Yeah, just like I said…

The Gators are on their way to the national title game. One thing I’m confident you won’t hear many Gators’ fans saying in the next month… the Gators are lucky there’s no playoff system this year. As good as UF and the SEC are, UF is probably not a great team. I have a sneaking suspicion they’re not as good as OSU. That said, their best shot at a national title is a one game playoff. If they put together a good game, without the third quarter meltdowns of the last couple of weeks, they’ve got as good a shot as any to beat OSU (assuming any other team was playing).

On the other hand, if they play like they did against FSU or Vanderbilt, it could be a little ugly.

It’s great to be a Florida Gator

In my freshman year of college my school hired an alumnus to coach it’s football program. From the first game he coached (in my sophomore year) until he left, he was constantly quoted in the press saying that there was one championship that he and his players had some control over, and that was the one championship that was his goal going into every season. That was their conference championship.

I’m several years removed from my college days now, and I can’t go to games with any regular frequency anymore, but I still watch… I’m still a fan… I’m still on the wagon, whether the band’s along for the ride or not. This year Florida had a pretty tough road to travel: including a tough schedule with several of their big rivals on the road. They had a tough season, with the dismissal of arguably their best player (due to drug use) coming mid-season. With injuries they finished the season with two reserve offensive linemen… and one of those was a tight end that kept a different pair of shoulder pads on the sideline in case he had to fill in as a tackle. In the first half they lost their third leading tackler on defense (the starting safety), and arguably their best remaining defensive lineman – two key defensive players, to injury. Yet they played on, as they did the whole season, and they won the one championship they had any control over: the SEC championship.

Now there’s going to be a debate: who should play Ohio State for a national title? As a Gator fan, I’m tempted to say that team should be UF. But you know what? I can’t say it in good conscience. Florida owed their one and only national title to a rematch game… one that shaped up sort of like the Ohio State / Michigan game will undoubtedly shape up (the differences being UF was number one when they lost to number two FSU – and when they lost, later in the season, they dropped to number four).

With more twists than a season of Lost, UF made it to the Bowl Alliance game (the precursor to the Bowl Championship Series) after the ’96 season. The only reason their victory in the Bowl Alliance game over FSU got them the national title (they were ranked number three going into the game) is because the Rose Bowl was not yet part of the Bowl Alliance, and the PAC-10 champ after the regular season, Arizona State (#2 going into the Rose Bowl) was bound to playing in the Rose Bowl… where they lost. Don’t forget the series of events that got the Gators into the Bowl Alliance game in the first place (namely the BIG upset in the Big Twelve Conference Championship Game where Texas knocked off #3 Nebraska). And THEN, had the Rose Bowl not held out of the bowl alliance, Arizona State would have been playing FSU for the Championship by virtue of their better ranking.

So to recap ’96: #1 UF loses to #2 FSU in the last regular season game. FSU moves to #1, Arizona State to #2, Nebraska to #3, and UF to 4 (I may have the Arizona and Nebraska rankings mixed up). Nebraska loses their conference championship, moving ASU to #2 and UF to #3. However, ASU is forced into playing in the Rose Bowl, which isn’t part of the Bowl Alliance, and which allows UF a rematch against FSU. Arizona State loses in the Rose Bowl and UF beats FSU in their rematch… giving UF the title. At the time Spurrier said God must have been a Gator fan. Usually I don’t think God is much of a sports fan… but the way it worked out this might have been an exception.

So you see, I can’t begrudge Michigan their second shot at Ohio State. UF is hardly in a position to argue… considering their history.

The only real argument here is for a playoff – which will probably never happen. Although, never is a long time.

**Correction (12/3): this entry previously identified Ohio State as the loser of the ’97 Rose Bowl. In fact, Arizona State went into the Rose Bowl #2… and lost to OSU (as this entry now states).

Inappropriate metaphors

(Author’s note: this entry makes a little more sense knowing it was written two weeks ago.)

