Florida Gators Vs. Florida State Seminoles; The Rivalry Is Back Where It Belongs

I was thankful for a great many things yesterday–some sports-related; many not. Among those things I was thankful for was the return of the rivalry. I should clarify that before fans from both sides scream foul. When the Florida Gators face the Florida State Seminoles, the rivalry that comes along with it is always present. It wouldn’t matter if these teams had losing records. A rivalry of this kind is intense regardless of what the outcome means to the larger landscape of college football. That said, for many years it has taken a hit due to one or both of the programs underachieving. This season, that is not the case and, therefore, I’m thankful.

Ike Hilliard - Florida Gators

The Gators and ‘Noles enter Saturday’s game a combined 20-2. Not only do both teams have identical 10-1 records, they are both firmly (well, that could be argued) among the top 10 in the nation. Florida sits at No. 4 in the current BCS Standings thanks largely to the computer polls. FSU, on the other hand, holds the No. 10 spot due to those same polls. Let’s take a deeper dive, shall we?

The Florida Gators ranking line reads like this: No. 5 in the Harris Poll, No. 6 in the Coaches Poll, five computer rankings of No. 2 and one of No. 6. The computers have the Gators behind only the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, which pushes Florida to No. 4 overall. Then look at the Florida State line: No. 6 in the Harris Poll, No. 5 in the Coaches Poll and computer rankings ranging between No. 15 and NR (that’s right, the ‘Noles are unranked in one of the computer polls). That hurts FSU in a number of ways and is what pushes them down to No. 10. All but one computer ranks the Clemson Tigers–a team the Seminoles beat–ahead of Florida State and you have to go all the way down to No. 18 to find a team with a lower computer average. FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher may have been on to something when he spewed venom at the BCS.

But he only has half of an argument. Yes, the computers are screwing FSU to a point. As orange and blue as my vision is, I can admit that. However, there’s a little thing called strength of schedule that has to be taken into account. It’s not Fisher’s fault his ‘Noles play in the ACC where the level of competition isn’t always high. That’s not the fault of the FSU players either. He does have to live with it though. He also has to live with the fact that his team lost to a team they shouldn’t have–the NC State Wolfpack–that is now 6-5. Florida State would be either No. 1 or No. 2 right now if that hadn’t happened, but it did and Fisher has to live with the No. 10 ranking.

That doesn’t mean they won’t beat our mighty Gators tomorrow. The fact that FSU lost to NC State doesn’t necessarily give Florida an advantage either. Flip a coin and take your pick. What we’ll see if anyone’s guess, as it has been with most Gators’ games this season. There’s plenty to expect, but only one team will come out of this 11-1 and the best guess is to say something surprising will happen.

On both sides, we have elite defenses. Defenses that have won games for their respective teams. Defenses that will probably rule this matchup. Then we have the offenses and a whole lot of looking away from the television. I fondly remember the days when this game was always of national importance and with that came excitement over the offenses. The Florida offense would get the ball and you would move to the edge of your seat. Today, there are times when you’d rather go to the bathroom than see another three-and-out. On paper, Florida State holds the advantage in terms of offensive production. The problem with that is that you can throw away everything on paper from this entire college football season. Do I really need to prove that to you? Okay, here goes.

First of all, the Gators are 10-1. There’s joy in that record, but also genuine shock. The nation’s top team–the Alabama Crimson Tide–lost to one of the SEC’s newcomers in a game that didn’t feel as close as the score. Notre Dame is 11-0 and No. 1 only one season after I watched the USF Bulls beat them in South Bend. Florida State is 10-1 and NOT in the top five. Boise State has two losses and for once no one is talking about the Broncos. Only one week ago, we were discussing a National Championship featuring Oregon and Kansas State (?!?). And of the top 23 teams in the BCS Standings, only two have more than two losses this late in the season. Basically that means whatever the outcome on Saturday, it wouldn’t be surprising.

I hope for a Gators win, but I’m nervous. I’ve watched a determined team put together an impressive record with several notable victories and a lone loss to the nation’s No. 3 team. I’ve also watched an offense that looked to be improved early in the season, only to become something of a train wreck over the last month. I don’t know what to make of tomorrow because I don’t know what to make of the offense Brent Pease is attempting to get off the ground. Jeff Driskel will play, but I can’t be sure if that gives Florida a better chance than if Jacoby Brissett was taking snaps. The Gators have a primary running back and have run him ragged toward what will be the first 1,000-yard season since 2004, but he can’t do it alone. And, as always, there’s the offense line that we’re never really sure about. Put it all together and all I can manage is a shrug.

