Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The 582nd and final daily post on this blog - thank you for visiting

Hi. What you typically would see in this space Monday through Friday is a rundown of four to five sports stories that have caught my attention, along with my thoughts on them. Today I'm afraid things are different. I've come to the conclusion I have to end my daily presence on the blog.

If you look at the times on the posts I've made, you'll notice they typically come at all hours of the night. Normally my wife goes to bed and then I stay up and work on preparing my show for the next day while writing some of that up for the blog. Yesterday my wife let me know she's tired of it being that way. As a result, I've made the decision you're reading about right now.

I first started the blog in May 2008 as a way to maintain the connection with my Gainesville radio audience. When I left town I had the top rated sports show in the city by a wide margin. If you're one of those original readers, please know again how much I appreciated both that and your continued interest in anything I've had to say.

What's been interesting is to see how the blog's readership has grown. The tracking stats have shown visitors from almost every state in the US, plus some other countries. I've never mentioned the existence of the blog once on my Columbia radio show, but somewhere along the way a fairly good sized number of people here have found it and chosen to read it too. Stuff written on this blog turned up in the Las Vegas Sun, St Pete Times and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wherever you are and however this came to your attention, I want to extend my thanks for your decision to visit as well.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm no longer going to post daily items on the blog. That doesn't mean it will go completely dark. While I'm still not crazy about the Twitter phenomenon, it does make it easy to communicate with anyone who's interested in doing so. I'll continue to be a regular presence there - to read my feed, go to twitter.com/heathradio and you'll be able to see what's on my mind and give me any feedback you wish to if you have a Twitter account.

When there are times I want to write a longer form post not reacting to daily news - for example, about the Heisman Trophy vote - I will still do so and post it here. To this point I have never sent out any messages about the blog on Twitter. Now, when I do write a post, I'll announce it there and send the link out in case you want to come read it. Once again, thank you for your time these past few years. I hope you'll choose to stay in touch with me through the new means to do so.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fire Dan Hawkins - now, or sooner if possible

This week was already going to be interesting for me, as it has been since I began working in Columbia when South Carolina and Florida cross paths. Now the game's officially for the SEC East championship and what I think will be a much better shot at winning the conference than most will anticipate thanks to LSU beating Alabama over the weekend. I'll spend plenty more time on the Gamecocks and Gators as the week goes on, but here are my thoughts on South Carolina's debacle against Arkansas I wrote up for my friend Chuck Oliver's site. I'll save most Florida thoughts for later, because I was on the air for most of the game and haven't had time to go back and watch anything after the score hit 28-0 during the second quarter. Jordan Reed's reemergence in a significant role at quarterback is certainly an interesting twist. I'm surprised to see Urban Meyer calling for a "blue-out" at Florida Field this week though. Noise bothers players - colors don't. UF's won tons of big games in the Swamp without any cutesy crap like orange jerseys or this stunt - what's with the gimmicks this year?

Lord knows I've ripped Les Miles plenty over the years, and justifiably so. The clock management bumbling and inept use of the tremendous offensive talent at LSU would be grounds for a malpractice suit if there was such a thing for football coaches. Fairness requires that I give the man his due for Saturday's win though. Miles and his coaches finally got the offense working, made some gutsy calls at critical times that worked, and knocked Alabama out of the BCS picture (and likely down to the Capital One Bowl). The fact Miles chooses to eat grass during games is perfect. Of course he does. LSU's quarterback Jordan Jefferson said Miles told him the grass was good protein. Of course he did. Grass = protein. That sums up Miles in so many ways, but he coached a terrific game Saturday.

So, about that FSU program being back and Jimbo Fisher being a genius.... losing to a completely depleted UNC squad at home for the first time ever might cause a few people to reconsider some things they were writing three weeks ago. As awe inspiring as wins over Samford, Wake Forest and Virginia were, perhaps some folks reacted just a little too strongly to the Seminoles beating a mediocre at best Miami team? FSU's had two chance to take control of their division of the ACC and gave them both away. This week they should be able to handle a Clemson team that's playing very poorly right now, but even then they'll need help to reach the title game. At least Bobby Bowden had a good Saturday with his new commercial debuting. Compared to those horrible insurance company ads with the Bowden grill and statue that aired the past couple of years, this spot looks like Oscar material.

Dan Hawkins should have been fired by the time you read this, but he hasn't been. He should have been fired on the field immediately after Colorado blew a 25 point halftime lead against Kansas. To give you an idea of how bad it was to lose to the Jayhawks like this, here are two facts:

1. Colorado has only won two games outside the borders of the state of Colorado since Hawkins took over with the 2006 season - the last win came in Lubbock over Texas Tech in 2007.
2. Despite fact #1, a three win Colorado team was FAVORED in Lawrence over the Jayhawks by eight points.

