About One Eyed Willy

Senior writer at The Bull Gator.

Florida Gators Women Make The Big Dance, Will Face Ohio State Buckeyes

On Monday evening, the Florida Gators’ women’s basketball players and coaching staff were rewarded for a successful season by being selected as an at-large team in the 2012 Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Gators were selected as the No. 9 seed in the Des Moines, IA bracket of the tournament and will face No. 8-seed (and No. 17 ranked) Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday at 12:15 PM in Bowling Green, OH. If UF’s history versus the Buckeyes in postseason basketball tournaments are any indication, the Lady Gators should have no trouble advancing to the second round. Should the Gators advance, they will most likely face the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament in the second round, the undefeated Baylor Bears.

Overall, this is the 13th time that the Gators have made it to the tournament. The Gators sport an overall NCAA Tourney record of 10-11 and in 1997 advanced to the Regional Finals, the team’s best ever showing. This is the first time that the Gators have played in the Women’s March Madness since 2009 when they were a No. 8 seed in the tournament. In that year, the Gators beat No. 9-seed Temple in the first round before losing to the undefeated No. 1 overall seed and eventual national champion UConn in the second round of the tournament. Sound vaguely familiar?

This year, the Gator women finished with an overall record of 19-12 and a SEC record of 8-8. Eight of the Gators 12 losses came against teams ranked in the top 25 in the country at the time when the game was played. The biggest wins of the season for the Lady Gators came in the third game of the regular season against then No. 19 FSU and the third-to-last game of the regular season against No. 15 UGA. Unfortunately, both of those games took place in the friendly confines of the O’Dome, a luxury that the Gators won’t have as they move forward. In the recently completed SEC Tournament, the Gators were able to get past Auburn in the first round before losing a close battle with No. 9 Kentucky in the second round. In fact, Kentucky accounts for three of the Gators losses on the season by a combined 12 points.

It wasn’t that long ago that the UF Women’s Basketball team seemed to be the only squad at UF that was struggling, but the hiring of head coach Amanda Butler five years ago appears to have been another great move by athletic director Jeremy Foley. Coach Butler has these girls playing tough and who knows, maybe a little over a week from now we will be talking about the Lady Gators as the Cinderella team in the tournament.

Brad Wilkerson Selected To College Baseball Hall Of Fame

Hard to believe that up until two years ago when Emmitt Smith was enshrined, there was only one Gator in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Jack Youngblood). Maybe just as hard to believe is that up until today, no former Florida Gators were members of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame. But that all changed a few hours ago when Brad Wilkerson was selected to be the first.

From a small city in Kentucky, Wilkerson came to UF in 1996 and left three years later as the only three time All-American ever to put on a Gator batting helmet. To this day, Wilkerson still holds numerous records at UF, including batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.714), walks (224) and on-base percentage (.531). Up until a few days ago when Preston Tucker overtook him, Wilkerson was also the team’s all-time leader in RBI with 214. Wilkerson is second in team history in career home runs (55), total bases (499) and runs scored (239) and third all-time with 26 wins as a pithcer. At one point during his collegiate career, Wilkerson reached base successfully in 141 consecutive games and in his 195 games at UF, Wilkerson got on base at least once in all but five of them.

Wilkerson was selected by the Montreal Expos as the 33rd pick in the first round of the 1998 MLB Draft. After a few years in the minors, he made his big league debut in July 2001 for the Expos, played with the Expos/Nationals until 2005 and then had brief stints with the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays before hanging up his cleats once and for all in 2009. Some of his more impressive accomplishments outside of Gainesville included being a member of the gold medal-winning USA baseball team in the Sydney Olympics, hitting for the cycle twice in his major league career including in 2003 when he because the first player in 46 years to hit the natural cycle in just four plate appearances, hitting the first grand slam ever for the Washington Nationals’ franchise, and hitting three home runs in one game while a Ranger in 2007.

Wilkerson will be joined by several other of the college baseball’s greatest players and coaches in this year’s class, including most notably Georgia Tech’s Nomar Garciaparra and Southern University’s Lou Brock. Congrats to Brad and his family on this extremely deserving honor and let’s hope he is joined by many more Gator baseball alums in the near future.

2012 College Football Strength Of Schedules; Battles Ahead For The Florida Gators

With recruiting officially in the books, the beginning of spring football just around corner, and March Madness rapidly approaching, it will be only a matter of days/weeks until college football fans officially shift their focus to the upcoming 2012 season. And given the way that the Florida Gators’ 2011 football season turned out, you can’t blame us here at Hail Florida Hail for “jumping the gun” just a bit. So with that in mind, I bring you my way too early look at the 2012 college football strength of schedules (SOS).

