Florida vs. Vandy, Bowl Eligibility, and Awkward Hashtags

Twitter could be one of the worst things to happen to our society, or one of the best; there is no in-between. It allows us to find out at a moment’s notice that the Florida Gators are no stranger to injury, while also bringing trash talk to a new level. It also accounts for more moments of awkwardness than possibly any other medium, because as a not-so-famous (at the time) actress once said in a movie about another social network “the internet is written in pen, not pencil.” (That may have been paraphrased for reasons having to do with me being too lazy to look it up.)

What did Twitter bring us today? It brought us Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin. Franklin is the motivation type as many coaches are when it comes to Twitter. You won’t find much real talk when it comes to such figures. Instead, it’s all inspirational quotes, motivational sayings, or battle calls to rally the troops. But occasionally awkwardness rears its ugly (and humorous) head.

Put it this way, if you need a disclaimer every time you say something, you should think about saying it in a different way. When “opportunity is now here” quickly becomes “opportunity is nowhere,” it’s time for a new hashtag, even if it is oddly appropriate for the game about to take place this Saturday.

The opportunity for the Gators to secure a bowl berth is now here. That much is true; painfully so. When you’re nine games into the season and need a win against a Vandy team that beat a Georgia team that beat you in hopes of going bowling nowhere better describes things than now here. And that is exactly when we give out yet another large sigh and ugh ourselves into the fetal position. “Opportunity is nowhere, but hey look my vat of beer is now here!”

Opportunity is nowhere because the Gators are 4-4. It’s nowhere because a bowl isn’t a guarantee. It has been too many years since Florida last missed bowl season and too many to even think of a losing record. Opportunity passed us over and moved on to the next man standing. (With Oregon’s loss to Stanford just one night ago, that man may be Florida State. Say it with me again without vomiting just a little in your mouth—“UGH.”)

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Florida Gators 14 – Missouri Tigers 7; We Have Experienced The Defining ‘Just Win’ Game

Just win. It has become a motto of sorts around these part over the last few seasons. On Saturday, when the Florida Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers 14-7, we experienced a game that truly defined it. If ever there was a Just Win Game, this was it. The Gators won to improve to 8-1 (7-1 SEC) on the season, but the game felt like a struggle–one during which early you thought to yourself “just win.”

Omarius Hines - Florida Gators

The Gators were once again a second-half team. Not scoring until the 9:03 mark of the third quarter raises concerns. Not doing so against a team you’re heavily favored against and should defeat rather easily raises more. But Florida finds itself in the same situation over and over again this season: thankful for the defense, and this time it wasn’t as dominating as it can be. Therefore, as we thank the defense, we also have to thank Missouri quarterback James Franklin. If Franklin had been even slightly more “on his game,” there’s a decent chance this would have been loss number two instead of win number eight.

There were offensive stats, but they were offensive. (Saw that one coming from a mile away didn’t you? Two miles? You’re more in tune to awful jokes than I thought. Kudos.) It’s not what we’ve come to expect, so I won’t go that route, but more what we’ve come to accept. This is a team that is still light years away from offensive consistency. It’s disheartening, sure, but the Gators are 8-1. If you can honestly say you predicted that (and we’re hopped up on orange and blue Kool-Aid at the time) at the beginning of the season, you’re a fabulous liar. We still love you, but you’re a liar all the same.

Brent Pease has his work cut out for him. This isn’t the WAC (or whatever conference Boise State was in, used to be in, or was going to be in while he was there). He’s learning that the hard way. The Gators are lucky they can lean back on the defense and that they can win games without being elite. However, it is a problem. Proof Point #1: the loss to Georgia. With just a smidge more out of the offense, 8-1 is 9-0 and that’s why it’s frustrating. Knowing that the Gators have the record they have and seeing that it could have been even better is painful.

We’ve been spoiled by the past and spoiled by the present. Because of the high-flying offensive teams of the past, we expect it in all versions of the Florida Gators football team. Because of the current season’s record, we expect more out of this specific version. But maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we should expect and hope for the one thing that really matters—winning.

The Gators have not accomplished that goal only once this season. Eight other times, Florida left the field as victors. Saturday’s outing wasn’t pretty, but not many of them have been recently. We have been brainwashed to want style points and yards upon yards upon yards. It’s a hard concept to grasp, but we should always want the win first regardless of how it comes. 14-7 when it should have been 27-10 or even 38-7 isn’t ideal, but the result is the same—W.

For three seasons now the Gators have struggled to find an offensive identity. Pease may be the answer and he may not be. He needs more time, but we also need to focus on that phrase—“just win.” We worry about the other things because we look ahead to opponents like Florida State. We wonder if the Gators were to get to the SEC Championship Game how they could possibly keep up with Alabama. For now though, just win. 8-1 with 9-1 on the horizon. That ninth win may be a thing of beauty or it may be the most destructive of dumpster fires, but if it’s a win, it accomplished goal number one whether we liked watching it or not.

The Gators can check Missouri off of the schedule with a heavy sigh of relief. On to the next opponent. Just win.

Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Vanderbilt Commodores; This Is A Trap Game, So What?

The Florida Gators travel to Nashville, TN to face a familiar SEC East foe – the Vanderbilt Commodores – in what many are calling a “trap game.” Let’s talk about trap games for a minute…

Jay Cutler - Vanderbilt Commodores

A trap game is a game before a more important one. Team A is clearly better than Team B, but may be looking ahead to Team C because that game means more. Why it means more could have a variety of reasons so large we won’t get into that, but there are a lot of them. Because of Team C looming ahead on the schedule, Team A doesn’t come out and play its best against Team B. Suddenly, what was supposed to become a win has become a loss and the game against Team C isn’t as important because Team A has a bad loss on their record.