The Buffs allowed five touchdowns in the fourth quarter to a team that had scored forty points in their last FOUR GAMES COMBINED. The only reason Hawkins hasn't been fired yet is because his son is the only healthy, experienced QB left and the school's apparently afraid he'll quit if they can his dad. That doesn't matter - Hawkins can not be allowed to walk onto Folsom Field as coach again.

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari got the chance to meet with Warren Buffett last week. When you have the chance to sit down with one of the most renowned investors of this or any time, where better to take him than the KFC buffet? I know Buffett isn't big into fancy restaurants, but surely there's a good local sandwich place in Lexington? Despite the K in the name, KFC really doesn't qualify at this point.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Randy's next explanation: it's not the heat, it's the humidity

The only way Florida's game with South Carolina next Saturday isn't for the SEC East title is if the Gators trip up in Nashville tomorrow. Vanderbilt has won a conference game this season, but lacks a credible offense. Losing Warren Norman for the season this week only exacerbates that problem. We'll see how Florida's efforts at a hurry up offense look against an opponent who's spent time preparing for it. I'd anticipate the Commodores blitzing heavily in this game, especially when Brantley is taking the snap. If UF isn't minus two or more in turnovers, they shouldn't have to worry late in this one.

Auburn's got the easiest game on their schedule all year this weekend, which is a good thing when national stories suddenly call into question whether your Heisman front running quarterback was being offered for sale during his post JUCO recruitment process. The NCAA is investigating Cam Newton's recruitment, which puts both him and Auburn in an incredibly difficult position. Newton will now be viewed as potentially shady by most and outright dirty by some, even though he may have had no role in this even if it turns out money did change hands. There was a rumor six weeks or so ago that the price for Newton was 150 grand and that his father's church was involved in some way. Reading about the way the church has apparently gotten into compliance with area building codes recently makes that seem conceivable. The problem is with Newton potentially both a Heisman winner and BCS title game participant there's going to be quite a bit of pressure to get this investigation finished quickly, yet that might not be possible to do. I hope nothing happens that's unfair to the kid, yet Gene Chizik's out of his mind if he thinks saying Newton is eligible at Auburn - "end of story" - is actually the end of something that's just beginning.

Minnesota needs a new football coach. They've got the only BCS conference job known to be open right now, so they're getting a lot of attention as their search process gets started. The St. Paul Pioneer-Press claims their top three candidates to lead the Golden Gophers are: Boise State's Chris Petersen, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, and TCU's Gary Patterson. I've done a little digging and come up with the next three names on the list:

4. Hayden Fox
5. Woody Hayes
6. Prince

You may think my list is stupid, but I promise you there's an equal chance of one of my three candidates taking the job as there is those three. This is at most the eighth best job in the new Big Ten, and likely lower than that. Harbaugh's getting NFL interest - other than Michigan he's not going to another college gig. The other two have had better opportunities than Minnesota ask them to leave and turned them down. Being honest with yourself about what you are is one of life's big challenges. Minnesota appears to be failing it at the moment.

I've heard lots of explanations from coaches over the years for why things aren't working out as planned for their teams. Some are legit (normally injuries) and others are really excuses. It takes a really special one to stand out as downright bizarre. I didn't think anyone could approach Ron Zook's "You don't know it was a close game" comment in response to a question after 2002's 21-17 UF win over Vandy. Zook explained "we could have scored more" (except for, you know, they didn't - hence the question about it being a close game). Randy Shannon has stepped up to challenge Zook with this doozy he gave to the Miami Herald...

"The hardest thing now -- unlike when I went to school -- is we have thunderstorms now. When I was playing, it was just rain storms. We counted up, we might have missed 12 to 14 days [of practice]. Not in August, I’m talking during the season."

These crazy kids today, with their IPods and Twitter accounts and thunderstorms! If only we could go back to the good times in the Eighties, when Miami had never heard of lightning. If the Canes lose to Maryland tomorrow, I look forward to hearing about the impact of the tides on their pass rush.

A man actually attempted to eat the entire Applebee's "2 for $20" menu last night. He came up about ten percent short of putting away the twelve pounds of food. Why someone would want to do that is a mystery to me, particularly the "provolone stuffed meatballs" they feature in their commercial which look like Cadbury Creme Eggs. I hope you have better plans for your weekend than that. I will be at Arkansas/South Carolina Saturday and New Orleans/Carolina in Charlotte Sunday, and will be sharing thoughts on Twitter along the way. Follow along at twitter.com/heathradio if you're interested. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Think this'll tick Lane off?