For those of you who have visited this site (and its predecessor site) before, you know that I love numbers. That’s probably why I majored in Finance while at UF and am now in the investment banking industry. Given this fact, I have decided that the easiest way to analyze one’s SOS when teams have yet to even take the practice field is to look at how each team’s opponents finished the 2011 season. The simplest way to do this was to take an average end of the year ranking for each team’s 12 upcoming opponents. Sound complicated? Well, it’s not really. In fact, the hardest part was trying to find a complete ranking for all 120 teams after the bowl games had taken place. In the end, I decided to go with the College Football News Top 120 (in association with Scout.com and FoxSports.com) as it seemed fairly accurate and reliable. With that in mind, let’s look at the Gators’ 2012 SOS:

As you can see, the average 2011 BCS ranking for the 12 teams that Florida will face in the upcoming football season is 46.2. One thing to note is that I had to assign some sort of BCS ranking to FCS (Division I-AA) teams. I chose to assign them a BCS ranking just below the lowest ranked FBS (Division I-A) team, therefore they were all assigned a ranking of 121. We could argue the legitimacy of this assumption for hours, but honestly that wouldn’t be much fun, so let’s just go with it for these purposes.

Using this methodology for all 14 teams in the SEC (it still seems weird to say 14 teams in the SEC!), I came up with the following SOS for the conference members:

Some interesting thoughts based on these results:

• At first glance, I was somewhat surprised that Ole Miss had the toughest 2012 schedule on paper out of any of the SEC teams. But upon further review, it actually makes quite a bit of sense. First and foremost, they play in the SEC West which guarantees that they will play teams that finished #1 (Alabama), #2 (LSU), #7 (Arkansas), #27 (Auburn), #29 (Texas A&M) and #41 (Mississippi State) in 2011. In addition, their two SEC East opponents are #11 Georgia and much improved #46 Vanderbilt. Finally, Ole Miss has a mid-season out-of-conference matchup with #24 Texas, a team which most SEC schools frankly wouldn’t schedule as an out of conference opponent even if they had to. That means that 9 of Ole Miss’s 12 opponents in 2012 finished ranked in the top 50 in 2011. Not exactly what you want to hear if you are a Rebels’ fan who just suffered through a dreadful 2-10 season.

• Missouri’s SOS seems pretty high as well considering they are playing in the water-downed SEC East. But SEC West opponents of #1 Alabama and #29 Texas A&M strengthen their SOS considerably. Plus, Missouri plays two out-of-conference games against decent competition in #61 UCF and #66 Arizona State. It should be noted that Missouri has yet to finalize its final game of the season and should they pick up a FCS school, the Tigers’ SOS would drop significantly down to 50.4.

• The two teams that battled in the BCS National Championship have the exact same SOS leading into the 2012 college football season. Both Alabama and LSU play against teams that had an average ranking of 51.91667 in 2011. Seems almost too coincidental to be true, but it is.

• And then there are the Bulldogs (both Georgia and Mississippi State). First looking at UGA, their 2012 SOS certainly isn’t helped out by the fact that the SEC East was down last year and only resulted in one team (besides Georgia) being ranked in the top 25 at the end of 2011 (#14 South Carolina). In addition to this, Georgia plays three games against teams which ended near the bottom of the rankings last year (#89 Ole Miss, #113 Buffalo and #119 FAU) and an additional game against a FCS team (Georgia Southern). All-in-all, the Bulldogs certainly can’t blame the schedule makers if people are once again calling for Coach Mark Richt’s head by mid-season.

• Mississippi State’s schedule though is simply the worst in the conference. Although these Bulldogs play in the SEC West which is no laughing matter, they counteract those difficult intra-division games with games against the two worst teams in the SEC East (#53 Kentucky and #54 Tennessee) and out-of-conference games against #112 Troy, #115 Middle Tennessee and two FCS schools (Jackson State and South Alabama). Mississippi State finished 7-6 last year. If they don’t at least duplicate that record in 2012 given the schedule they have, fans may start wondering whether Dan Mullen really is the answer.

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“10 Things I Want Out Of The 2012 Florida Gators Football Season” – One Eyed Willy

We spend so much time discussing what’s best for the Florida Gators; what will help the sports teams both on and off the field. From time to time, we decide to be selfish though and discuss what’s best for us. These thoughts could help the football team or they could help us as fans. We may want a certain player to succeed because he’s a vital part of the roster or just because we like his jersey number. Whatever the case, these are the things we want out of the Gators’ 2012 football season. Up first, One Eyed Willy.

