Upon Further Review

October 19, 2006

I intentionally took a few days off of writing this, mainly because there’s not a lot to talk about in Gator country right now. Football has an off week, basketball hasn’t started yet, and it’s far too early for the recruiting nonsense to get ramped up yet.

Most Gator fans I heard on Monday had things in the right perspective. Just about anyone will take a 6-1 start to the season, and keep in mind even Steve Spurrier only coached a team to an undefeated regular season once in his 12 years. Urban Meyer was probably not going to coach this team to an undefeated regular season in year 2 like he did at Utah simply because the SEC is so much better than the Mountain West. I never thought I’d ever have to defend a 6-1 start to a season, but here I am anyway.

I will say that it could have been possible to run the table if the off week was a week earlier. If Florida had last week off to get DeShawn Wynn and Percy Harvin to 100%, to give the coaches more chances to dissect Auburn’s schemes, and to give everyone else a physical and mental break, then things may have turned out a lot differently last Saturday.

The dearth of talking points has led to a lot of idle talk though, and the people who will never like Chris Leak no matter what are coming out of the woodwork and making noise again. The people who won’t accept anything other than Steve Spurrier’s offense specifically also are making their way to the surface and complaining as well.

Some of the Leak criticisms are completely valid. Heath Cline talked today about how inconsistent he is – on one play he’ll stand in the pocket and deal with the pressure or throw a block upfield, and the next he’s running around scared or falling down. Or, in the case of Saturday, throwing off his back foot or freezing while trying to figure out if he wants to throw it to Tate Casey or not. Cline also mentioned how Leak has brought a lot of the criticism on himself by proclaiming before his freshman year that he would not get a girlfriend until he won a national title, or before this year talking about throwing 50 touchdown passes. Some may take that as arrogance, though Chris is about as humble as they come.

There’s a lot of factors why some people don’t like him. There’s the ones I mentioned above. He also lacks a defining moment. His only really big fourth quarter comeback was against Kentucky, though Tennessee this year was a gutty win. People don’t know how to react to that. The LSU win in 2003, his two Georgia wins, and the FSU win in 2004 were all games where Florida led for most of the game. There’s no Doering’s Got a Touchdown, 52-20, Run Fred Run, or any other defining attributes to him. Rex Grossman didn’t either, and he lost his two biggest games in 2001, but he gets a pass because he finished second in the Heisman (and should have won it) and he stayed for Ron Zook’s first year when he didn’t have to.

Perhaps that’s another thing – Leak symbolizes in some people’s minds, for better or worse and fair or not, the maddening inconsistency of the Zook years. They win when they shouldn’t, but don’t know how to handle success. There’s no reason why in 2003 they should beat the eventual national champions on the road and then lose to Ole Miss to lose the chance to play in the SEC title game. This year’s team won at Tennessee, which is looking more and more impressive as the year progresses, and beat what is still a very good LSU team. The expectations rose, and what Zook called the noise in the system and what Meyer calls the Florida Nonsense ratcheted up. The result? A second half meltdown on the road in a winnable game. Last year, the meltdown came at South Carolina. This set of older players do not know how to handle success.

Part of that may be the lack of killer instinct of the Zook regime having seeped into them. I know that Leak has not been helped by having three different offensive coordinators, the third of which liking to run an offense that is not best suited for him. There are so many things that come into play, and it’s impossible to pinpoint one or two or ten things as the cause. It may simply come down to a fumbled snap on a punt leading to a momentum shift that a hostile crowd would not allow to change.

Urban Meyer has a track record showing that he does know how to handle success, though you wouldn’t know it by what some people are saying. One person sounded exasperated talking about the offense today, complaining of it sputtering – having a good drive followed by several punts. He didn’t come out and say it, though he almost did and definitely wanted to, but his point was, “Will this offense ever stop sputtering and dominate the league?” He got to “ever” before stopping himself, but that was all that you needed to hear.

“Will they ever…?” questions are asked after 6 to 8 years of a coach when plenty of his own recruiting classes have come and gone and nothing changes. “Will the ever…?” questions are fair for, say, UNC’s John Bunting at this point, but not Urban Meyer. He’s been to more BCS bowls than Florida has since 2002. He has an undefeated season to his credit, including the bowl, which while it happened in a non-BCS conference, non-BCS conference teams don’t go undefeated regularly. He only has one real complete recruiting class here, with the one prior to this year’s being the transition between Zook and Meyer. We won’t know how well his and Dan Mullen’s preferred offensive scheme will work until they get all their kind of players.