The NCAA hands down its punishment on Michigan football today, and all indications are it will be a mild one. The Wolverine program has been under scrutiny for misconduct with regard to the amount of practice time players were being required to participate in as well as grad assistants doing things they shouldn't have been. Some will wonder whether the NCAA has decided to back away from its punishment power again after showing its teeth in unleashing devastating penalties on USC. That case was particularly egregious though, and this one involves far fewer charges and a school with no previous history of violations. Odds are also good that unlike USC's Mike Garrett, tonight Michigan's AD won't publicly blame any punishment they get on haters who all wish they were WOLVERINES.

What Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham did the other day in giving the choke signal and yelling when Chas Henry was about attempt the game winning field goal was classless. That doesn't mean he needs to be suspended and fined substantially, though. Tony Barnhart is a well respected voice in college football, but he overreacted here. The idea players will be less disciplined as a result of a coach doing that seems like a major stretch to me, particularly since Georgia's players have shown they're quite capable of being undisciplined long before anyone in Athens ever heard of Grantham. Give Henry credit for downplaying the whole thing yesterday - presumably that's the end of this particular storyline.

Womens college sports are mostly ignored overall, so for a story from George Washington womens basketball to get national attention you know it has to be a pretty unusual one. One of the Colonial players has decided to switch genders, going from a woman to a man. Henceforth, the former Kay-Kay Allums wishes to be known as Kye. Kye's a junior, meaning for the next two years the GWU womens basketball team will feature someone who lives life as a male. Allums apparently intends to wait until the end of senior season before beginning the hormonal and surgical part of the change, which is why this is considered legal under NCAA rules. Two things spring to mind as a result of this: 1. Thank goodness I've never had to deal with the kind of internal questions about my identity or sexual orientation that some people have, because it has to have been terribly unpleasant for them. 2. What if Allums did begin to transition early? At what point does the process cross the NCAA lines, and could they stand up in court anyway? I'm no attorney, but it seems there are issues which need to be settled there.

Miami will take on a surprising Maryland team this week without not only starting quarterback Jacory Harris, but also top tailback Damien Berry. The Miami Herald reported earlier this week that Miami president Donna Shalala will not cut Shannon loose as long as he can win eight games a season and graduate his players. He'd better hope they're right, because the Canes look like a team that's falling apart at the moment. They still will have more talent than the Terps, but Maryland's on a roll this season and controls their own ACC fate. They're not going to be awestruck to be on the same field with the Hurricanes, that's for certain.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hola! Como esta usted?

Greetings from the Qdoba Mexican grill in Columbia's Five Points. The internet access here is working, unlike the way things were at my house this past late night/early morning. No blog for today as a result - back to the usual routine tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No more political ads after today, thank goodness

Freshman safety Jonathan Dowling being dismissed from Florida's program yesterday may be important or completely irrelevant in the broad scheme of things. I don't know, because I've never seen the kid play. Dowling was a big deal recruit, but that doesn't mean he can adjust to college life or play well once he does. What does stand out is that Dowling is the third member of the 2010 signing class to qualify, arrive at UF and be gone by Halloween. That's very unusual to see, and once again reflects the chaos that was going on during the month leading up to signing day earlier this year. The Gator staff was in a major transition, Urban Meyer's status was up in the air, and they were fighting to put together a recruiting haul that eventually was ranked as the supposed best in the nation. I believe some of the current issues Florida has stem from the staff being assembled too quickly to try and save that class. There's no way the coaches and kids could have the same understanding of each other's expectations a more established staff would have, given the circumstances. The "throw some guys together and get them recruiting" ploy appears to have been a short term success, but as this point it's looking very questionable if it was worth it.

A terribly sad story is unfolding at Mississippi State. Defensive end Nick Bell is in intensive care as a result of a cancer that has apparently spread throughout his body. A few weeks ago a cancerous mass had been removed from his brain, but it wasn't known that the problem was elsewhere too. This has been an unbelievable season for Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs, but having to deal with this has to impact them emotionally going forward. Hopefully doctors can get Bell's health back under control, but it sounds really bad right now.

Lots of people are calling for Wade Phillips to be cut loose as coach of the Dallas Cowboys right now because of how pathetic they've been playing. Maybe Jerry Jones will do it now or maybe he'll wait until the end of the year, but everyone knows it will happen. Without anyone on their staff being a legit option to take over (because Jason Garrett would be a ridiculous hire at this point), it really doesn't matter in the end. The Cowboys chances are done for this year. What I can't figure out is how Brad Childress has a job today. The man had to beg Brett Favre to come save him last year, and then got mad when it became clear Favre regarded him as an ineffectual nobody not worthy of any respect. Despite that, he went through the same process this season only now that Favre's played poorly Childress has gotten pissy about him publicly. Childress has just traded a third round pick for Randy Moss and cut him within the same month, while also being inept enough as a manger to notify Moss's teammates before speaking to him. The man has shown zero people skills, playcalling acumen, or game management instinct. I am at a loss to think of anything he is considered good at by NFL standards. Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is well regarded as a possible head coach candidate around the league - why don't they give him a shot to pull this mess out of the ditch now while there's still some playoff hopes? There's not a chance Childress can win back that locker room after this fiasco.