On Saturday, that shrug could turn into a raucous cheer or absolute anger. Time will tell on that end. The rivalry feels right again though and I am excited. Nervous, but excited. These teams should be playing for more than mid-tier bowl games. The rivalry means more to fans on both sides than that. Saturday will give us another chapter and another reason to hate each other. It’s part of what makes being a Florida fan or an FSU fan great. Both have the same philosophy for the game (even if we only promote it for one): just win.

Florida Gators Vs. Florida State Seminoles: Here We Go, It’s Rivalry Day

You throw out records on certain occasions and this is one of them. Never mind that the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles have stumbled to a combined record of 13-9. Never mind that there have been growing pains for both programs as they’ve introduced new coaching staffs over the past two seasons. Never mind that there are a number of areas that both could and need to improve upon to really make noise across the nation in 2012. This is Florida and FSU. This is the rivalry.

We got to this point by crashing head first into almost every brick wall there was along the way. It rarely pretty and mostly ugly, but here we are. The Gators host the Seminoles in the regular season finale for both. FSU started the season no. 6/5 in the AP Top 25 and USA Today Poll respectively. Florida was a little farther down in both coming in at no. 22/23. Today, neither are ranked and only the coaches were kind enough to give the ‘Noles even a vote. When FSU promoted Jimbo Fisher to head coach, they didn’t envision 17-8 (11-5) over his first 25. When Florida hired Will Muschamp, 6-5 (3-5) wasn’t on the menu.

The game will be played regardless and the moment it kicks off is the moment we forget about the rest. For a few hours, records and missed expectations will be removed from our minds and it’ll be only about the rivalry, about state pride, and of course about recruiting. For 60 minutes on the field, the Gators and Seminoles will fight for a victory that trumps all others this season. It’s one win that can change the fortunes of the lucky team that comes out with it. And it’s not just the teams, the players or the coaches; it’s the fans as well. We want to win more than anything today because we know each other. We work with one another. We are friends with those on the opposing side. We may even have family in the enemy’s colors today. Victory is for all of that. November 24, 2012 is a long, long time from now and that win will tide us over until then. It gives us bragging rights and fuels discussions not just around the water cooler, but basically everywhere.

Today is about more than just a game. It’s Florida vs. Florida State, UF vs. FSU, Gators vs. Seminoles, orange and blue vs. garnet and gold. All of that and much, much more. Enjoy it because the waiting period comes as soon as the final second ticks off the clock. Waiting for a bowl game neither team expected to be a part of and beyond that for an offseason we never welcome. Enjoy the few hours you will be watching it and the 60 minutes being played out on the field. Enjoy it all.

Thoughts With Ethan Fisher

College football provides us with entertainment. It’s what we spend time following to get away from the “real world.” Occasionally it crosses into that world and we are reminded of just how fragile life can be.
Ethan Fisher is the five-year-old son of FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher. Ethan suffers from a rare blood disorder that his father and mother – Candi – are doing their best to learn more about. The Fisher’s will be part of a news conference on Friday where they will discuss the disease and the efforts they plan to take to fight it, including a foundation to assist in fundraising and research.
Thoughts are with Ethan and the entire Fisher family.

Questions with the Enemy: Florida Gators at FSU Seminoles

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 28: Head coach Jimbo Fisher and quarterback Christian Ponder  of the Florida State Seminoles prepare for a play against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 28, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)It’s been a long time since we’ve had one of these, but people seemed to like them on the rare occasion they would appear, so when ACC Rivals asked me to participate, I gladly accepted.

ACC Rivals covers all things Atlantic Coast Conference and, therefore, was perfect to answer some questions about this weekend’s game against rivals Florida and FSU. Head over to their site to check out my answers to the questions they had for me.

Here are my questions for them and their answers:

The Bull Gator: As the season nears its end, is this what you expected out of FSU? Or were hopes higher for 2010?

ACC Rivals: I think FSU definitely overachieved this year, and was much more successful then people thought they would be. At the end of the day, nobody expected Jimbo Fisher to turn it around in one year. And to see that he made this team good enough to be basically two plays away from being 10-1 has all ‘Noles fans happy with the season.