Your body is not a bank. In so far as you are not made up of mortar, timber or stone, this is pretty obvious. The bank as a metaphor for your body’s function doesn’t work well, on many levels. You see… with a bank you can’t continue to make withdrawals without the occasional deposit. The horrible reality of my body is that I can continue to make withdrawals long after a bank would have cut me off. The occasion of this observation is an example of bad judgment, whose consequences I reap at this very moment. Last night I offered my sleep on the altar of sacrifice to the football gods, in hopes that the fortunes of at least one of my favorite teams would improve (the mighty – if slightly overrated – Gators not withstanding; their accomplishments having faded with the awful performances witnessed yesterday).

Earlier in the day the home team (the Bucs) came to the stadium pick up their paychecks. They stuck around for a few hours, shedding a few pounds of pride, and making a few fans nostalgic for the days of Sam Wyche. Later that evening, my alternate team took the field in prime time, looking to spoil the perfect start of the team formerly from Baltimore. They spent the first half playing to the strengths of the Equus Shoes… stacking the line and playing single-coverage on their exceptional wide-outs on defense, and attacking the edges of their undersized (but fast) defensive line on offense. It was during this display of the Patriot’s coaching staff out-smarting themselves that I made the decision to make my sacrifice. Rather than go to bed (like a sane person), I stayed up to watch the whole thing.

The butcher’s bill for the evening (besides a couple of disappointing football scores) was three and a half hours of sleep.

Assuming my wife has any pity for me (she doesn’t), my kids could play quietly after dinner (I don’t have anything else to say about that), and the bank metaphor of physiology holds more water than your average fork; I could just go to bed around six this evening to balance the books. Even if I could… I just can’t. After working all day, coming home to chores, child bed-time prep, and dinner; going straight to bed feels like betrayal. I can’t just go to sleep with out doing something just for me.

No, I won’t be catching up on my sleep anytime soon. In fact, I may make matters worse tonight (I’ve been itching to play Halo 2 again).

My mind is cruel this way, when it comes to sleep. The truly troubling aspect of this ordeal is that I knew all of this going into last night, and I still stayed up late to watch the Patriots lose to the Equus Shoes. I knew I’d spend all week not catching up on my sleep, regretting it every single morning, and repeating the performance the following night.

Hello. My name is John and I’m an idiot.

Here’s to good mental health

As much as I hate to say it, Auburn made a heck of an adjustment in the second half against Florida last night. The Gators ran pretty much at will in the first half, but the Auburn defensive line ate the Gators for a late evening snack in the second. There were few holes for the running game and Leak was under constant pressure. Even the wunderkind Tim Tebow couldn’t find room to run in the second half.

The worst of it is I’m now relying on the retro-Bucs for good mental health going into this workweek. May the football gods help me!

Gators in the hunt

After watching another nerve wrenching college football game, I was in no condition to watch a hockey game. The Lightning were making their first home appearance of the season, so I couldn’t just ignore it. So I tuned in, against my better judgment. Then they went down two-zip in the first period, and I just had to turn the television off. It’s after midnight and I still don’t even know the final score. This is the effect of college football has on me.

Now I don’t want to wax prophetic, anointing Tebow the great white hope of Florida Football… but the kid is tough. I was watching the game, taking in a Tebow play, and I asked myself: “Did he just run over a safety, carrying a defensive lineman on his back?” Enter Vern Lundquist (who never saw a missed call he didn’t like). “That’s a true freshman, pushing over a safety. Unbelievable.” For once I had to agree with Vern. But before I start getting overly anxious to call Timmy’s number, I need to see the boy throw a little more. After all, a quarterback does throw the ball every now and again… even an option quarterback. He’s put the ball in the air a few times, a couple times for touchdowns. However, a common theme for most of his throws has been a WIDE open receiver. When I say WIDE open, I mean having your own zip code. I’d like to see how the boy does when he has to sneak a ball in through double coverage, or when he’s got to place the ball in the seam of zone coverage. Then I’ll be ready to join the bandwagon. Until then… I’ll still be glad to see the ball in Leak’s hands on passing downs. I will say this: the offensive staff did a heck of a job game planning the LSU game. I’m not sure anyone could have gotten more out of the personnel at their disposal. Consider the fact that the Gators had NO running game with Winn out, and were playing against what might be the best defensive secondary in the SEC. The Gators haven’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut in the first five games… and yet they managed to go one dimensional against a strong pass defense, and pull out the win.