10. Less trouble off the field. Let’s be honest…ultimately it’s what happens on the field that we all care about. If we were going 12-0 and in the BCS Championship game, few fans would have a problem with the recent “misfortunes” of our players off the field. But, being a graduate of the University of Florida, I would hope that at some point the players can start realizing that any trouble they get into will be on the cover of the next day’s sports section and will be a black eye not only on themselves, but the entire football team and the university. At some point the double-digit arrests per year have to stop – or at least slow down.

9. A big time punt returner. I still remember sitting in the stands chanting “Lito, Lito, Lito!” before #3 would take one to the house. And while our punt block team was superb last year, I am still waiting for the next Brandon James or Keiwan Ratliff to step back there are take a couple punts the distance. We have tried several different punt returners over the last few years, but none have been very impressive in my eyes and some have been downright awful. So maybe 2012 is the year someone surprises me and becomes another weapon to compliment those 10 guys up front who have certainly been holding their own.

8. Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. As a self-proclaimed recuitnik, I realize that recruiting is a 365-day process. The 2013 recruiting class is off to a great start – probably the best start that we have ever had – but we are to the point now where we don’t just need great recruits, we need great recruits to fill some great big holes we have in the roster. Priority #1A and #1B is to find several highly rated wide receivers and offensive lineman. With our defensive line being stacked as much as I remember it being in the recent past, it’s time to focus on the offensive side of the ball and attract some guys that can not only play right away, but help this team win sooner rather than later.

7. More Matt Elam. I don’t care where he is on the field or what he is doing…I want to see more Matt Elam! Even though Elam is only a junior next year, there is a good chance that this could be our last time seeing him wear the Gator orange and blue. Elam is the heart and soul of this defense and we live or die by how much he gets involved in the game. So let Elam throw a couple of passes. Let him play running back some. Hell, let the guy punt or placekick. I really don’t care. Just put Matt Elam in a position to make plays and let’s see what happens.

6. Beat Texas A&M in Week 2. I talk more about wins in general further down my list, but I truly believe that this is a big game for the Gators. Not only are we playing a good team in week 2 (something we don’t often do), but we are playing at their stadium (one of the tougher places to play in the country) and against a team that will be playing in their very first SEC game. The Aggies would like nothing more than to send a message to the entire league that they have arrived by knocking one of the big boys off the first chance they get. We cannot let that happen. In order for the 2012 season not to be over before it really even starts, we must take care of business in College Station.

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Baseball Season Preview: Florida Gators Eye Elusive College World Series Title

This is the year! I can feel it in my bones. This is FINALLY the year when the Florida Gators’ baseball team gets over the proverbial hump and wins the College World Series! How do I know this? Well, I obviously don’t, but we certainly have as good of a chance, if not better, than any other team in the country.

As proof of this, Monday, Baseball America announced its 2012 Preseason All-America Teams. In total, 45 players from across the country were selected on either the first, second or third team. Seven of those 45 were Gators. Junior catcher (and reigning SEC Player of the Year) Mike Zunino and junior utility man Brian Johnson, who plays both first base and pitches for the Gators, were selected as first teamers. Senior outfielder Preston Tucker, junior pitcher Hudson Randall and junior infielder/pitcher Austin Maddox were selected to the second team. And junior shortstop Nolan Fontana and sophomore pitcher Karsten Whitson were selected to the third team. As a comparison, the only other teams that have more than one Preseason All-American are Arizona State (3), Arkansas (3), Stanford (3), Georgia Southern (2) and Texas A&M (2). In fact, the entire rest of the SEC only has five All-Americans combined.

In addition to having the most talented players in the country assembled on one team, the Gators return arguably the best coaching staff as well. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and assistant coaches Brad Weitzel and Craig Bell (who happened to be my high school baseball team’s head coach back in the mid 1990s) return to UF for their fifth-straight season looking to improve on an already impressive resume. Under their tutelage, the Gators have gone 142-58 (.710) in their last three seasons with back-to-back CWS appearances, consecutive SEC Championships, three-straight NCAA Regional crowns and Super Regional appearances, three-straight SEC Eastern Division titles and the league’s tournament championship in 2011. Not bad for a team that often plays third-fiddle on campus to the football and basketball programs.