A win against Florida would make this season more then successful. Wins against Miami and UF in this inaugural season for Jimbo would give a huge boost to recruiting, and show the nation that FSU is officially back.

TBG: The Jimbo Fisher era has started off well enough, what do you see from the head coach in the future?

AR: I think all Florida State fans should be excited for how this team will fare in the upcoming years under Jimbo. We were one miscommunication and one missed field goal away from being in the Top 10. Our recruiting classes get better and better by the year, and E.J. Manuel is the next Cam Newton (yes, I said it). Watch out for this team in the next years.

TBG: Christian Ponder has been shaky at times this year. Will the Noles need him to play well to beat the Gators? Or is the running game the key?

AR: I don’t think Christian Ponder is the key to this game. Let me rephrase that – I don’t want Christian Ponder to be the key to this game. At this point, I’d honestly rather have EJ under center. I’m much more confident with him directing the offense.

But since it’s senior day, and Jimbo didn’t even pull him last week against Maryland when he was playing absolutely horrid, I’m expecting Ponder to be the quarterback for the whole game. We’ll need him to play like the quarterback that gave FSU reason to make the CP7 for Heisman campaign or yes, the running game is the key. Which isn’t a bad thing, because I’m completely confident in giving Chris Thompson, Ty Jones, and Jermaine Thomas the ball all the time.

TBG: FSU gets to the QB and Florida lets defenders get into the backfield. Are you laughing manically at what could be a long day for Gator QBs?

AR: I don’t want to say anything about how we are so much better then this Gator offense, but I will say this – this is the first time for a long time where I’ve been confident that our defense is going to get a stop when they walk on the field.

TBG: The Gators are on quite a streak against the Noles. As much as you want to win this game, will your thoughts be on NC State/Maryland?

AR: Let me start off with this – PlantTheSpear.com put a poll on their website this week that asked if FSU fans would trade a trip to the ACC championship game for a win over Florida.

Over 70% of people voted yes. I think that describes my attitude as well towards the game. But this should show how the team is looking at the game – Doak Campbell Stadium has been asked by the coaches not to show the NC State-Maryland score so the players aren’t distracted. While I will be checking the score during every break in action, the coaches obviously want their team to want this game more.

TBG: How will this game turn out?

AR: Florida State will come out strong and open up with a 10-0 lead. But they’ll then fail to capitalize on some drives, Florida will gain momentum, and the game will be close throughout the game. The score will be somewhere around 20-17 (not sure who will be ahead) late in the 4th quarter, and we’ll be in for a great ending. I’m not going to make final score prediction, sorry. There’s just too much emotional impact for my prediction not to be a homer pick.

Spring Game Attendance Up…and Down

Defending national champion Alabama led the way in terms of 2010 spring game attendance.  The Crimson Tide got 91,312 to show up for their scrimmage, up from 84,050 in 2009.  Not surprising considering the resurgence of Alabama football and the fact the Tide will most likely start the season at the top of the polls.  Add the defending Heisman Trophy winner to the mix and it was a can’t miss for Bama fans.
On the other side of the coin, Florida saw attendance dip, from 65,000 in 2009 to 51,500 in 2010.  Again, not surprising.  Without #15 out there to get the crowd excited, a drop in attendance was expected.  No Tim Tebow, no go for a large amount of fans.  Let’s just hope those fans come back in the fall.  Remember Gators, you can love Tebow, but the Denver Broncos play on Sundays.  You have a different kind of orange and blue obligation on Saturdays.
Two other state schools set records in terms of attendance and, yes, one of them was USFSkip Holtz and the Bulls were watched by 6,537.  It’s a small number, but it’s understandable.  Tampa is a large city with many residents from other places.  I would imagine the percentage of USF fans in Tampa is substantially lower than the percentage of say Michigan fans in Ann Arbor.  The other state record-setter was FSU.  The Seminoles added 15,000 more fans in 2010 to come in at 51,000.  That’s 51,000 that wanted to get a look at Jimbo Fisher’s Noles.
There were some other big gainers.  Among them, Auburn (up nearly 18,000), UNC (up 26,000), and Oregon (who more than doubled attendance to 25,000).  Among those that saw attendance fall a lot, Penn State (more than 21,000 less), Lane Kiffin’s old school – Tennessee (down over 16,000), and Lane Kiffin’s new school – USC (more than 7,500 less).  But the trophy goes to Ohio State.  The Buckeyes held the crown last year with over 95,000 in attendance, more than any other school in the nation.  In 2010?  Yikes.  Over 30,000 less.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to either Florida’s or USF’s spring game this year.  I know, I know.  BAD FAN!  But it’s amazing how many people do.  When I was a Gator in the late 90s, there definitely weren’t 50,000 people in the stands.  People need their fill before the long summer months begin and I can’t blame them.  (H/T: One Eyed Willy)

