Observations from the first half

Florida is up on Ohio State by eleven. I kid you not, Greg Oden is a basketball stud. Florida has no inside game with Oden in the game, which will be a problem in the second half if the Florida shooters cool off… and they may if they start to get tired… and Cory Brewer is playing a lot of minutes. So is Oden, but the difference is tired legs don’t affect dunks as much as outside shots. If Ohio State finds the range outside they’ll be hard to stop… going inside-outside with Oden and a hot shooter.

In short, being up eleven is better than being down eleven; but Florida isn’t exactly sitting pretty.

I wonder if there’s a correlation between televised sports and the incidence of heart disease. Specifically, I wonder if there’s a corresponding increase in heart disease in the last forty years with the rise in the number of sports on TV. My fingers are way to jittery to do any serious googling this evening.

**Note: this post was fully typed and in the process of final editing prior to the first half analysis on CBS. In short, it’s all me. Any similarities to comments by those in CBS employ is purely coincidental.

Upon further review

I’ve read a lot about OSU’s mistakes… particularly the characterization that those early personal fouls put them behind the eight ball. However, that first personal foul by the OSU kicker on UF’s Brandon James (on the kick-off return) was not a bad foul. The kicker is usually the last man to beat on a kick-off return. If the OSU kicker doesn’t bring James down by his face mask on that play… Brandon James is GONE… as in, he scores. James has had great returns all year, running with speed and strength… deceptively hard to bring down for his size. That kicker was not going to tackle Brandon James (a backup running back) without pulling on his facemask.

Giving the Gators the ball on your own 45 is better than giving up a touchdown. The Gators went on to score anyway… but if you ask me that particular personal foul was a non-factor.

The word according to Fox

Facts that will get air play later today (if Fox can be believed):

OSU: Less than 90 yards total offense for the game.
Troy Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner: The lowest passer rating in BCS history (O.K. … so it’s not a very long history).
Jim Tressel: Worst loss in his career as a head coach (in points differential).

All year the Gators were know for their great defense… but I didn’t think they were THAT good.

Sure, OSU lost their best wide receiver early in the game. But was he THAT good… that he could turn around the WHOLE team by himself? Ninety yards of offense is not a lot of offense. If OSU had 190 without their best wide-out, you could make an argument that his absence was the difference. But OSU was totally dismantled. That kind of thumpin’ does not a single player overcome.

All is forgiven

I have no choice but to admit I was a Chris Leak doubter.

But this is not a night for remembering the past. Tonight, Chris Leak proved to everyone that his numbers are not a fluke. He proved to everyone that he’s got as much mental toughness as any player on the UF football team. On the first play of the game, OSU got away with a holding penalty… and got on the board first. It was a play that easily could have stunned the Gators. It took OSU about 12 minutes (game time) to go from stunning to stunned. Quarterbacks have thrown for more yards, but Leak drove the Gators to a nearly perfect half of football on their way to the national title yesterday. (Yes folks, it’s tomorrow.)

Despite holding several records at the University of Florida, Chris Leak played like he had something to prove… and it didn’t distract him one bit. Kudos to Chris.

It’s always great to be a Florida Gator, but this is something else entirely.

Quote of the night:

“I don’t want to call it lack of respect… but it was…. This team had 30 days to get motivated, with all the quotes in the world to do it.”
Urban Meyer, Head Football Coach, University of Florida (referring to the pre-game media coverage)

All right, so maybe I didn’t get the quote exactly right… but it’s close enough – and faithful to the original meaning.

No particular pity for Coach Carr

Lloyd Carr, the head coach of the men’s football team at the University of Michigan, seemed to have a gripe against Coach Urban at UF. He seems to think that some of the things Mr Meyer had to say while he was “politicing” for his team the last couple of weeks were “inappropriate.”

Let’s break down what Urban Meyer has said. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with media a couple of weeks ago…

“I think that would be unfair to Ohio State, and I think it would be unfair to the country,” Meyer said of a possible rematch with Michigan. “I just don’t believe that’s the right thing to do. You’ve got to tell Ohio State to go beat the same team twice, which is extremely difficult . . .

“I think (the Wolverines) had their chance; someone else gets it (next). Ohio State is No. 1. Someone else has a chance to go get No. 1.”

Alright, those are some pretty strong words. But inappropriate? If you’re a Michigan fan, they’re pretty close to fighting words… but if you are a Michigan fan, and Lloyd Carr said something similar about the Gators, would you still think they were inappropriate? What about these circumstances make Meyer’s statements improper? If it is inappropriate, why? Is it wrong for a coach to give voice to his opinion that his team deserves a shot at a title game – perhaps more so than another team? If we didn’t have this crazy system of crowning a champion based largely on opinion, Meyer probably wouldn’t be talking at all – beyond saying he’s doing his best to prepare for the next game.

In fact, given that we have a championship by election, I think it’s inappropriate for Mr Carr NOT to voice his opinion… to campaign for his team. In my view, by not speaking up sooner he’s let his team down.

Then again, given his record against Ohio State (1-5 the last six years that Jim Tressel has coached OSU, and 6-6 over all), it’s not the first time he’s let Michigan down.

**Author’s note: in Mr Carr’s defense, Spurrier was a good coach at UF too, but he had a big problem beating coaches with the last name Bowden.

**Author’s second note: despite conventional wisdom, this year’s controversy will not bring about a playoff, or bring one any closer. If my suspicions are correct, Fox got some big fat ratings out of this year’s BCS show… meaning they probably got some premium ad-coin, and will be paying out correspondingly big bucks to college football for the rights. Instead of making a playoff more likely, I think it’s made it LESS likely.

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).

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.