It’s not easy to step back and look at these things with a cool head. It doesn’t make for spicy sports talk radio, nor does it drive thousands of blog hits a day (trust me, I know). It’s just frustrating to me how Gator fans are creating an impossible situation. The coaches foster it by saying things like, “Losing is unacceptable at the University of Florida,” but that’s motivational coachspeak. Yes, it is the fans’ job to be loud, be passionate, and buy everything there is with a Gator head logo on it. Yes, part of this is that the people who always have complained this way are getting more opportunities to be heard between multiple local sports talk radio stations and online message boards. However, it wasn’t that long ago that Florida had trouble winning 9 games a season and missed going to a January bowl.

The program is clearly on the rise. Will it net a national title this year? Probably not. Was it ever going to win one this year? Probably not. Will just winning the SEC East be enough for some people? Probably not. If the team goes undefeated and wins by 20 points a game, there will always be people wanting to know why they couldn’t win by 30 a game. I just hope that the vocal minority among the fan base gets over itself, readjusts its perspective, and can find a way to enjoy this team.

The Gators are 6-1, and they has some spectacular playmakers on the team. I can’t wait for Georgia weekend.

*  *  *

However bad some people think things are at Florida, they’re worse at Miami. Everyone by now has seen the FIU-UM fight, and everyone has drawn their own conclusions about it. I have been waiting to hear what the final punishments are, and as most would probably agree, I think that FIU got it right and Miami got it wrong. A single game for stomping on people with cleats is ridiculous.

I will give Brandon Meriweather and Anthony Reddick credit for coming out with apologies that sound sincere. UM President Donna Shalala however says that she is not willing to “throw any student under the bus” after the melee in order to save face.

The aftermath of that fight has nothing to do with saving face. There’s nothing left to save after one player swung his helmet around like a weapon and another stomped on opponents while the Comcast color commentator cheers them on, followed by a celebration afterward where the players jumped up and down on the sideline holding their helmets in the air while the coaches were trying to get their attention to talk to them. All of the progress of the Butch Davis years in image restoration is gone. Kellen Winslow II’s “I’m a soldier!” monologue was a warning sign, and the post-Peach Bowl fight and the stomping on Louisville’s cardinal logo only added to it. Everything culminated on Saturday.

The worst part was not Shalala’s defense of her players, despite their actions being indefensible. The worst was that she said that she intentionally didn’t look at any video of the fight since that would make her mad and she needed a cool head to dole out the punishment. When was the last time you heard of a judge or jury refusing to hear evidence because it would make them angry? How are you supposed to know what happened if you don’t look at the video? It’s impossible to pick everything that transpired in one viewing, especially the first time when you’re in shock that it’s actually happening in front of your eyes. She says that the school now has a zero-tolerance policy for fighting, but who knows whether it will get enforced. Miami has no credibility anymore.

Some have tried to explain the fight by saying that FIU and Miami are only 9 miles apart, but I can’t remember FAMU ever getting into a fight with FSU. Another popular takeaway from it is that FIU could afford to dole out harsh penalties since it’s not going to a bowl and Miami needs the money. Well, Miami is a small private school, and it gets everything it needs from its private school tuition rates. True, the school rarely sells out home football and basketball games, but the amount of merchandise it sells makes up for that. Besides, this is a university, not a minor league football organization.

I don’t think Larry Coker will survive the year. Mediocrity on the field is one thing, but disciplinary problems are something else entirely. There were a lot of reasons that Florida fired Ron Zook, but embarassing incidents off the field played as big a role as any besides the Mississippi State loss. UF thinks it has a good discipline guy in Meyer, but some are raising questions over the Dee Webb/Kenneth Tookes incident over the summer and Marcus Thomas’ early reinstatement from his suspension. Miami under Coker however keeps regressing every year, and he doesn’t have firm control over the program. No one appears to, not Coker, AD Paul Dee, or least of all Donna Shalala.

To borrow a phrase from Heath Cline, the Miami program needs to be fumigated. Maybe that means hiring Butch Davis again, maybe that means hiring Tom Coughlin after he is probably fired by the Giants sometime after the year. The leadership at the school needs to find someone who will rid the program of its deleterious culture of “Defending the U” and who will teach them not just to win, but act with class and walk away from unnecessary fights.

Miami has no business wasting its time fighting some I-A peon like FIU, yet now such a brawl is an indelible mark on the school’s history. Will the leadership at the university make the bold moves necessary to enact real change? If the statements coming out of there the past couple of days are an indication, then the answer is no.

*  *  *

There won’t be any more updates until Saturday as I am going to Atlanta for the next two days for an office visit and interview with Deloitte’s IT group. In the meantime, fill your time with College Football Resource (thanks for the link!) and EDSBS.