Game Preview: FSU Seminoles @ Florida Gators – 11/28 – 3:30

It still amazes me that someone at one of the networks didn’t think for even a second “wait a minute if we have Florida school versus Florida school on at 3:30 too, we’ll lose some viewers to the other Florida school versus Florida school broadcast!”  Well amazed is a little strong.  Few things amaze me from television stations that actually give Jenna Elfman the opportunity to be seen nationwide on a weekly basis.  Down with Dharma, and up with 10 things about Florida/FSU.
1. The uniforms.  In another life I work in marketing, but you don’t need a degree in the promotional arts to sniff out a Nike money making attempt.  This is the company that got a swoosh on the Penn State uniforms.  So what we have is a futuristic attempt at a football uniform.  It tries, and fails, to give us some insight to what the coming years could bring.  The white helmet is a nice touch at first, taking us back to 1966, or 2006 and those gorgeous throwbacks.  But when the Florida font F is revealed, the one good part of the ensemble is instantly ruined.  As for the rest of the getup, all blue can look great, those pant stripes destroy any hope of that.  And while the gloves are a nice touch, they have to be positioned perfectly to give the desired affect.  All-in-all, the uniforms are a fail from a visual standpoint, but another success for Nike.  After all, they flew off shelves in a similar fashion to those orange-sleeved monstrosities from 2005.
2. Senior day.  Markihe Anderson, Rick Burgess, Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Dustin Doe, Troy Epps, Cade Holliday, Brandon James, Dorian Munroe, David Nelson, Jonathan Phillips, Wondy Pierre-Louis, Joey Sorrentino, Brandon Spikes, Ryan Stamper, Tim Tebow, and Mike WilliamsonCarl Moore, we’ll see you in 2010.
3. Random Omarius Hines fact.  Welcome to the touchdown club Omarius.  Your arrival was eagerly awaited.
4. Tim Tebow.  What kind of Gator fan would I be if I didn’t at least mention Tebow’s last game in The Swamp?  It’s been talked about ad nauseam for weeks.  The last time #15 will command the offense in Gainesville.  His last hurrah in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field.  Love him or hate him (and if you hate him, take a second to be honest with yourself, it’s because of the media explosion surrounding him, not the man himself…and if you still think it’s because of Tebow the person, I speak for everyone else in saying we’re all glad you’ve finally come to the realization that you’re an idiot), this is a historic moment.  One of the best to ever put on a uniform is playing in his final home game.
5. Could this be one of the last games Bobby Bowden ever coaches?  Who cares?  For those of you non-Florida fans that are sick of hearing about Tim Tebow, well us non-FSU fans feel the same way with every “new” Bowden article.  But sit any level-headed (that’s the key here) one of us down and we’ll full admit the legendary status of the Seminole head coach and what he has done for both the FSU program and the game of college football.  Maybe he overstayed.  Maybe he lost his touch years ago.  Maybe he’ll surprise us all and stick around for another year and produce a winner.  None of us really know.  What we know is the man will go down as one of the greatest influences on the history of the game and like Tebow, love him or hate him, you can’t deny that.
6. The juniors.  It seems that there could be a good number of juniors playing their last game in The Swamp.  More so than the Gators have seen in quite some time.  If I had to guess, Carlos Dunlap, Joe Haden, and Aaron Hernandez are locks to leave.  It’s hard for me to picture any of the three of them in orange and blue in 2010.  If one were to surprise us and return for his senior year, it may be Hernandez, but I would think all three will be playing on Sundays in less than a year.  Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Pouncey recently said there’s a good chance they could leave as well.  This is one I’m on the fence about.  The twins are very talented, there’s no doubt about that.  But there are two things playing against them when it comes to the NFL Draft in 2010.  The first: neither are tackles.  Not that interior linemen aren’t valuable, but you have to blow people away to be picked as high as tackles go if you’re a center or guard.  And the second: neither twin played as well in 2009 than they did in 2008.  The twins have elevated their game in recent weeks, but the first half of the season (maybe even a little more of it) was a tough time to be a Gator offensive lineman.  That being the case, I believe both would be best served to come back for their senior year and show scouts what they can do protecting more of a true pocket passer in John Brantley.
7. Charlie Strong.  We might as well continue riding this gravy train.  This could be the last time we see Strong on the sidelines at The Swamp as well.  One of these days he’ll get that job offer we’ve all been expecting him to get.  And after the initial “NO!  He was supposed to stay here forever!” moment, we’ll be happy for him.  I just hope Strong doesn’t settle for something.  I know Memphis is going in a different direction, but that’s not a job for him any way.  If Dan Mullen can get Mississippi State, surely Strong can get a BCS head coaching job as well.  And yes, expect me to cheer openly for wherever strong ends up.
8. Sigh, Greg Reid.  Reid is going to be a very good football player.  In fact, he may already be.  But Greg, you sounded like an idiot this week.  You called out a football coach for being cocky.  I’ve said this before, but in case you missed it…ANYONE ASSOCIATED WITH A FOOTBALL PROGRAM SHOULD BE COCKY!  Players, coaches, whoever.  This is football.  How do you succeed without some level of confidence at least bordering on cockiness?  Reid said “It was kind of disappointing. [Urban Meyer] was talking to me like Florida was the world.”  Keep in mind, Reid waited until now to tell us this.  What in the world did you expect Greg?  We wouldn’t want Meyer as a coach if he didn’t think Florida was the world.  His job is to win football games and turn Florida into the best program in the nation.  That’s any coach’s job at any school.  And when it comes to recruiting, his job is to tell recruits why Florida is the world and why coming there is the best thing that could happen to a kid.  Comment all you want about returning a punt to the house.  Even say what you like about Jimbo Fisher, but claiming you don’t do cocky?  Give us a break.  Cocky, or whatever you want to call it, has gotten the Gators to 11-0 at this point.  If you don’t do cocky, maybe you don’t do winning either.
9. An upset would make FSU’s season.  Heading into the regular season finale against the #1 team in the nation while being 6-5 isn’t an ideal position to be in for any program.  When it’s Florida State and that game is against your biggest rival, it’s downright vomit-inducing.  But if the world flipped itself upside down and somehow the Noles pulled off the unthinkable, it would be the story of the year.  The Gators have let a number of teams hang around this year and now is definitely not the time for that.  Be the story in the positive way.  Be the Florida team that finished the regular season perfect.  Play your game, limit mistakes, and get the win.
10. Forget everything else.  Imagine if there was no SEC Championship Game next weekend.  Imagine if bowl games and the BCS didn’t exist (I know a lot of you probably like to imagine that last part).  Imagine if there was no next year.  This is it.  This is the next game.  This is the final game.  It’s been a while since Florida clinched the SEC East and a chance to play for the conference championship.  The Gators and Alabama have been on a crash course to a rematch all season and it was realized when both teams clinched their division titles.  But that doesn’t matter and must be forgotten today.  All that matters is beating FSU.  Getting past today’s opponent.  Not playing down because you’re looking ahead.  Texas let Texas A&M keep it interesting for a while.  Illinois kept it closer than many expected against Cincinnati.  Don’t look ahead.  Just win today.
 