Trap games are real. They are any game you can fit into the description above. They are also real in that from time to time the outcome is a loss for Team A. The problem is that we’ve almost romanticized the small percentage of times when Team B has pulled off the upset, so much so that we now believe it can happen on any given Saturday. But more often than not, it doesn’t. Or if it did, Team A was able to rebound and end the season on a high note.

Why don’t we look at our favorite team – those Florida Gators – for a few examples. In 2006, the Gators won the national championship with a record of 13-1. Their one loss came to the Auburn Tigers one week after beating the LSU Tigers and two weeks before facing the rival Georgia Bulldogs. Trap game? Actually no, it wasn’t. The Tigers were 5-1 at that point in the season and would finish 2006 at 11-2. That’s not a trap game. Auburn was good, meaning the game fit the normal definition of what most SEC games are.

Some may point to 2008 and say “OLE MISS, THERE’S YOUR TRAP GAME!” No, sorry. Again, it doesn’t fit. The Gators had just come off of a win over the Tennnessee Volunteers, but it was the Arkansas Razorbacks on the schedule after Ole Miss. The same Razorbacks that would finish the season 5-7. Apologies to any Arkansas fans out there, but before facing Florida at that point in the season, they had beaten Western Illinois (by 4 points) and Louisiana-Lafayette (by 1 point) and were 2-2. The Gators weren’t looking ahead to the Razorbacks. They just lost to the Rebels. No other way to put that. It wasn’t a trap game during which they fell victim to looking ahead. They just lost. A few months later, they would win another national championship after winning possible trap games against Kentucky and at Vanderbilt (by a combined 86 points).

In 2009, another 13-1 finish and more wins in anything resembling trap games. You could call the Kentucky and Mississippi State games by that label, but – as seen before – Florida won them both. In the end, the loss came to the team that would win the national title – the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Sure, this game fits the criteria for becoming a trap game, but the Gators would need to lose for it to actually be one. Possible, I guess. Unlikely, definitely. Vanderbilt isn’t a bad team and many think James Franklin can make some noise with the program. That’s all good and well, but there’s a certain intensity about this Gators team that should prevail. This isn’t the same team of the last two seasons. This is one with a defense living up to its hype, talent, and ability. It’s a team that still has a long way to go, but one that looks like it will win the games it’s supposed to win. Today is one of those games.

Believe in the power of the trap game all you want – I’m not saying it never happens – but just realize it’s far from guaranteed. Florida is favored for a reason and in a few hours they’ll have every opportunity to prove why. If all else fails and this does become the dreaded trap, then just be comforted in remembering that Jay Cutler never smiles and that makes all of us happy. Enjoy your Saturday and, as always Go Gators!

SEC Coaches And Their SEC Backgrounds

SEC Media Days are currently happening. You already knew that because you are a good fan that follows everything there is to follow about the SEC. You know that during these days, we hear a lot from the head coaches at the 12 SEC programs. We hear their thoughts of the state of the SEC, what the future of the SEC might bring, and how they like SEC. Basically, it is a lot of SEC.
12 coaches in all and plenty with experience in the SEC before their current positions. Whether they were a head coach at another SEC school in the past, an assistant somewhere else within the conference, or actually played in the SEC, they have been around the conference’s block. Did you know that only three of the current 12 SEC head coaches – or 25% – are at their first SEC stop? Of the remaining nine – which would make 75% – seven are with their second SEC program in one capacity or another. The remaining two have been at three or more places with Florida’s own Will Muschamp leading the way with four stops (for those liking the percentages, that means Muschamp has played or coached at 33% of the SEC programs). The current SEC head coaches average ties to exactly two SEC schools.
I will admit that is a lot of numbers. And there are more. For instance, four coaches (33% again) have ties to the Gators. But that is enough of that. Trying to keep up with it all can leave you scratching your head and just wishing the season was here so you no longer had to find others things to fill your brain. We at The Bull Gator are here for you. To eliminate the confusion of the numbers and who coached or played where before they became the head coach at a particular SEC school, we have created the chart below. It should clear everything up and paint you a perfect picture of which SEC head coach has ties to which SEC programs. You are very welcome.

The Long Snapper: Larry Coker, Pat Devlin, Maryland, Mike Leach, and Tim Tebow

A self-imposed 100-word limit has worked nicely when discussing the exploits of a certain school’s basketball team while keeping me sane at the same time. So to play off that success and up the frequency of The Long Snapper, here are five (and ONLY five) happenings of the college football world.

Larry Coker wants back into coaching. The 60-year-old Coker has been out of a job since being fired from Miami in 2006 and has wanted to return ever since. It looks like he’s set his sights on the University Texas-San Antonio. UTSA has yet to express interest in return. Little known fact: San Antonio is the largest U.S. city without an NFL or Division 1-A football team.

Looking to follow in the footsteps of Joe Flacco, former high school All-American Pat Devlin will transfer to Delaware. After spending two seasons as a backup at Penn State, Devlin will be eligible to play immediately for the Blue Hens. If he is truly dedicated to a Flaccoesque transformation, we recommend eyebrow implants.

We have another coach-in-waiting. Maryland has named offensive coordinator James Franklin as the successor to Ralph Freidgen. I find it curious when programs such as this partake in these deals. Do they just hope to continue their race to mediocrity? And yes, I would be saying the same thing if USF announced something similar.

The Mike Leach contract talks are getting confusing. I think it all comes down to this: Leach has until February 17 to accept an offer from Texas Tech which will pay him around $2.5 million per year to remain with the Red Raiders through 2013.

Jon Gruden is very impressed with Tim Tebow. In fact, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach called Florida’s Tebow his favorite football player EVER. (HT: Every Day Should Be Saturday)