About the same time the Urban Meyer to Ohio State rumors started on Saturday, many of Meyer’s former players were in a 15-0 hole to Division 1-AA Furman. The Gators were being embarrassed in the Swamp in a game they had to win just to get bowl eligible. And potentially, the coach who guided them to two national championships in six hugely successful years was about to stab them in the back by taking another head coaching position less than one year after he quit due to serious health concerns and family issues. It was the perfect storm for the most disastrous Gators football season in 32 years.
Quickly on Meyer. At first I didn’t really care about the Ohio State rumors. I’ve moved on from Meyer and Gator Nation has to do the same. At the same time, if he is back on the sidelines next year, it would only prove everything that any critic or Florida hater said for the past six years – that Meyer was a slimy, devious guy. How could it mean anything else? He stepped down because the job of being a head coach was on the verge of killing him. He stepped down for his family, his young son. If those things were relevant a year ago, they should be relevant today. But if Meyer takes the OSU job, he lied to the Gator Nation. It won’t erase the good times and the good memories but it tarnishes the image we all had of Meyer. Perhaps given the nature of college football, we never should have had that image in the first place. Disagree? Let me know (@shawn_kopelakis).
Back to the Furman game. Twenty minutes in, I think most Gators fans were resolved to a loss. It was stunning and shocking and yet it wasn’t. In the end, Florida survived. It wasn’t pretty but this season, any win is a beautiful thing. For me, a few things stood out while watching the debacle. The first was that Furman’s offensive line was as good as, if not better than, Florida’s. They opened holes in the run game and protected Chris Forcier from pressure most of the day. The second was how Furman’s receivers made plays with the ball in the air and after the catch that Florida’s receivers seem unable to make. Yes, Andre Debose had a breakout game, finally looking the five-star, second-coming of Percy Harvin he was billed as on signing day 2009. Quinton Dunbar had the best game of his career. But Furman’s Tyler Hendrix and David Maples were as impressive as any Florida receiver has been this year. There is no doubt Florida’s two biggest areas of need heading into the offseason will be finding playmakers and depth along the offensive line and at receiver.
The third thing that stood out for me was the coaching. You may have missed it at the time and it was inconsequential in the end, but Muschamp’s decision to go for two after scoring to make it 22-20 was symbolic of how lost he has been as a head man this year. It reminded me of a gambler who has lost three bets in a row and blindly doubles down on the next because he thinks he is due. Everyone knows you don’t chase the points that early. And yet young Muschamp was flustered and forgot the basics of when to go for two. I feel like I have had this line in every column for the past six weeks but “this is not a call for Will Muschamp’s job”. It is merely another area where the rookie head man has to improve. This is his program and he sets the tone with every action and inaction. He has to make big strides in every facet of being a head coach.
One game left in the regular season and it’s the annual grudge match against Florida State. The shame, disappointment and stress of 2011 would be mostly wiped away with a win over the Seminoles. And despite how terrible Florida has looked for most of the year, they have a chance. I had my Gators 0-for-their-last-9 against ranked teams stat all ready and updated and then the Criminoles lost in heroic fashion to Virginia at the gun on Saturday. Florida State, in what has become a fall tradition, started the season with claims of being back only to fall flat. Both offenses really struggle against decent defenses. FSU’s defense is a little more experienced and a little better than Florida’s. This one should be close with both teams having a chance close and the likely winner being the one who doesn’t make the biggest mistake last (with these teams, you know it will come down to someone making a crucial mistake rather than someone making a play).
On to this week’s BM poll. Instead of focusing on the historic SEC 1-2-3, I have a different angle. As BM’s resident West Coaster, I take umbrage with my compatriots lack of respect for USC. Those who know me know I don’t drink Kool-Aid so don’t confuse my pimping Lame Kiffin’s team for anything other than an honest assessment. The Trojans are most definitely a top 10 team. Matt Barkley and Robert Woods are the second best QB-WR tandem in the nation and its closer than you think with Weeden/Blackmon. The emergence of Marqise Lee (someone Florida recruited and how good would he look in Orange and Blue?) and a fast, athletic defense has made SC a force. If Matt Barkley passes up the NFL (early indications are he will), the Trojans should be preseason #1 next year.
5. Oklahoma State
7. Virginia Tech
8. Boise State
11. Kansas State
14. Michigan State
15. South Carolina
22. Penn State
23. Notre Dame