Morning Reading: Mickey Andrews to Retire at End of Season

Let me start this off by saying, I could’ve sworn we already knew this.  I don’t remember where I heard it, but I thought we knew this a few months ago.  Maybe it was a rumor floated to me by one of my friends that is a fan of the Seminoles.  Maybe I made it up from a dream I had.  Who knows?  I just feel like this isn’t new information.
Regardless, a staple of the FSU football program has announced he will retire at the end of the 2009 season.  No, it’s not Bobby Bowden.  Bowden will be coaching well into the next decade if he has anything to say about it.  It’s Mickey Andrews.  The man that has been coordinating the defense since 1984.  Which means he was a coach for the Noles before a number of you were even around.
Love FSU or hate them, you can’t deny Andrews’ impact on the defense.  There have been a number of great defensive players come out of Tallahassee during his reign as DC.  All-Americans and award winners, Andrews’ has had an impact on a number of talented individuals.  And yes Gators fans, Andrews has ties to Florida as well.  He was an assistant for two years in the early 80s.
There’s been a lot of speculation about what’s going on inside the Seminole locker room.  Rumors have swirled that some of the guys that have been around the program for a while – Andrews, Chuck Amato, etc. – aren’t completely on board with the whole Jimbo Fisher experiment.  Maybe Andrews thought he should be the next head coach at FSU, given his time and track record with the team.  We’ll probably never really know what goes on behind closed doors.
Hard feelings or not, Andrews is probably making the right decision.  FSU sits at 4-4 and while they’ve looked good at times, at others it seems like we’re looking at a program that couldn’t have possible ever had the glory years they did.  The defense looks shaky and 2003 was the last time the Noles won 10 games.  A change needs to be made one way or another and Andrews knows it.
 

