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)

Music City Bowl: Nebraska (9-3) vs. Tennessee (8-4)

Liberty Bowl: TCU (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5)

Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5)

Independence Bowl: North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)

Birmingham Bowl: South Florida (10-2) vs. South Carolina (6-6)

St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami, Ohio (6-6) vs. Mississippi State (5-7)

Other bowl games of interest:

Orange Bowl: Michigan (10-2) vs. Florida State (9-3)

Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia (10-2) vs. Miami (8-4)

Cure Bowl: Arkansas State (7-5) vs. UCF (6-6)

COACHING STUFF

There is plenty of speculation that Lane Kiffin to Houston is a done deal. At his post game press conference Saturday night, Nick Saban talked about Kiffin’s next move stating, “Right now we’re focusing on getting him a head coaching job.” If Kiffin takes the Houston job, former Washington and Southern Cal head coach Steve Sarkisian would be the successor as the Alabama OC.

P.J. Fleck isn’t going to be the HBC at either Purdue or Oregon. He could be the guy at Cincinnati with Tommy Tuberville stepping down. Brian Kelly and Butch Jones used Cincy as a stepping stone to big time jobs so it’s a natural progression.

Oregon has already interviewed Boise State’s Bryan Harsin and USF’s Willie Taggart. Tony Dungy has come out in support of Taggart, who also has the full support of former boss Jim Harbaugh, who is best buds with Uncle Phil Knight.

Baylor is going to interview Sonny Dykes of California but smart money is on Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm, who just won the Conference USA title and has taken the Hilltoppers to consecutive 10-win seasons. Brohm has also been offered the Purdue job and is likely to be offered the job at Cincinnati.

After plenty of speculation that he will be looking elsewhere, Dana Holgorsen signed a 5-year contract extension with West Virginia that’s worth $18.6 million.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

It is being reported that Alabama backup QB Cooper Bateman has already secured his release and will transfer as soon as the semester is over. Bateman is a fourth-year junior and probably will be able to go somewhere as a grad transfer which will mean immediate eligibility. If Bateman leaves prior to the playoff game Alabama will have only Jalen Hurts and David Cornwell as the scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

In his second year on the job at Youngstown State, former LSU DC and Nebraska HBC Bo Pelini has the Penguins in the quarter-finals of the D1AA playoffs.

Arkansas backup QB Ricky Town, a redshirt freshman who didn’t see the field this year, is planning to transfer to junior college so he can play immediately in 2017, then transfer and play in Division I in 2018. Town is a former 4-star recruit who chose Southern Cal over Florida, then transferred to Arkansas after spring practice in 2014.

I’m going to miss Verne Lundquist. I know a lot of you think Verne doesn’t like the Gators but I know him well enough to say there isn’t a shred of evidence that I’ve seen to back that up. He’s been the voice of SEC football for 17 years but my favorite Verne moment had everything to do with Florida winning the SEC Basketball Tournament in 2007.

https://youtu.be/bQ3y5hTHuP4

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Do you think the playoff committee got it right or do you think Penn State should have been in with Ohio State out?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

Back in 1990, Eric Clapton got together at Royal Albert Hall in London with friends Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Johnny Johnson, Richard Cousins and Jamie Oldaker to record an extraordinary night of blues.  

https://youtu.be/4Ox1uP0Lfjg


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