Unfortunately for the Gators, making it back to Omaha is never easy. In fact, I would argue that winning the CWS is more difficult than winning the BCS Championship and March Madness due to the Regional and Super Regional postseason format of college baseball. And things definitely won’t start out easy for the Gators. Unlike football where we may see the likes of Citadel or Oshkosh State in week one of the regular season, the Gator baseball team starts the season with a three-game series against perennial college baseball powerhouse and preseason top 25 program Cal State Fullerton. Add traditional out-of-conference series’s with Miami and Florida State, plus grueling SEC play which starts mid-March, and you have yourself one heck of a schedule – but one that will certainly get us prepared for the post season.

As someone who has promised to make the trip to Omaha this year should we make it back to the championship game, I am anxiously looking forward to what lies ahead. But instead of thinking about the season-to-be, maybe I should begin looking for plane tickets to Nebraska!

2012 Football Recruiting: The Top 19 Recruiting Classes; Where Do The Florida Gators Rank?

Why 19 classes? Well, hold your horses; I will get to that.

Like most fans who visit this website, I am a HUGE follower of all things that have to do with college football recruiting. And also like most of you reading this, I find nothing more satisfying than seeing my beloved Florida Gators on top of the team rankings at the end of the recruiting cycle. I am not really sure why; after all, we all know that ranking a bunch of 18-year-old kids who have never played a down of college football is less than scientific and actually a bit idiotic. Regardless, we all love lists and if someone is going to make one, I want the Gators be on top! Sometimes we are even lucky enough to reach that goal, but most of the time we end up falling short (unless we are Alabama).

So now that recruiting is over for the 2012 cycle (well, except for when Stefon Diggs commits to the good guys in about a week), it’s time to look back at the various recruiting sites and see if we can’t come up with a consensus list of the best-of-the-best classes. To start this process, we must select the recruiting services we will use. For my analysis, I used Rivals, Scout and 247Sports. Not only are these three of the top recruiting services in the nation, but they assign a score to each recruit and therefore each college’s class received not only a ranking but also an individual score. ESPN also has a good recruiting service, but I was only able to find their final team rankings without an actual score assigned for each class, so they’re left out of this analysis.

The reason why having a score is important is because in my analysis I am attempting to grade the various classes on a curve. We all remember when we were graded on a curve in college and not being able to stand the brainiac who scored damn-near 100 on every single exam. The same theory applies here. For instance, if Alabama has the No. 1 class and has a total score of 3,000 points and Texas has the No. 2 class and has a total score of 2,999 then I would argue that both of those classes deserve an “A+” grade. On the contrary, if Alabama has a score of 3,000 and the next highest score is 1,500 then you would have to admit that the Crimson Tide were heads-and-shoulders above the rest and subsequently deserve a nice ass-kicking when they came out of study hall.

Another thing I looked for was consistency. I didn’t want to reward a school like Tennessee or Oklahoma State that appeared in the top 25 of one recruiting service but was left off of the others. Therefore, I only included those teams that appeared in the top 25 of all three recruiting services that I reviewed. What was left was the 19 best recruiting classes in the nation.

The final step was to give a number grade to each team for each separate recruiting service. This was actually fairly simple. Let’s take Rivals as an example. Rivals ranked Alabama as the top class with a score of 2,621. Second was Texas with a score of 2,481. Therefore, the Tide received a score of 1.00 in my analysis (2,621/2,621 = 1.00) and Texas got a score of 0.95 (2.481/2.621 = 0.95). So, if a team was ranked No. 1 by all three services, that team would have a total score of 3.00 and would have 100% of the total possible points. I did this for all 19 teams that appeared in the top 25 for all three services, combined the results, took the averages, and voila! (See the chart to the right.)

So there you have it; Alabama wins again! I am sick of hearing that, but it’s comforting that they didn’t come out on top by as much as one might think. Based on the above results, the Tide’s class is ahead of the Longhorns’ by only the slightest of margins. However, Alabama and Texas outdistance the pack by a good margin. The difference between 2.93 (Texas) and 2.78 (Ohio State) doesn’t seem like much, but it’s more than five percentage points.

Then there are our Gators. National Signing Day seemed like a kick to the stomach at times, but Florida actually did pretty well if we look at the entire recruiting cycle. The Gators finished the race in fourth place as the final team to receive a score of 90% or higher. And unlike most teams which are done with their 2012 classes, the Gators haven’t thrown in the towel just yet. If the aforementioned Diggs does indeed choose Florida on February 10, third place overall may be in reach for the orange and blue.