Morning Reading: Charlie Strong’s Resume Continues to Get Stronger

I’m a TV sleeper. You know the kind of person that has to fall asleep with the television on. From time to time this causes problems because I become engrossed in something and end up losing sleep because I just couldn’t miss a Different Strokes marathon. But I may have found a cure. Last night while flicking through the channels, I came across the UFL. That’s right, another new football league. We might as well do the list: USFL, XFL, AAFL, even the Arena Football League eventually met its demise. The UFL is a decent idea – shorter schedule during the NFL season so players are ready if NFL teams need to fill roster spots – but these leagues always miss the point. People don’t care. Count me among them and now I have something that puts me to sleep within minutes.
I would be perfectly happy if Charlie Strong remained Florida’s defensive coordinator forever. Any Gator fan would. Besides the secondary debacle of 2007 and some questionable years during the previous regime, Strong is as talented a coordinator as they come (we’ll go ahead and blame 2007 on youth and the pre-Urban Meyer era on that guy Illinois will be firing any minute now). He’s fired up, passionate, knows how to game plan, recruits as if committing to Florida means you’ll be bringing peace to the world, and is on the short list of every athletic director looking for a head coach.
What’s that? He’s not considered for most head coach openings??? You’ve got to be kidding! The race side of this discussion is always brought up even though it shouldn’t be. So Strong is black. So what. If he were purple with green stripes it wouldn’t change the fact that he’s a great coordinator and definitely qualified at this point to be considered for virtually any opening in the nation.
What made former Florida assistant “Iron” Mike Locksley more qualified? What made current “head coach in waiting” Jimbo Fisher more qualified? What made Dan Mullen more qualified? Nothing. Strong has experienced success similar to all of those individuals. But he’s passed over for every opening. Something’s not right. You can say Strong being a black man is the reason, but at this point, you’d have to think some athletic director out there was able to look past that. Is there something else? Is Strong a bad interview? Does he not play nice with others?

Whatever the case, Strong will eventually get what he deserves and it may come soon. After Florida’s performance against LSU, people are taking notice again of his impact on the Gator defense. Where he’ll end up is a mystery, but Strong’s next job will be as a head coach somewhere. What about South Carolina, where in 1999 Strong became the SEC’s first black coordinator? When Spurrier steps down, the Gamecocks would be crazy not to consider him.  (H/T: One Eyed Willy)
 

One Eyed Observations: Florida/LSU, Bobby Bowden, and Tim Tebow’s Brain

We’re batting maybe .500 when it comes to getting Wednesdays with Willy up on an actual Wednesday. So here’s an exciting new name change. As before, I ask the questions; One Eyed Willy provides the answers.

Will the winner of Florida/LSU go on to play for the national title? Being able to predict if either of these teams can win the national title is incredibly difficult mainly because either of these teams will first have to go through Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game and we all know that winning that game in some ways is harder than winning the national championship. So let’s rephrase the question…“Will the winner of Florida/LSU go on to play for the SEC championship?” The answer to this question is yes IF AND ONLY IF Florida beats LSU, but not if LSU beats Florida. This is Florida’s game of the year. If Florida wins it, especially if they win it without the help of Saint Tebow, I don’t think they lose a game the rest of the regular season. But even with an LSU win this weekend, I still don’t think they will be the favorite to make it to the SEC Championship Game out of the SEC West. I still think they are going to have a lot of trouble with Alabama and Auburn (and maybe Ole Miss to a lesser degree). So if Florida wins, I think we are on our way to Atlanta and possibly to Pasadena. If LSU wins, I think they are on their way to the next game on their schedule.

