VETTEL: Gators one step from bowl eligibility

Saturday's win over Vanderbilt brought the Gators one step closer to becoming bowl eligible. While a potentially 6-and-5 team with a lame-duck coach would normally not be attractive for a post-season game, Florida's big name and tradition, combined with the SEC Bowl contracts guarantees an extra game if the Gators get that sixth win.

While this is far from what most had hoped for when the season began, it does bear remembering that Florida does have some pretty cool streaks that are worth keeping alive… 13 straight bowl bids, 16 straight winning seasons, 24 straight non-losing seasons (the '87 Gators finished 6-and-6).

My Kingdom For A Linebacker

Not that Ron Zook is ever likely to paraphrase Shakespeare, but the Florida staff had to feel that way heading into Saturday's game. The Gators are already painfully thin at linebacker, one spot where the past several years of recruiting has repeatedly come up short in quantity or quality and sometimes both. With only five scholarship linebackers game-ready, the Gators were one-for-five heading into Commodore stadium… only Brandon Siler, the unquestioned star of last year's signing class was available. That left Florida using Siler, walk-on Alvin Butler and senior safety Corey Bailey as the unlikeliest linebacking trio in recent memory.

Siler was in on ten tackles; Butler and Bailey gave it everything they had. And the defense specialized in avoiding the big play as the Gators held Vandy scoreless for the final 38 minutes.

Florida got help when Commodores quarterback Jay Cutler was injured early. Vandy was without a guy who has over 5,000 passing yards and 1,000 running yards for most of the game and had no passing threat until a late drive made the numbers look good.

Offensively it should have been easy and it was. The Gators never punted. However four turnovers kept UF from hanging 50 or so on the ‘Dores. Ciatrick Fason reached the 1,000-yard mark for the season, O.J. Small caught his 100^th career reception and Chris Leak kept moving up the passing charts as well. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Other Games More Interesting

Elsewhere in college football there was some notable stuff. Miami fans are growing in their frustration with the Larry Coker era after an overtime loss to Clemson. It's kind of amazing, considering the guy was 35-and-3 in his first three seasons, but there's increasing grumbling down south about how Coker won with tons of Butch Davis recruited talent and now they are just a bit above the rest. Consecutive losses to middle-of-the-pack ACC squads reinforces that belief. Miami still has Virginia and Virginia Tech to play, so a four-loss season cannot be ruled out. But if they win both, they could still end up in a BCS Bowl.

It's a common theme in college football. Galen Hall won with Charley Pell's talent and never overcame that perception. Steve Spurrier won with Galen's players and didn't completely win over Gator skeptics until the '93 SEC Championship. Ohio State fans are grumbling about Jim Tressel and so on.

Fans are tough to please. And not just in Gainesville. It just seems that way.

Oklahoma keeps living a charmed life, dodging an upset for the second week in a row. This time overcoming a trio of 14-point deficits to beat Texas A&M 42-35. Bob Stoops' team has that Miami-like swagger that they know they are going to pull it out. Or maybe we should start calling it an Oklahoma-like swagger.

And finally, will someone please put Joe Paterno out of Penn State's misery. One of the greatest coaches in the history of the game (top five in my book) is driving the Penn State bus off the cliff and nobody will take the wheel. The once-proud Nittany Lions have lost 13 of 14 Big Ten games and cannot attract top prospects. It's sad to see and needs to stop.

I hear those who insist Joe Pa has earned the right to go out on his terms. What nonsense! Are they saying if Paterno chooses to coach another ten years into his mid-eighties winning two or three games a year the school should just sit back and watch? I don't think so.

B-C-S Chaos Well Within Reach

My dream scenario of three or more unbeatens at the end of the season still has a chance to materialize this season. Southern Cal still has Notre Dame to play. Oklahoma has Nebraska, but so what? Wisconsin plays Iowa on the road. Auburn plays Georgia and Alabama plus the SEC Title game, giving the Tigers the toughest road to travel. And then there's Utah with super coaching prospect Urban Meyer getting boatloads of attention. The Utes keep piling it on. Saturday's 63-to-31 win over Colorado State was even more devastating than the score indicates… it was 56-to-10 after three quarters. It seems Utah is destined for an 11-and-0 record and Fiesta Bowl bid. So that's five teams still undefeated, and Boise State could finish running the table, too. That's Chaos!

UF Could Still Send Out An S-O-S

It was obvious Steve Spurrier was not about to become a candidate for a job that he is responsible for being one of the nation's best. It was equally obvious new UF President Bernie Machen was not going to hire a football coach without looking around. No coach of any consequence was going to talk with UF while the specter of the HBC was hovering around.

So fine, Spurrier is no longer a candidate…. for now.

But what if UF finds there are two coaches out there they really like, but for some reason the coaches in question choose not to make the move. Or the Mrs. doesn't want to re-locate. Or there is a lack of personal chemistry and it just doesn't feel right.

Given that scenario, Florida could then well turn to the # 1 Gator of all time, satisfying it had done its due diligence and satisfied that a Spurrier sequel was the best thing for the Gators' future. If that happens, and S-O-S has yet to sign on elsewhere, it could well be a second marriage made in heaven.

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