The First Bitter Pill

October 15, 2006

Well, the dream of an undefeated season has evaporated on the plains of Auburn. It was just that – a dream. Urban has already said it’s not a goal. I will admit that I got caught up in that dream as the season progressed, and why not? The team was winning, it was immense fun, and it was easy to do.

The warning signs were all there. I’ve already gone over all of the reasons why Florida is not a national title contender. Many of those things came to haunt them in the second half. First, I’ll go over the issues in the game, then the positives to take away.

  1. Everything worked on offense in the first half. It may seem counterintuitive to even list this as an issue, much less first. However, the Gators’ secret to being a great second half team was to make better adjustments than the other team. Well, since everything worked, Auburn had a better chance at making adjustments than Florida did. Auburn obviously made the right ones at halftime, and Florida couldn’t adjust on the fly in the second half. It was the receivers running the ball to the outside that was most effective, but Florida didn’t stick to that enough to score.
  2. Turnovers. Florida made theirs at bad times, and Auburn’s didn’t end up hurting them. I do want to say that Chris Leak’s fumble was a fumble since the defender hit the ball out of his hand, so that was not a case of being robbed by the refs. In fact, there were a few non-calls in Florida’s favor, like when Joe Cohen hit Brandon Cox’s helmet with his helmet and then with his arm. Leak did not have his best game, and Florida never got a big play from the secondary. Reggie Nelson and Ryan Smith have bailed out the team several times with big interceptions, but they never came this time.
  3. The lack of big stops. Florida has rarely been able to get big stops all year, except when it’s a Nelson or Smith interception. The defense did not get any big stops this game either. Florida ran only 45 offensive plays this game, and that was a byproduct of the defense being on the field all the time. Auburn dominated time of possession, and they used the new clock rules that Tommy Tuberville pushed for and got in the offseason to their advantage.

I think part of this was that Florida simply got tired in the second half. Auburn had plenty of energy after practically taking last week off and then sleepwalking through the first half of tonight’s game. The schedule at last took its toll. I thought that at the beginning of the year (like most people did) that this was the game that Florida had a better than 50% chance at losing. That turned out to be prescient.

So where do they go from here? Well, back to Gainesville to get some rest for one. They’ve got to be emotionally and physically spent after this loss. There are some things to build on though.

  1. Everything on offense worked in the first half. They really did look good, although Auburn was not playing with real fire or emotion at the time. The turning point was the blocked punt, where it seemed after that, Florida played on offense to avoid punting, not to gain yards. It’s kind of like the difference between playing not to lose versus playing to win. They got tight, and Auburn had finally loosened up. Still, a healthy Percy Harvin made a big difference. For the record, the last time Harvin got the ball was on the first possession of the second half. Either his ankle got to him or the coaches decided to lean on the seniors after that. Either way, they must keep Harvin involved all game long.
  2. Auburn’s offense scored only 9 points. Yes, Auburn did not score an offensive touchdown. They got 2 points on the safety, 7 on the blocked punt, and 6 on the last play. The defense script of bend but don’t break did work as normal, and in that respect, it should have been 17-9. Florida’s sloppy offense and special teams really did them in. I still hold that the defense needed to make big stops if nothing else but for momentum purposes, since UF did nothing to turn the tide of Auburn’s second half momentum. The defense had 5 sacks in the first half, but none in the second. If they could have gotten some more crucial sacks or some of those timely interceptions, Florida wins the game. They didn’t come up with the big plays, but they did hold Auburn’s offense to under 10 points. I know Urban Meyer will take that every time.
  3. There’s a lot of footall yet to be played. The biggest game in this four game gauntlet is still what it was in the beginning: Georgia. Originally it was to make sure Florida stays ahead of them in the standings and hold the tiebreaker over them, but Georgia’s losses to Tennessee an Vandy (!) make that less of a concern. The big issue now is not losing another conference game, since I’m not sure that Tennessee will lose another conference game themselves. The goal for the year was getting to Atlanta, and the Gators are still on track to do so and they still control their destiny.

This one is going to weigh on Gator fans’ minds for a while. Auburn was playing to save their season, and they certainly did in the second half. However, if Florida ends up 11-1 at the end of the season, and gets revenge in the SEC title game, it’ll be non-stop what ifs for the month going into bowl season. What if the Tigers had blocked the punt? What if Leak had thrown underneath to Cornelius Ingram instead of underthrowing Andre Caldwell for the pick? What if Tebow had played more? (For the record, I think it wouldn’t have mattered the way Auburn’s defense played in the second half, although the offense could have used that spark of enthusiasm.)

