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Love for the Bulldogs

Oct 23, 2014 -- 4:20pm

The SEC West and FSU are getting all of the love. The Oregon Ducks still have plenty of folks carrying a torch for them. And, of course, there are Notre Dame believers everywhere.

But no team, other than FSU, has a better chance of being invited to college football’s first “Final Four” playoff than the Georgia Bulldogs, currently ranked No. 9.

The Dawgs’ second half isn’t easy but it’s easier than any of the other top contenders. While Georgia has several “soft” games, it also has two marquee games – Auburn and the SEC Championship Game -- to seal the deal and separate itself from other one-loss teams if it comes to that.

Meanwhile, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State beat up on each other; Oregon doesn’t have a game-of-the-year left on the schedule; and Notre Dame has land mines to avoid and no conference championship to impressive the selection committee.

Indeed, don’t count out the Dawgs.

With FSU and Florida both taking the weekend off, this week’s prediction:

Dolphins (3-3) at Jaguars (1-6), 1 p.m. – The Jaguars are improving and with Blake Bortles at quarterback there’s a growing feeling that he can make enough plays to beat any team or any given day. Ah, hope is a great feeling. But the Jaguars still have a long way to go to be a consistent winner. Offensively, no one has stepped up as a big play receiver; the line remains a work in progress; and the running game is still suspect. And Bortles throws way too many INTs. Defensively, the loss of middle linebacker Paul Posluszney is huge. He quarterbacked the defense and his leadership will be sorely missed – not to mention his 10-plus tackles per game. A weak linebacking group is now weaker. As for the Dolphins, they have been the epitome of inconsistency on offense because of QB Ryan Tannehill. Which Tannehill shows up Sunday at Everbank? Defensively, what the Dolphins do best is rush the QB and that usually makes for a tough day for the opposing quarterback, particularly young QBs. The Dolphins, favored by 6, win 24-17.

Kudos to Bradley for Showing Emotion

Oct 21, 2014 -- 12:25pm

I offer a tip of the hat -- a big fat “attaboy” -- to Gus Bradley for how the Jaguars’ coach handled the team’s first victory of the season.

He was excited, even a bit giddy. He didn’t try to play the “coaches’ cool card” by acting stoic and going straight to coachspeak: “We’ll put this one behind us and get on to the business of the next game.”

There was also a bit of relief in Bradley’s voice and body language. That’s understandable. The Jaguars’ abysmal record has to have created some degree of self doubt among those responsible.

Beating Cleveland 24-6 was a welcomed change.

Just how happy was Bradley? How did this season’s first victory in game seven compared to last season’s first victory in game nine?

Bradley said he couldn’t answer that question. In the locker room, however, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said he thought this one rated higher for Bradley, quickly noting both were off the level-of-joy charts.

That makes sense. Even though last year’s victory at Tennessee was Bradley’s first as an NFL head coach and it ended the worst first eight games of a season in NFL history, expectations were so low a year ago. This year was supposed to show vast improvement, but the 0-6 start had people questioning Bradley’s head coaching credentials. And this victory came in front of the home fans.

One victory doesn’t stop questions about Bradley’s coaching chops, but another loss would have amped up the criticism.

But I digress. This rant isn’t about Bradley’s future as a head coach; it’s about how coaches think they should act following victories.

Coaches should enjoy victory and not hide that fact, but way too often they seem to think it’s a sign of weakness to act happy. I’m not suggesting a three-day party, but the 24-hour rule to bask in the joy of winning seems reasonable.

That’s especially true for a team like the Jaguars and a coach such as Bradley. Let’s be honest: this isn’t a good team. It won’t have many opportunities to revel in victory. Such moments should be cherished by all. None should be wasted.

For Mercy's Sake, Fire Muschamp Now

Oct 20, 2014 -- 9:58am

The University of Florida should fire Coach Will Muschamp now. Not tomorrow, not next week or the week after but right now. In fact, it should have done it yesterday or sooner.

The university should do it not for the fans or the media but for Muschamp and his players -- and for the overall health of the program.

Why let Muschamp (and his family) dangle in the wind and continue to catch the harsh and incredible amount criticism fired at him? Why let the players finish the season in such a negative atmosphere? Why should the program endure six weeks of being a punching bag?

Fire Muchamp now and get on with moving to the next chapter of Gator football.

My suggestion is make offensive coordinator Kurt Roper the interim head coach. Let’s find out if his offense can work away from Muschamp’s shadow. I doubt it will. I’m not sure the Gators have the personnel and probably not the time to give Roper’s offense a fair shot. But the season is lost and what do the Gators have to lose?

Let the fans and media turn their attention to who the next coach will be. I don’t know who the Gators will go after but I do know few coaches, pro and college, will say no to Florida without listening first. The Florida job is one of the best, maybe top 10, in all of football. Florida offers absolutely everything needed to win big and writes paychecks with the best them.  

Muschamp was a bad hire. He deservedly earned a reputation as a top defensive coordinator; as a motivator and recruiter. But he’d never been a head coach and quickly proved (to me, at least) that he was in over his head as the big boss.

Dragging out this mess any longer makes no sense. Call it a mercy firing. 

