THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, AUGUST 2, 2019
GATORS #8 IN AMWAY COACHES POLL
The Amway Coaches preseason poll was released Wednesday morning with the usual suspects – Clemson, Alabama and Georgia – holding down positions 1-3. Oklahoma, Ohio State and LSU hold down the next three spots with Michigan coming in at a relatively surprising #7. Florida, Notre Dame and Texas finish out the top 10.
Of the top 10 teams, Michigan at #7 surprises me and I continue to be surprised by Texas at #10. I don’t think either one will finish in the top ten. Michigan has to play Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. I think there are three losses in that bunch. I think Texas will lose to LSU on September 7 and again to Oklahoma. The Longhorns could go 10-2 but not be as good as the record might indicate. As for Georgia, I understand that 24 wins the last two seasons is impressive so that’s why all the hype. I’m just not sold.
The SEC has five of the first 11 teams but after that, Auburn is the lone remaining top 25 team.
(1) Clemson; (2) Alabama; (3) Georgia; (4) Oklahoma; (5) Ohio State; (6) LSU; (7) Michigan; (8) FLORIDA; (9) Notre Dame; (10) Texas; (11) Texas A&M; (12) Washington; (13) Oregon; (14) Penn State; (15) Utah; (16) Auburn; (17) UCF; (18) Wisconsin; (19) Iowa; (20) Michigan State; (21) Washington State; (22) Syracuse; (23) Stanford; (24) Iowa State; (25) Northwestern
FLORIDA FLASHBACK: A RECRUITING TSUNAMI BEGINS
So much was at stake when Florida State traveled to Gainesville to face the Gators in the last game of the 2005 regular season. This wasn’t at all like those glory years of the 1990s when it seemed every time the Gators and Seminoles played there were national championship implications. Both UF and FSU were 7-3 and in desperate need of a win that would at least give the impression that the ship was being righted.
Bobby Bowden was getting old and the FSU dynasty was crumbling. Beating the Gators wouldn’t erase the disappointment of a 3-loss season including back-to-back losses to North Carolina State and Clemson, but the Seminoles hoped to land the kind of recruiting class that would maybe give Bowden one more national championship before he called it a career. They needed a win over the Gators to make that happen.
As for the Gators, the preseason hype had long since faded. Urban Meyer’s first season on the job was nothing at all like Florida fans envisioned when Meyer left Utah for Gainesville instead of South Bend. The Gators came into the game two weeks removed from a shocking, 30-22, loss to South Carolina in Columbia. Earlier in the season Meyer had been moved to tears following a 21-17 loss to LSU because he had some players giving him everything they had while others were going through the motions. The South Carolina loss left Meyer with that same empty feeling.
What nobody knew was what happened after that South Carolina loss. Jarvis Herring, Jeremy Mincey and Vernell Brown basically commandeered the team for a couple of hours and told a few players to make a decision – either all in or get the hell out of Dodge. In the days leading up to the FSU game, it was like a dark cloud had been lifted over the Gators heads. There was still the matter of beating the Seminoles, critical not just to salvage the season but also for recruiting purposes. No one had to tell the Gators just how important winning this game would be.
The big concern heading into the game was Florida’s situation at corner. Vernell Brown had broken his ankle in the Vanderbilt game and he was replaced by converted wide receiver Reggie Lewis, who would be charged with stopping Willie Reid while Dee Webb took on Chris Davis. Because FSU ran a lot of 3-receiver sets, it meant true freshman Avery Atkins would be matched with 6-6 Greg Carr and that was a bigger concern. Because the Seminoles threw often to their tight ends and running backs it meant Atkins wouldn’t have much help from the safeties.
Co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong came up with a game plan that took away FSU’s bread and butter play action by stuffing the run. Florida’s pass rush was ferocious (five sacks for -31 yards) and that forced FSU to dink and dunk.
Florida held a precarious 7-0 lead in the second quarter when Chris Leak threw an interception that gave the Seminoles great field position at the UF 27. The UF defense didn’t give an inch, however. Jarvis Moss stuffed Lorenzo Booker for no gain on first down and Carr wanted no part of a throw over the middle on second down, not with Reggie Nelson looming and ready to take his head off. On third down, Mincey forced a bad throw. That brought on Gary Cimesia to try a 44-yard field and that is where the game turned.
Marcus Thomas broke through the FSU line to block Cimesia’s kick and Reggie Lewis scooped it up at the UF 48 then ran untouched for the TD. Staked to that 14-0 lead at the half, Florida simply had to stick with what had been working – conservative play calling on offense, stuff the run and keep the heat on the FSU QB on defense. The Seminoles kept trying to pick on Atkins, but he broke up two passes and picked off a pass intended for Carr.
Florida ran up a 34-0 lead before the Seminoles got an almost meaningless TD with 6:35 left in the game.
Not only did Florida win the game, but a recruiting tsunami began in the locker room. Four players committed including future All-American Brandon James. Two weeks later, Tim Tebow committed and six days after that Percy Harvin broke the Seminoles’ hearts by announcing for UF. By the time national signing day arrived, Florida’s class was ranked second nationally only to Southern Cal. Four would achieve All-America status (Tebow, Harvin, James and Brandon Spikes) and nine of the 24 would go on to play in the NFL.