Regardless, what’s done is done. This is no time to get ahead of ourselves and demand answers as to why UF is not going undefeated. It was a near impossibility with the schedule, and we knew this going into the season. I still hold that it’s quite possible that no one goes undefeated, although at this point I’d say that no one is beating Ohio State. Florida is still in the driver’s seat in the SEC East, though not as comfortably so than it was five hours ago. Going undefeated is really hard, and as Tuberville said two weeks ago, nearly impossible in the SEC.

Florida has not been to Atlanta in early December since 2000. This is the goal. It has always been the goal, and Florida can still accomplish it without help from other teams. If you told any Gator fan that Florida would go 6-1 to start the year, I think all but the most irrational would take it. I’ll still take it even today. Now, the focus switches getting fully healthy and ready to face Georgia.

Florida – Auburn Preview

October 14, 2006

I’m been procrastinating as long as I could, but it’s time to write this.

One the one hand, a lot of things are lining up for Auburn. It is a night home game for them, and they had College GameDay there this morning which always gets the fans fired up. They are coming off a loss to Arkansas, and good teams (like Auburn is) rarely lose two games in a row. In addition, Florida traditionally has never played well at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn is essentially playing for its season here, since with a loss it’d be unlikely for them to get to a BCS game and they’d need Arkansas to lose three conference games to go to Atlanta. Plus, Arkansas beat them with size and brute strength, and that’s not how Florida generally wins games.

Florida, on the other hand, has a lot going for it. UF has won eight in a row, and has already won a big night game in Knoxville in front of probably a louder crowd, and quite possibly against a better team. Chris Leak is as steady as they come, and he’s won games in Baton Rouge, Knoxville, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee before. The Gators are coming off of a big win against LSU, and the two quarterback system is really gelling into something special. The defense has bent in every which way, but it hasn’t broken and now with a full week of practice with Marcus Thomas back on the defensive line will only make them better. The offense also gets DeShawn Wynn back and Percy Harvin should be about 100%.
Now the bad. Auburn has been listless the past two games, nearly losing to South Carolina and getting demolished by the Pigs. Brandon Cox is really beat up, and Kenny Irons has been merely average in big games this year. If UF punter Eric Wilbur does as well as he did against LSU, then Auburn will be faced with long fields and the proposition of going 70 to 80 yards on the Florida defense. The Tigers’ defense has had serious issues stopping the run lately, and now they face a healthy Wynn and they’ll also have to deal with Harvin and Tim Tebow busting out of the backfield for potentially big plays.
Florida’s biggest problem, besides history saying that they’ll struggle at Auburn, is what Urban Meyer calls the Florida Nonsense. It’s all of the buzz and the press about the team. There were dozens of stories about Tebow’s touchdowns, how Florida might run the table, how they are in the national title race, and how they might not be in the top two when the BCS standings come out. Well, Florida definitely will not be in the top two if it listens and starts getting a big head. The Gators are at their highest ranking since anyone on the team came to this school. Also, Florida has yet to put a full game together with bad penalties, sloppy play, untimely turnovers, and unfortunate timeouts marring their play.

I will not be surprised whichever team wins. I am going to pick Florida though, and not just because I’m a homer. The offense has been getting better, and with a healthy Harvin it will get even better. Remember after UCF when people were comparing him to Reggie Bush? He’s not Reggie Bush, but he’s a big play threat every time he touches the ball. Wynn is not as fast at the Arkansas backs, but if he is healthy and ready to go he could punish the Tigers’ defense. Auburn also does not have the corners to cover all of Florida’s receivers. It’s hard to describe just how much of an advantage UF has when comparing receivers.

Auburn having lackluster wideouts also mitigates the Gators’ biggest weakness on defense – the secondary. Reggie Nelson and Ryan Smith have been great and good, but they still give up too many passing yards. Basically though, if you stop Kenny Irons you stop Auburn and Florida’s front seven (plus Tony Joiner blitzing most likely) will get to both Irons and Cox in the backfield.

I expect this will be somewhere between the Tenenssee game and the LSU game. I don’t think it will take a 4th quarter comeback, but the Gators won’t put it away early in the second half either. Still, I’m feeling something in the 24 – 16 range. We shall see.

One last thing – I’ve referred to Auburn as the WarPlainsTigers because they have three nicknames: the Tigers, the War Eagle(s?), and the Plainsmen. Alabama fans give all sorts of reasons why, but they have issues themselves somehow making the Crimson Tide into an elephant. The Plainsmen is the vestigial one of the three, rarely coming up as far as I can tell. Auburn fans yell “War Eagle!” to each other instead of something like “Go Gators!” and they have an eagle fly to the 50 before every game. Finally, the Tigers are what they generally go by to everyone else. I don’t get it exactly, but I’m sure there’s convoluted stories behind them all.

