After covering the Outback Bowl, then driving back to Gainesville, an abbreviated thoughts of the day:
1. TAKE THE INTERIM TAG OFF RANDY SHANNON: This is the guy the Gators need as their permanent defensive coordinator. From all accounts, it’s the move that has been in the works since Geoff Collins left for the HBC job at Temple, but it’s time to take that interim tag off. If we didn’t know already that Randy Shannon belongs, he proved it with a game plan that was complicated enough to leave Iowa dazed and confused but simple enough that the Gators understood what to do and ran it to perfection. Take away some missed tackles and Iowa’s yardage would have been less than 150.
2. REMEMBER THE NAME VOSEAN JOSEPH: Jarrad Davis will be playing on Sunday next year. Alex Anzalone could come back but it’s more likely he will also play for pay. Daniel McMillian had an extraordinary final game to erase some of the memories of a career that never lived up to the high school hype. David Reese showed what he could do subbing in when Davis got hurt and Kylan Johnson was very productive as a redshirt freshman. Now add Joseph to that mix and you’ve got a formidable set of linebackers. Joseph could be spectacular. He’s got great speed, maneuvers well in traffic without getting picked off by linemen and then explodes through the ball carrier when he tackles. Reminds me a lot of a guy Randy Shannon coached at Miami who went on to a great pro career – Jonathan Vilma.
3. THE OFFENSE WAS BETTER: The Gators had more than 300 yards of offense after three quarters. Had they not sat on the ball and eaten up clock in the fourth quarter they likely would have hit the 400-yard mark. As it was, the Gators finished with 331 yards, which was only the second time since October 15 that they eclipsed the 300-yard mark (other time was against South Carolina). Austin Appleby threw two interceptions that were not his fault on Florida’s first two possessions, but he settled in and had a sold although not spectacular game, finishing with 222 passing yards in his final game as a Gator. Appleby showed what he could do when he gets in a rhythm on Florida’s 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter when he hit 4-4 of his passes for 61 yards. When Appleby hit DeAndre Goolsby for the touchdown to end that drive, it was on his fourth progression. In the running game, Jordan Scarlett showed real toughness and got better as the game moved along, finishing with 94 yards. After some of the eggs the Florida offense laid in the month of November, what we saw against a very good Iowa defense gives hope for the future.
4. STAFF CHANGES COMING?: There is one vacancy on the Florida staff with Collins leaving for Temple, but if coachingsearch.com is correct, then UF O-line coach Mike Summers might be leaving. The website is reporting that Summers has interviewed with Will Muschamp for the O-line vacancy at South Carolina.
5. GATORS CAN GO TO 2-0 IN THE SEC TONIGHT: Mike White and the 24th-ranked Gators (10-3, 1-0 SEC) can build on their good start to the SEC portion of their schedule tonight when they entertain Ole Miss (9-4, 0-1 SEC) at the O-Dome (7 p.m., ESPNU). The Gators have rebounded from consecutive losses to Duke and Florida State with three consecutive wins, all in impressive fashion. The Gators have averaged 87 points per game in the mini-streak while playing impressively on the defensive end.
When the Gators beat Arkansas on the road last week in their SEC opener, KeVaughn Allen hit 5-9 from the 3-point line and finished with 21 points while Devin Robinson contributed 17 points and 7 rebounds. In the last five games, Allen is averaging 17 points per game while hitting 50% (16-32) of his 3-point attempts. Robinson is averaging 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in the last five.
It is anticipated that the Gators will start Kevarrius Hayes at center once again and bring John Egbunu (hamstring issues) off the bench. In the win over Arkansas, the two combined for 15 points and 17 rebounds (10 and 6 for Hayes, 5 and 11 for Egbunu).
Ole Miss is one of the smaller teams in the SEC. The Rebels rely on playing at a fast pace and beating teams from the perimeter. They are led by Miami transfer Deandre Burnett (19.2 points per game), the half brother of FSU tailback Dalvin Cook.
Keys to the game: Other than 6-9 senior Sebastian Saiz (15.8 points, 12.2 rebounds), the Rebels don’t have much of an inside game. The Gators need to pound the ball on the inside and wear down Saiz. Kasey Hill can cause all sorts of problems for Burnett, who averages turning the ball over 4 times per game.
6. LANE KIFFIN JUST CAN’T HELP HIMSELF: All Lane Kiffin had to do was keep his mouth shut and be on time. But, Lane being Lane, was probably a little too candid for his own good in some interviews he did last week, was consistently late to several events in the week leading up to last week’s College Football Playoff game with Washington and then more or less laid an egg with his play calls in the passing game in Alabama’s 24-7 win. Throw in the fact Kiffin was trying to split time being the Alabama offensive coordinator and the new head coach at Florida Atlantic and it was a recipe for disaster that Nick Saban put an end to on Monday. Saban says it was a mutually agreed decision to let Kiffin go and turn the offense over to Steve Sarkisian. Here’s how that went. Saban: “Lane, you’re gone and Sarkisian is taking over.”
Sarkisian is a fine play caller and knows the offense Alabama is running inside and out. He’s been in Tuscaloosa for months so he is completely familiar with the personnel, so there will be no adjustments. But, you have to wonder if the distraction is just enough to throw Alabama off in its focus for Clemson in next Monday night’s national championship game.
As for Kiffin, there is no question he has a brilliant offensive mind but even three years working with Saban couldn’t mature him.
7. MORE BOWL WOES: Only 51,119 souls showed up at RayJay for Florida’s 30-3 win over Iowa. Stadium capacity 65.890. In Dallas, 59,615 showed for Wisconsin’s Cotton Bowl win over Western Michigan, 40% less than capacity for Jerry’s World. Part of the reason for the sagging attendance numbers is the College Football Playoff that makes all games but the semifinals and national championship game irrelevant, but the bowls need to make changes to bring about better matchups that would attract more fans in the seats.
8. BIG TEN BOWL WOES: When the regular season ended, it was generally conceded that the Big Ten was the best conference since the league had four teams in the final College Football Playoff poll – 3. Ohio State; 5. Penn State; 6. Michigan; and 8. Wisconsin. Ohio State got smoked by Clemson, Penn State blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose to Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl and Michigan lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Only Wisconsin came through with a win. Overall, the Big Ten finished with a 3-7 record in the bowls with Northwestern and Minnesota scoring the other two wins beside Wisconsin.
9. KAAYA GOING PRO: Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Kaaya isn’t expected to go in the first round but he should be selected in rounds 2-3. Miami hasn’t had a quarterback drafted since Ken Dorsey was taken in the seventh round in 2003.
10. MORE MONEY THAN BRAINS AND OTHER MINDLESS THOUGHTS: To fire Chip Kelly and his staff at San Francisco, the 49ers will have to pay $69 million in severance pay … Kelly needs to go back to college where his hurry up spread offense works fine. In the NFL where you have a 47-man roster and quarterbacks who aren’t encouraged to run, it’s risky … Notre Dame is finally off the hook for Charlie Weis’ buyout. It only cost the school $19 million when all was said and done … Former Gator graduate assistant Jedd Fisch is leaving Michigan to take over as offensive coordinator at UCLA … There are only three Division I basketball teams remaining with unbeaten records – #1 Villanova 14-0, #3 Baylor 13-0 and #4 Gonzaga 14-0.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The Dukes of September was Donald Fagen’s revival of the New York Rock and Soul Revue. Headlined by Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, the band did a tour in 2010 and a PBS special in 2012 that kicked off a summer tour. There are rumblings that the Dukes will be putting together another summer tour for 2017.