FOOTBALL: Practice, Revenge And The BCS Mess

It's all about timing as the Florida Gators begin their preparations for the December 31 Peach Bowl game in Atlanta with the Miami Hurricanes. As the Gators went through their second day of practices Saturday, it was evident that the timing is coming back, but still a bit off. Throws that Chris Leak was completing with ease in the last three games of the season were missing their mark for the second straight day, but offensive coordinator Larry Fedora has no concerns.

"This is just the second day out of throwing and getting back into the groove," said Fedora after Saturday's practice. "We're a little rusty now but we'll get it back in another day or so. They guys have been spending all their time studying and getting ready for finals so now they have their heads back on the game."

For Fedora the bigger concern was getting players rested after the grind of 11 straight playing weeks without an open date. By the season's end, though the Gators were playing well, they were close to running on an empty tank.

"All of 'em are showing more energy now," he said. "Going through 11 straight weeks without an open date was tough on them. All of them have had some time to rest and relax. You can see it that their legs are livelier. The bumps and the bruises have healed up and we'll be 100% healthwise in Atlanta."


Interim head coach and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong says that freshman Kyle Jackson will be starting at safety in the Peach Bowl, noting that the former Jacksonville Ed White star is comfortable in the role and ready to play.

"Kyle Jackson will start at the safety position," said Strong. "Whenever you're a freshman you have to come in and learn the system. He had to learn the system and once he picked it up he was able to play more."

Strong also mentioned that the Gators will have all five of their scholarship linebackers healthy and ready to play in the Peach Bowl. Channing Crowder, Earl Everett and Brandon Siler should be the starters with Travis Harris and Todd McCullough handling backup roles.


No player on the Gator roster has ever beaten Miami, and a good many players remember all too well that sinking feeling at the Orange Bowl in game two of the 2003 season when the Gators blew a 23-point lead in the fourth quarter and fell to Miami, 38-33. It was bad enough to lose a game that for three quarters the Gators dominated, but to lose it in such a fashion and to Brock Berlin, of all people --- then to have have insult added to injury by Berlin and his throat slash antics.

For the players who were there that night, it is a chance to exorcise some demons and while they're doing it, end Berlin's career with a big L on the end of it. I can't fault Berlin for transferring. As far as I am concerned the NCAA should allow every player a one-time transfer to any school of his or her choosing without losing a year of eligibility. I don't fault Berlin for wanting to end his career at a place he thought he could win a national championship. I do fault him for such a lack of class when he led that miracle comeback. So many of those Florida kids were his former teammates and none of them trashed him or blasted him for choosing Miami.

For that reason alone, I hope the Gators smack him around in this game and give him the most miserable sendoff any quarterback has ever experienced. I hope the Gators put a punctuation mark on this two year period in Miami football so it will be remembered as the "Berlin Error" and not the Berlin Era. Should the Gators win in Atlanta, Berlin will go out with five losses which is more losses in two years than the Hurricanes had in the four years that Ken Dorsey was the quarterback. While you can pin some blame for the poor performances by the Hurricanes this year on injuries on both the offensive and defensive lines, you can't overlook that Berlin turned in rotten performances in all the Miami losses the past two years.

One more thing to note about the end of Berlin's career is this: how many quarterbacks who have come out of the system at Evangel Christian in Shreveport, Louisiana have gone on to have outstanding careers in college football? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Bueller?


In 1984, the best college football team in America was the Florida Gators. They went 9-1-1, won their last nine games, and they were the one team in the nation that nobody wanted to play. They were ever so good, a roster stocked with future number one draft choices and an offensive line that would have to rank with the very best ever to play in the modern era of college football.

Only problem is, the Gators were put in the NCAA jailhouse after the third game of the season, their coach (Charley Pell) fired, and the label of cheaters applied by the self-righteous who conveniently overlooked that national championships at places like Oklahoma and Georgia were not exactly built by men of great character and teams built of boy scouts. For the Gators, the only thing that mattered was that they were on probation so they couldn't go to a bowl which opened the door for Brigham Young to win the national championship simply by finishing as the nation's only unbeaten team. BYU had a very good team that year, but let's face it, the Cougars won their national title without ever having played a single team ranked in the nation's top 25.

The voters who awarded the national championship said that BYU deserved to win because it was the only unbeaten team. It can be argued that Brigham Young simply did all that it was required to do, that the Cougars played the schedule that had been given them and they won all their games. But, were they really the best team in the nation? Could they have beaten a Florida team that featured six future number one draft choices and three second round picks among the 23 players on that team that would eventually be drafted by the NFL?

And, consider this: Could a bowl game played a full thirty days after the last game of the season actually determine the national champion or simply determine which team was better on one particular day?

It's important to think about this in a year when this beast that is called the BCS is running the show which is akin to The Three Stooges running NASA. Could anything be more screwed up than the possibility that four teams could finish the season unbeaten? And while it can be argued that Utah and Boise State didn't exactly play bonecrusher schedules, can anyone say with certainty that they're not good enough? And what about Auburn? Oklahoma and Southern Cal are both unbeaten, so one of them will finish unbeaten after the Orange Bowl. But if Auburn wins the Sugar Bowl, don't the Tigers deserve a piece of the title? And that being the case, shouldn't Utah also be awarded a slice if it wins its BCS Fiesta Bowl game with Pitt?

Why is all this important? Because back in 1984, the standard was set that if you win all your games, you are the national champion. Well, what happens when you have two unbeatens? Or three? Or even four?

If ever there was a year that screamed for the sanity that only a playoff system will bring this is it. If you buy into that silly argument that it would take away from the classroom experience for the athletes, then pay attention to March Madness when kids miss far more class than they would finishing playoffs for college football in December.

We have a bowl system for two reasons and two reasons only.

Reason One: Coaches with mediocre records can get rewarded for their mediocrity with one more game that brings in money and another national television date for their school. By doing this, it saves the presidents and athletic directors from firing coaches for mediocre performances.

Reason Two: This one is more important. Until the networks put more money up for a playoff than the bowl system is pumping into college football, there won't be a playoff. We have 28 bowls and all of them are making big payouts to the conferences and the conferences divvy up the money. In particular, the big power conferences divvy up a ton of money. The only thing that would get the power conferences to go against the bowl system would be for the networks to pony up more money than the bowls crank into the system every year.

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