Georgia is the New Tennessee

October 14, 2006

After losing at home on homecoming to Vanderbilt, Georgia is officially this year’s 2005 Tennessee. They have no offense, the defense is slowly deteriorating, and everyone seems to be losing confidence. Vandy is not as bad as it seems, with each of its conference losses coming by less than a touchdown. Bobby Johnson has a good thing building there, and while I don’t think Vanderbilt will ever be a bowl team year in and year out, they certainly seem to be set to be competitive consistently.

Iowa’s loss to Indiana is even worse. By the way, did you know that Mark May picked Iowa to go to the national title game in the preseason? Yes, it’s true, and yes I’ll remind you every time the Hawkeyes lose. It’s about time there was some crazy upsets. This year has been mostly quiet in that regard.

Also, just a tough break for Adrian Peterson. He finally gets to play in front of his father, has a giant day in a blowout win, and ends up breaking his collarbone. He’s one of the better guys in college football and a tremendous player who is fun to watch. That’s a shame.

GameDay Report: 10/14

October 14, 2006

10:05 – We’re live from Auburn (and I’m live from a recliner in southwest Gainesville), the second straight Florida game covered. Last week it was here and I was there, but I can actually comment this week.

10:07 – We’ve got a lot of talk about how tough road night games are in the SEC. Florida won’t be intimidated, and Chris Leak will be poised. This much, we already knew.

10:08 – Okay, so our fluff pieces this week are on Brandon Cox and Adrian Peterson. Good to know.

10:10 – Speaking of Cox, Heath Cline had a guy named Chuck Oliver on from an Atlanta radio station who goes around to SEC or ACC practices every week, and went to Auburn this week. He says that Cox is really physically beat up right now. That bodes well for Florida, especially if the defensive line can get into the backfield regularly.

10:12 – We’ve got some same “The Good The Bad and The Ugly” posters, bad puns on Chris Leak’s name, and so far I’ve only caught one pro-Florida sign saying that Albert wants seconds of Tiger. I still like my brother’s girlfriend’s sign from last week that said “Even Sigfried and Roy Could Tame These Tigers.” I know a camera man panned it slowly, but I still don’t know if it got on TV.

10:15 – This just in: West Virginia hasn’t played anyone yet. Oh oh, breaking news: The winner of WVU – Louisville will go undefeated, and Georgia knows how fast the Mountaineers are. WVU is lousy on defense, Corso rants, which is interesting because they’re the other team besides Cal that he picked to go to the national title game and he apologizes for Cal does wrong. Herbstreit just points this fact out as soon as I’m done typing it.

10:20 – A nice picture of Bo Jackson, who never became half the player of video game Bo Jackson.

10:22 – Before the break, Herbstreit tried to be clever by saying that the Big East big guns needed to watch out for Pitt, but really they don’t need to for two reasons: 1) Pitt is coached by the Wannstache, who is one of the worst big game coaches in recent memory, and 2) they don’t have the players to keep up with them. If you’re understaffed compared to your opponent, you’ve got to out coach them to win. That’ll never happen.

10:25 – The new clock rules suck, and the officials this year are missing a lot of calls on the field. Corso thinks they’ll amend the rules to go back to the old rules for the last two minutes of halves. We’ll see, but since offensive coaches hate them but defensive coaches love them, a decision to change them back will be in deadlock and never get overturned.

10:29 – Arkansas has had a nice year, and part of that is their new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the coach at a high school where Mitch Mustain went to high school.

10:31 – Houston Nutt apparently knew Malzahn for a while before hiring him, and he was able to get a few recruits to change to Arkansas for them. Malzahn has actually written a book on how to run an offense, for sale on Amazon. At least he’s brought some crazy trick plays.

10:33 – No Microsoft, I still don’t want to restart now. I don’t even know what MSXML is or why it needed an update. I hate Windows.

10:37 – Will Arkansas win the SEC West? Maybe, but beating Tennessee and LSU will be tough. If Auburn wins out, the Tigers might, but we’ll see. Fowler asks the guys what several teams all have in common, and while waiting for a response from the other two a guy in the crowd shouts “They suck!” Well done, whoever that was.

10:40 – Thanks to Auburn fans for bringing back the “Pac 10 Sucks” chant back. It’s truth, and needs to be said as often as possible to remind the uninformed masses.