As for the Seminoles, finishing the regular season with three straight losses including a blowout to the Gators proved costly. Although FSU’s recruiting class wound up with a #4 national ranking it lacked real star power. Florida would go on to win two national championships (2006-08). FSU went 30-24 from 2006-09, didn’t win a conference championship and saw Bowden retire without ever getting the dynasty renewed.
SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
From Stewart Mandel of The Athletic on UCF’s arrogance when it comes to football scheduling:
“If UCF, as it has repeatedly claimed, thinks the Playoff selection committee is not affording the Knights the respect they deserve, then do something about it. Go schedule Florida, or Alabama and Miami (as rival USF has done), and beat them so the committee has no choice but to take you seriously. Instead, White has decided to turn his team’s schedule into a referendum on the inequities of the system, which … OK. We get it. Life’s not fair for the Group of 5 programs.
But, newsflash, UCF is still a Group of 5 program, no matter how many parades they throw themselves or “Power 6” patches get sewn on their uniforms. SEC schools are not going to be scheduling Group of 5 home-and-home series anytime soon. So you can either put your players in the best possible position to achieve national prominence, and in doing so, hopefully garner the program an invite to one of the power conferences in the near future.”
From Ross Dellinger of Sports Illustrated on Southern Cal’s new offensive coordinator, Graham Harrell, who played quarterback for Mike Leach at Texas Tech:
“Graham Harrell is here to save Clay Helton’s job. Helton won’t say that and neither will Harrell, nor will anyone else inside the USC football program. And maybe we’re being a touch dramatic – to save his job, really? What we do know is that a 5-7 season in 2018 pushed Helton’s job security so close to the cliff that the offensive-minded coach is scrapping his own pro-style playbook, removing himself from schematics and taking the plunge into the pass-heavy spread world by hiring a 34-year old from Mike Leach’s Air Raid tree.”
From Seth Davis of The Athletic about how some Kentucky fans don’t think John Calipari has been all that successful because he has won only one national title in his10 seasons in Lexington:
“Here’s the bottom line: Calipari has been the coach at Kentucky for 10 seasons. During that time the Cats have been to three Final Fours, three Elite Eights and a Sweet 16. And they’ve won a national championship. Whatever prism you want to look through, you should not be disappointed by what you see.”
From Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator talks about quarterback Lamar Jackson:
“The way his teammates feel about him, he has natural leadership ability. They believe in him. He inspires his teammates. I think he’s a force multiplier.”
A PLAYOFF PROPOSAL THAT MAKES MORE SENSE
North Carolina football coach Mack Brown is in favor of tweaking the current playoff system. Brown is in favor of a 6-team format that includes all five power conference champions plus one at large team. He’s not in favor of opening the playoff up to Group of Five teams. On the Paul Finebaum Show, Brown said adding a Group of Five team “is fair to anyone.”
A 6-team format makes far more sense than the current 4-team system since every power conference champion would be guaranteed a spot. While I like the six slots, I would open the sixth slot to a Group of Five team but only if demonstrably better than Notre Dame or an outstanding power conference runner-up.
In the 6-team format the two top seeds would get a bye. Under this scenario, you could play a pair of on campus games with the two winners advancing to the final four.
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt says that Georgia transfer Deangelo Gibbs will sit out 2019 due to NCAA transfer rules. The Vols are still awaiting a waiver decision for OT Aubrey Solomon, who has transferred from Michigan.
Ole Miss offensive tackle Alex Givens, who started five games last year at right tackle, will miss most, if not all, of training camp after undergoing a surgical procedure on his lower back.
After pleading guilty to a lesser charge of first offence peace disturbance, which is a misdemeanor, Missouri defensive end Tre Williams has been reinstated. Williams was originally charged with second degree domestic assault, which is a class C felony.
Defensive end LaBryan Ray (ankle) and tight end Miller Forristal (foot), both of them starters, will be limited throughout the first couple of weeks at Alabama’s fall camp.
LSU defensive line coach Dennis Johnson injured both knees playing basketball and is in a wheelchair for now. HBC Ed Orgeron says he’ll do some of the coaching of the D-line while Johnson recuperates. He’s gotten a waiver that will allow analyst Kenechi Udeze coach on the field until Johnson is healthy. Udeze will get help from grad assistant Christian LaCouture … Coach O says suspended offensive guard Ed Ingram will be allowed back on the team if he is cleared in Dallas of two counts of sexual assault.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has announced he will be retiring at the end of the 2019 season. Foster, who has been on the Virginia Tech staff for 32 years, is the longest continually employed assistant coach at the same school in all of college football … The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, has created a new enforcement arm which will be made up of independent investigators, advocates and decision makers especially for handling complex cases that involve serious infractions … A Connecticut lawmaker wants the UConn Foundation to pick up the tab for the exit from the American Athletic Conference ($17 million) and the entrance fee to the Big East ($3.5 million). A spokesperson for the university says that by law 99% of the donations made to the foundation can’t be used for that purpose. UConn’s athletic department is drowning in more than $40 million of debt … Here is a first for a PGA Tour event in the US. At the top of the leaderboard of the Wyndham Classic in Greensboro, North Carolina are two Koreans – Byeong-Hun An and Sung-jae Im – who shot 62s in the opening round … The agent of Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is demanded a trade rather than accept the Chargers offer of $10 million a season.