The way the Bobby Bowden situation is being treated, right or wrong? Should Jim Smith have kept everything inside the program? I think both Bobby Bowden and representatives of FSU are handling the divorce of the legendary coach from the program about as bad as they possibly can. It is no secret what Bowden has done for the game of college football in Tallahassee, in Florida, and throughout the country. Before he got to FSU, the three major Florida teams were not on the national college football radar. Bowden is the single biggest reason why Miami had success in the late 80s and early 90s, why FSU had success throughout the 90s and why Florida had success in the late 90s and 2000s. He almost single-handedly brought college football to the State of Florida. With that said, Bobby has held on about five years too long. I truly believe he is at the point in his career where he is actually doing a disservice to himself, his players and his university by sticking around. He should have realized by now that his career as a head football coach is behind him and should have had enough respect for the program that he built to step aside.

With that said, no Trustee at FSU should ever talk bad about Bowden in public. If the Trustees or President of FSU feel that there needs to be a head coaching change, they should have enough respect for Bowden to talk to him behind closed doors and out of the national spotlight. When I saw what Jim Smith said scroll across the bottom of ESPN I truly felt really bad for Bowden. After all he has done for FSU, to have a Trustee (who we all know only got to have that position because he is ridiculously rich) say something like that about a guy who has done more for FSU than Jim Smith will ever think to do is completely uncalled for and absurd. Not to mention, what good would it do to fire Bowden in the middle of the season? It’s not like he is really doing all that much coaching as it is or that they have some young Hall of Fame caliber coach waiting in the wings. What they should have done was announce at the beginning of the year that this was going to be Bobby’s final year as head coach. That way he could have a “farewell tour” like he most certainly deserves.

By the way, I did a little research on the great Jimbo Fisher to see how he stacks up against the often cursed Jeff Bowden. And would you believe that the win/loss record and offensive production of FSU under Jeff Bowden was actually better than it currently is under Jimbo Fisher. Jeff Bowden was OC from 2001 to 2006 (he was fired after the Wake Forest game in 2006). During that time period, FSU went 49-25 overall (0.66 winning percentage) and 34-14 in the ACC (0.71 winning percentage). In addition, the offense during those years averaged 29.5 points per game. Jimbo Fisher took over OC duties in 2007. Since then, FSU has gone 18-13 overall (0.58 winning percentage) and 9-9 in the ACC (0.50 winning percentage) and the offense is putting up on average of 28.1 points per game. I know the ACC is more difficult than it once was with the addition of Virginia Tech and Miami, but I am not so sure that the future looks bright under the watchful eye of Mr. Jimbo Fisher. Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, Jimbo was a highly sought after assistant coach more so because he coached under Nick Saban than because he actually is a good coach?

Knowing what you know right now, should Tebow play? Or is it best for him to sit out? If Tebow is 100% cleared by doctors and cleared to play than he certainly should play. If Tebow isn’t cleared by doctors than he shouldn’t play. That sounds simple – mainly because it is simple. I am not sure why some people are saying that even if he is cleared he shouldn’t play because of this reason or that reason. I am going to assume that the medical staff at UF knows more about brain injuries than I do. So if they ok Tebow to play (which means that he has not only recovered from the concussion but can’t hurt himself more by playing), I think without a doubt he gives us our best chance to win and therefore he should play. John Brantley is a good QB right now and has the chance to be great, but he is certainly no Tebow at this stage of his career. I truly believe that if Tebow is able to play, he will not only play at LSU but he will have one of the best games of his career. Tebow is just that guy!

Houston Nutt Agrees to Extension; What Does Auburn Do Know?

Ole Miss and head coach Houston Nutt have agreed to an extension that will keep him with the Rebels through 2012, so it appears that he is out of the Auburn race now as well. So what do the Tigers do? We’ve heard all the names: Mike Leach, Houston Nutt, Jimbo Fisher, Will Muschamp. There have been various rumors having each of those men linked to the school and then others stating why they won’t end up there. Leach was offered an extension from Texas Tech. Nutt just signed one with Ole Miss. Fisher is the coach-in-waiting at FSU. And Will Muschamp is happy at Texas. So who’s next? Bobby Petrino has been mentioned, Phillip Fulmer is currently out of a job, and Paul Johnson might be a possibility. Whichever way they go, Auburn needs to act quick. It’s recruiting season people.