Look for Seminoles to Roll Irish

Oct 16, 2014 -- 5:47pm

Florida State should beat Notre Dame.

The Seminoles have more talented players than the Irish. And they’re just as big and strong, but they’re faster and quicker.

But is FSU a better team?

It is if the Seminoles put the team first and individual glory/NFL dreams second.

I have maintained since before the season began that the Seminoles’ biggest obstacle is themselves. To use a coaching cliché, if the individual Seminole players do their jobs they’ll whip the Irish by two touchdowns. Thus far this season they’ve gotten away with some undisciplined and selfish defensive play against far inferior competition. Notre Dame, 6-0 and ranked 5th, is easily better than any team the 6-0 and 2nd-ranked Noles have played. Still, FSU is an 11½-point favorite. The odds-makers know.

I expect the Seminoles to play their best game Saturday night. There’ll be a lot of happy “choppers” shortly before midnight in Tallahassee after the Seminoles roll the Irish 45-17.

This week’s other predictions:

Missouri (4-2) at Florida (3-2), 7 p.m. – It’s tough to predict the Gators to beat anybody. Is RB Matt Jones still dinged? Are the coaches still mad at RB Kelvin Taylor? Who’s going to play quarterback? Can anyone other than WR Demarcus Robinson get open? Will there continue to be glaring coaching mistakes? But how can anyone pick the Tigers, who lost at home to Indiana – this isn’t basketball, you understand – and then were embarrassed at home by Georgia, 34-0. Oh well, somebody’s gotta win. The Gators, favored by 5½, wins 17-16.

Browns (3-2) at Jaguars (0-6), 1 p.m. – Cleveland is 7 points from being 5-0. The Browns are also 5 points from being 1-4. They’ve played their best football the last two weeks, overcoming a 28-3 deficit to win 29-28 at Tennessee and thumping their rival, Pittsburgh, 31-10. The matchup is actually good for the Jaguars. The Browns run the ball more than any NFL team and the Jaguars are decent against the run. Still, how can you honestly pick the Jaguars to win any game? Cleveland, favored by 5½, wins 27-17.

Finding Positives with the Jaguars

Oct 14, 2014 -- 3:09pm

I’ve been told I’m too critical of the Jaguars.

I’ve been told I should look for the good and not dwell on the bad.

Okay, I’ll try.

Blake Bortles shows more promise than any other quarterback the team has drafted with a top-10 pick. Byron Leftwich. No. 7 overall in ’03, had his moments but not many. Blaine Gabbert, drafted No. 10 in ’11, was a disaster.

Coach Gus Bradley is without question the friendliest, most upbeat and most accessible head coach in franchise history.

Owner Shad Khan is deep-pocketed, generous, committed to Jacksonville and fan friendly.

The jumbo video boards are unbelievable.

The Jaguars have been extremely competitive in their last two games.

The defensive play has improved.

Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is a tackling machine.

I see rookie wide receiver Allen Robinson having a long productive career.

Rookie right offensive guard Brandon Linder looks like a keeper based on everything I’ve been told.

Jaxson DeVille is the best mascot in professional sports.

The players as a group are as fan friendly as any I’ve seen in professional sports.

Paul Anger is a fine punter.

I trust placekicker Josh Scobee.

Carson Tinker hasn’t made a bad long snap.

And . . . I’m thinking . . . I’m thinking . . . 

Will Muschamp has Run Out of Miracles

Oct 13, 2014 -- 10:48am

I was beginning to think Will Muschamp lived a charmed life. Or he had the largest rabbit foot known to man. Or he’d sold his soul to the devil for football victories.

Yeah, I thought it was going to be 2012 all over again for the Florida Gators and their wild-eyed young head coach.

You remember the 2012 season, right? The Gators were the worst 11-1 team in major college football history. Other than a slip-up against Georgia, the Gators couldn’t seem to lose no matter how badly they played.

The 2014 Gators seemed headed for another such season. Remember the 4th-and-7 touchdown play against Kentucky after the play clock appeared to have expired? The Gators won in triple overtime. Remember the game-winning field goal at Tennessee when again it appeared the play clock had expired?

But last Saturday night in The Swamp against LSU the Gators’ ran out of lucky charms – but not before sending chills through their fans and shock waves through LSU’s Tigers.

Beleaguered Gator QB Jeff Driskel hadn’t thrown a strike on a deep ball since anyone can remember until he suddenly hit Demarcus Robinson in stride for a 73-yard gain after LSU had taken a 3-point lead with 2:40 to play. Even when tight end Tevin Westbrook dropped a TD pass – the short throw was right between the numbers and hit both of Westbrook’s hands – the Gators appeared headed for overtime by kicking a field goal with 1:48 to play.

When the Gators got the ball back there was a sense of another miracle victory under Muschamp’s watch.

Then devil reneged on her deal. A Driskel pass went off of someone’s helmet into the waiting arms of a Tiger. Finally, the young man who’d earlier missed an extra-point kick (more good fortune for the Muschamp Gators) was called on to do something he’d never done: kick a 50-yard field goal.

Colby Delahoussaye split the uprights with 0:03 on the clock. LSU 30, Florida 27.

Muschamp had run out of miracles and probably his chances of saving his job.

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