10:42 – DeSean Jackson has better stats than Ted Ginn does, but why is Ginn lingering in Heisman discussions while Jackson is unheard of? Part Ohio State hype, part East Coast Bias, and part level of competition.

10:44 – Herbstreit baits the crowd with talk of USC beat Arkansas who beat Auburn and what does that mean, a classic logical fallacy. The crowd responds with more “overrated” chants for Cal and USC. Once again, well done. Don’t let them get away with that. The Pac 10 is weak, and USC will lose, maybe twice.

10:47 – Some pandering with gratuitous highlights of the 1994 Florida at Auburn game. Thanks.

10:51 – A nice fluff piece on Tim Tebow. The Auburn fans are targeting him, but as Fowler said he got through LSU fine. Herbstreit, of course, as a former quarterback didn’t like the two quarterback system, but it’s grown on him. The also point out that no one has knocked Tebow back. That’s true. He practically ran over LSU’s prize safety last week.

10:53 – Desmond Howard demonstrates Tebow’s plays, you know, if Tebow was a slow, right-handed former receiver.

10:54 – By the way, Publix’s Cheesy Quick is about a dollar less than Easy Mac, and it tastes exactly the same. Just a tip for you fellow students out there.

10:55 – Nope, I still don’t want to restart. Just like I said the last 5 times. Stupid Microsoft.

10:56 – Fortunately, despite what the song said, Big and Rich did not come to my city last week. In fact, I hope I’m never in the same city as those hacks.

11:01 – An somewhat interesting piece on Adrian Peterson and his father, who spent a lot of Adrian’s life in jail. As always when they do these things, they gloss over why the athlete’s relative got into jail, and in this case the people who raised Peterson too (his mother and step father).

11:03 – Wow, there’s no creativity in the signs in the crowd at all. Of course, it’s Auburn, so there you go.

11:05 – As Fowler pointed out, Herbstreit’s philosophy on Buy or Sell is sell low and buy high. I hope he has someone else doing his investments.

11:08 – We’ve got Mike Hart showing Desmond how not to fumble later in the show. I really think Penn State has a shot against Michigan this week since Hart will have to be the offense by himself. Mario Manningham is out, and Chad Henne doesn’t have enough weapons after him to be all that effective. That means the Nittany Lions will stack the box and stop Hart. When you stop Hart, Michigan is a 7-5 team like last year.

11:09 – It is 11:09 am, and Miami and FSU are still unranked, while Mizzou and Rutgers are. Life is good.

11:10 – Some funny stuff with the GameDay guys trading seats and imitating each other.

11:13 – Just as we all knew, Corso could never make it as host. Also, Fowler got some good jabs in pretending to be Kirk. Herbstreit could work on his Corso some, but he’s not bad at it.

11:16 – The crowd is getting restless. Herbstreit pulls out a Scarlet Knight mascot head to pick Rutgets over Navy, and Corso can’t help himself and pulls out a Navy hat. Lee tried to play it straight as the host, but he can’t contain his enthusiasm.

11:17 – It’s Rocktoberfest at Gatorland Kia so, uh, don’t miss out on those great deals on small cars. Has a local car dealership ever made a decent commercial?

11:19 – Sir Charles joins us on the phone. He’s always a great interview. He needs to turn the volume down on his TV, because there’s an echo effect like when people call in to radio shows with the radio still on.

11:22 – The Chuckwagon picks Auburn 21-17. Of course he does.

11:26 – Auburn’s 101 db is not nearly as load as Florida’s 111 db. Yeah, that’s right. I think there’s even more people there than there were in Gainesville last week since there’s absolutely nothing to do in the village of Auburn.

11:28 – Mike Hart just does not fumble the football. He’s a bit undersized, but he’s tough as nails and doesn’t put the ball on the ground. That’s going to keep him in the NFL for a long time.

11:30 – Penn State had a pep rally last night and Joe Paterno gave a rousing speech. They’re doing the white out thing today, which jumped the shark when the Miami Heat bandwagoneers “fans” used in the playoffs last year. Like all other Miami sports teams, they don’t have real fans, just a bunch of people who show up to be seen. And yes, I just made up a word.

11:33 – Thinking of AT&T (who just had a commercial), how is it that they are probably going to get to buy Bell South? Are there any Baby Bells left if they go? I thought the government meant it when they broke up that monopoly.

11:36 – I have no idea why Louisville is expected to do so well in the BCS while West Virginia languishes. I didn’t know a mediocre Miami team improved the Cardinals’ resume so much. Also, the computers love USC for some ungodly reason. I give up with the BCS.