That’s unbelievable, but in a good way.

And in the end…

I can finally exhale. Gators by one in a nail biter. The Gators played just well enough not to lose.

I suppose UT had something to do with it too.

I can’t remember the last time a national broadcast team made so many mistakes. Not since the Lightning won the Stanley Cup anyway. Getting player’s names wrong and mixing up one player with another (even if their number is CLEARLY visible), but mixing up the teams?

Irv: “That’s first down FLORIDA!”
Me (from the couch at home): “Ah, Irv… the team in orange is Tennessee… it has been all evening.”

CBS happens to be the network for the SEC, and it has been for years. Irv has been along for the ride the whole time. That means he’s had a long time to tell the teams apart.

I’m a prickly bastard, aren’t I? Imagine if UF lost.

I should be settled down enough to sleep in three… four hours tops. Maybe I should play some Halo on the ‘ole Xbox. That ought to settle me right down.

The Urban league

If ESPN sources can be believed, the Urban era at the University of Florida has begun. Where were you when you first heard the news?

I was sitting in court. I got a voice mail message from one of my coworkers on my cell phone while I was sitting in a hearing. Thinking it was an important call, I stepped outside to retrieve the message.

As it turned out, it was an important call.

Now the inevitable questions begin. What kind of a name is “Urban” anyway? Can anyone without a folksy nickname lead the Gators to SEC glory? When was the last time the phrases “runs the option,” and “emerging offensive genius,” appeared in the same paragraph?

Take me out to the woodshed.

A little corporal punishment would have been less painful than watching the Gators lose this afternoon.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed myself at Busch Gardens this morning. No one else was there and we walked onto everything we wanted to ride. Cheryl was gracious enough to let me set the pace, and I set it to the lowest setting. Even my sleep deprived body was up to a casual stroll through a moderate Florida winter day. We ambled our way from ride to ride, hit seven rides before noon, and had our fill by 1 p.m. We did lunch off property on our way home and got back to the homestead by 2:30 p.m. Unfortunately, I set the DVR to record the game.

Now it’s dinner time, I’ve watched the game, and I’ve wasted all of the good karma from a solid family outing by swearing up a storm in the presence of my television.

Thank goodness there is very little that Kraft Macaroni and Cheese won’t fix. My dorm room staple comes through in a pinch once again.

Of all the nerve!

My wife wants me to spend New Years Day at Bush Gardens. Yes, that’s right… she wants me to spend quality time with my family while the Gators play in a bowl game… the last college football game featuring the Gators for another nine months. Apparently she’s holding me to something I said two days ago. Allegedly I told her that I didn’t mind going to Bush Gardens. But here’s the catch, it turns out she asked me while I was watching another football game. I think it was an evil plot to take advantage of me in a vulnerable situation. In the midst of my suffering while the Bucs mailed it in against Tennessee, she pops the question. She knows darn well I don’t listen to her during football season!

Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!

A good football weekend.

I am a Bucs fan. I know it is fashionable to say, “I have been a fan for a long time”, but how many of the others had posters of Ron Holmes, Ron Hall, Donald Igwebweke, or James Wilder hanging on their bedroom wall? As a childhood transplant from Massachusetts, I’ve had a good year. The Patriots won last year and the Bucs this year. Next thing you know it, the Red Sox will win the World Series. O.K., I admit I’m getting a little carried away.