11:39 – Now we get Mark May to talk about how awesome USC is. He’s the biggest USC fanboy in the country. He says that they deserve to be number 2 because “they won their games.” Yes, well so have Florida and Michigan, and both of them have had tougher schedules. Herbstreit calls him on this, and May counters with picking Auburn to win. This despite that their talking about who’s number 2 now, not after tonight.

11:42 – Apparently Auburn fans roll “Toomer’s Corner” after big home wins. Classy.

11:46 – Brandon Cox has had to overcome MG, a neuromuscular disease that harms muscles and can lead to paralysis. Now, he’s the quarterback of Auburn. That’s remarkable, but as a player, he’s no Jason Campbell. If Florida can stop Kenny Irons, Cox probably can’t win the game by himself. Especially since Auburn has average at best receivers.

11:49 – Auburn’s offensive line has been playing terribly of late, and Herbstreit thinks the Florida front seven will be a big difference. Corso highlights Marcus Thomas and Reggie Nelson. He thinks it’s a game where the tougher team will win. Good thing Urban learned how to be tough from Lou Holtz earlier this year. Yes, that was sarcasm.

11:50 – Shockingly, I still don’t want to restart my computer. I should have waited to install that update until after GameDay. Oh well.

11:54 – They mention the Wisconsin band being on probation. I’ve read beyond the stale AP report, and it’s some pretty bad stuff. I just wonder how that can be allowed to happen.

11:55 – The Auburn band meanwhile decides to play while the show is on air. Real classy guys. Do they play while the ball is live too?

11:58 – I still think Penn State has a great chance. They even have the revenge factor from last year. Herbstreit is calling the game, so he can’t make a pick, but Corso likes the Wolverines.

12:01 – Auburn is really banged up, and they are still reeling from Arkansas. Kirk finally learned his lesson for picking against Florida and likes the Gators. Corso picks Florida again after setting up the crowd by saying things like they have beautiful women there and that he wore an Auburn tie.

That’s all for GameDay, and that’s it until the Florida – Auburn preview later this afternoon.

“Madness” 2006

October 14, 2006

The only madness going on at Madness 2006 was that of fans who probably felt shafted. Granted, it’s hard to get that upset when admission was free, but that was an embarrassment for the defending national champs. The whole thing was just a commercial for frozen pizza, cell phone service, and the local utilities. I’m not validating them all by giving them a mention

It began with the dumb games as usual, like the crawl around and pick things up off the floor while blindfolded game, and a contest where answering trivia questions gave contestants a chance to putt across the entire basketball court diagonally to win a truck. It was the standard boring stuff.

Next, they introduced the women’s and men’s teams and had them walk in through the lower section crowds like the men’s team did during their championship celebration. Each player had a signed mini basketball that they tossed into the crowd after being introduced. One of my friends got Corey Brewer’s ball, so that was cool.

They then did a three point shooting contest of sorts, where two pairs of players alternated shots concurrently at the two baskets to see who could get to 10 made shots first. This is when we learned that Joakim Noah and Al Horford have been working on threes over the summer. They then had a dunk contest which, as has been the case since David Lee left, was pretty lame overall. Walter Hodge won, but it was sort of by default, really.

So after that they did their standard intrasquad scrimmage right? No, Billy said several times that they had practiced at seven, so they weren’t going to do it again for the fans. Goodnight. Yeah that’s it. That’s all there was. I mean, there also was Lee Humphrey, Taurean Green, Horford, and what looked like either Jack Berry or Garrett Tyler dancing with the Dazzlers again, and Billy pretending to drop the crystal basketball trophy and having it shatter to pieces. It was a fake trophy, and the crowd didn’t believe it was the real one for a second. Billy, sensing that no one really thought it was funny, later would say that it wasn’t his idea to do that. At least they didn’t trot out a “I guess we’ll have to get another one” line or anything.

Well, to bring it back to football, I decided to do a list of equivalents of people on the football team to their analogous basketball brethren.

Taurean Green: Chris Leak is the Taurean Green of the football team. This is the easiest one to do. Not only is there the parallel of the point guard being the quarterback of the basketball team, but also their demeanors are similar. They aren’t the flashiest or most vocal guys, but they are the steady hand at the wheel fully capable of being spectacular when they need to be.

Lee Humphrey: Jemalle Cornelius is the Lee Humphrey of the football team. They both are coaches’ favorites, both are stand-up guys on and off the playing surface of their choice, and both are humble and do everything their coaches ask. They are the glue guys – they help hold the team together. They both make big plays but will never make big headlines because of the other guys on their teams. The best part is that neither would have it any other way.
Corey Brewer: Dallas Baker is the Corey Brewer of the football team. They are versatile scorers who are more athletic than they look sometimes. Both have Big Man on Campus personalities, and for good reason, but that helps to drive them to get better rather than bask in the glory and slack off. Their respective teams would be more hurt by them going down with an injury than most realize. Last year we saw that with Brewer’s ankle; hopefully, we won’t have to see the Gators without Baker this year.

Al Horford: Brandon Siler is the Al Horford of the football team. Both get noticed by making big plays, and fortunately for Donovan’s and Meyer’s squads, they make them often. Neither is afraid of being physical, and they intimidate their opponents with their toughness. They are leaders, and their teams would be hurt more than most realize without them. They are also very consistent and consistently good. You know what you’re getting game in and game out with Horford and Siler, and you’re very pleased with what you get.

Joakim Noah: Here’s the tough one. Let me be clear about something: there’s no one on the football team like Joakim Noah. There’s no one on any team in any sport in any country with someone like Joakim Noah. He’s incomparable and inimitable, and speaks for himself in more ways than one.

That said, I picked two guys to equal Noah: Reggie Nelson and Tim Tebow. Nelson is the best defender on the team, has an exuberant personality, and has some wild hair at times. He also has a penchant for making big plays at crucial times. That sounds like Joakim, right? I add Tebow to that because he plays with the most visible emotion of anyone on the football team, and when he gets a head of steam going, there’s no stopping him easy. That definitely sounds like Noah. Plus, fair or not, for better or worse, no one gets the crowd riled up as much as Tebow does. Again, same with Noah and the basketball fans.

For now I’ll leave the comparisons with the starters and save Brandon James as Walter Hodge arguments for later. If anyone has any other comparisions they think are apt or have issues with mine, well, that’s why there’s that big ol’ comment box below.

A Few News Items

October 13, 2006

According to the Gainesville Sun, both Percy Harvin and DeShawn Wynn should be ready to go tomorrow. Florida has been very fortunate with injuries this year in that they have not been serious or season-ending injuries like what hit Ray McDonald and Andre Caldwell last year. All of those injuries came in the preseason, which gave the coaches time to plan for life without them. Keeping clear of the injury bug is something that all elite teams in particular years do, so that’s encouraging.

I also heard some interesting things on the local radio programs today. In the past 59 games in the Florida – Auburn series, the teams are 29-29-1, with the home teams having a considerable advantage. In fact, it took until 1973 for UF to get its first win ever at Auburn. This is not going to be some kind of cakewalk tomorrow. Dave Revsine also brings up the fact that Auburn has beaten a top-five team at home six times in its history, and three of those six times were Florida. Yahoo! Sports does mention that Florida has won 8 of 9 against Auburn, but the loss was in 2001 at Jordan-Hare.

One of the remarkable things about this team is about how balanced it is. Not too many people stand out statistically because so many guys are playing productive ball. Foxsports.com has a reprinted midseason report from CollegeFootballNews.com listing accolades for the first half of the season, and while it predicts UF to win the SEC title game (curiously, it says over Auburn, which means they must think the Tigers win this weekend), no Gators made the best players list. Even more puzzling is SI.com’s midseason All-Americans which has only Reggie Nelson from the Gators on the first team (which makes sense) but has only Marcus Thomas on the second team, andhe’s been suspended three of Florida’s six games.

The most satisfying to see though was ESPN’s midseason hot/not report, as the first pairing was Florida being hot and FSU being not. The most important thing year in and year out is how the Gators do in the SEC, but beating the Noles is something that never does get old, you know? For all the crap I have heard from Seminole fans since 2001 (the only year I’ve ever heard them be humble about a game since they were having a down year and were completely terrified of Rex Grossman), it’s nice to see them put in their place some. I hope when Bobby’s done they promote Jeff. I really do.

I am however, intentionally not linking to Mike Freeman’s latest disaster of a column. He basically says that Urban Meyer is undercutting Chris Leak’s Heisman chances by doing “gimmick” plays with Tim Tebow. If you need analysis as to why that’s wrong, I’d like to invite you to return to WarChant.com or your Miami fan message boards or what other Florida-hating corner of the net that you slunk out of to end up here. I think now that Freeman is writing for a website and not a newspaper, he’s taking the John Dvorak approach of writing highly inflammatory things in lieu of reality to drive page hits. The sad thing is that it’s a strategy that works. Freeman probably picks on Florida because after spending a year in Jacksonville he knows how passionate and downright irrational Gator fans can get. Plus, a lot of the rest of the country hates Florida because of many Gator fans’ arrogance. I hope everyone can just agree not to feed the troll anymore and just ignore whatever else he might spew out between now and the end of the season.