The Big East is reportedly conducting meetings today about the possibility of adding new members. The idea is to keep the football schools happy enough that they won't go off on their own to form a new conference. TCU's been the highest profile name linked to this, but if they're smart the Big East would add UCF. The Knights would give them another good sized media market and a natural rivalry with USF. I have no idea how they think they're going to work this out with basketball, since the conference is absurdly oversized already at 16 for that sport, but at least teams could be scheduled on a "Florida swing" of back to back road games with the Knights and Bulls to reduce costs. For football, make sure every school plays UCF and USF on the road in different years as a way to tell Florida recruits they'll get to play a home game in their state each season. UCF's not a bad program either, and the Big East needs some of those to improve its current awful image as a football conference. The funniest part of the Big East's search for bodies is that they're talking about Temple - the same school they kicked out of the league a few years ago for being so awful.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This was not a "hurry up" post

Florida's win over Georgia was huge for the program in the short term. With a loss, it becomes a distinct possibility that the Gators go 6-6 and are in a crappy bowl game. It would be an open question whether guys would be motivated to work hard the rest of the way knowing any hope of a conference championship was already gone. It was terrific to see Chas Henry get the satisfaction of making a winning field goal after all the grief he's put himself through over the past couple of weeks while struggling as the substitute kicker, particularly considering the classless "choke" gesture TV cameras caught UGA's defensive coordinator making prior to the winning kick. To conclude Florida has turned things around at this point would be a grave mistake though. Having watched every game both they and South Carolina have played this year, there's no question in my mind the Gamecocks are a better football team right now. That doesn't mean they're going to win in two weeks, but UF has got to be a lot sharper by then or they're not going back to Atlanta. A few other thoughts....

1. Will Hill's performance this year continues to be hard to understand. His two interception returns were both impressive, but neither of them came as result of him actually making a play on the ball himself. He certainly appeared to be at least in part responsible for the first UGA touchdown by not providing deep support for Jeremy Brown. No play all game was more annoying than the one where Hill delivered a big hit on Kris Durham and got up dancing and flexing - after allowing a 17 yard completion for a first down. Hill has too much talent to have played the way he has this season. We'll see if he's able to get some momentum coming out of this game.

2. Florida's offensive line's inability to pass block reliably is inexplicable given the overall level of experience in the group. Blitzes will work sometimes against any line, but Georgia got some major heat on Brantley out of a basic four man rush. The Gamecocks are among the national leaders in sacks, and they're not blitzing much to get them. If this isn't shored up in two weeks, John Brantley will find himself on the turf a lot.

3. Playing "hurry up" sounds good in theory, but UF wasn't able to get their "banzai" package to work last season with Tim Tebow running the offense. I find it very hard to believe that they're going to be able to do it on any reliable basis while mix and matching three different guys taking snaps, plus some wildcat stuff with at least one other guy that they haven't showed yet but have worked on. Against Georgia, they had the benefit of surprise. Now that teams know to anticipate it and prepare accordingly, it's even less likely to work. Imagine facing either Auburn (who sees their offense every day) or Alabama (who will have just got done facing Auburn's offense) in the SEC title game. Is a hurry up to run a dive play really going to throw them for a loop or wear their stamina out?

4. When there's 6:36 to go and you have a chance to put your opponent in 2nd and 20 from their 47 versus 3rd and 10 from your 43, you take the holding penalty. Because Florida won, Urban Meyer's decision won't be discussed much today. It still is worth noting. Down 7, that was an obvious four down situation for Georgia. Under those circumstances, the yards are worth more than the down.

5. Aaron Murray's really going to be a nice QB for Georgia by the time his career's done. I was skeptical of how good he could be this season, but in a year with a lot of chaos for the Bulldogs he's performed very well considering his lack of experience. The throw he made for their final TD was absolutely perfect. Not sure how well Georgia will do without Green or Durham at WR next season, though. Tavares King's the only WR they'll have coming back who's shown much, although Orson Charles should be a good weapon too. Meanwhile, UGA now has to beat either Auburn (not likely) or Georgia Tech (doable) or they're not going bowling. That would be a major problem for them, because it would mean missing out on all the bowl practices that give coaches a chance to work with younger players without the pressure of an imminent game.

Other college football stuff...

1. Baylor beat Texas in Austin for the first time since 1991. The Longhorns have lost back to back games to them and Iowa State, and three straight at home overall for the first time since 1938. Somehow, the only game they've won in their last five is over Nebraska in Lincoln. If the incredibly awful Kansas beating Georgia Tech is the weirdest result of the season so far, that Longhorns win isn't too far behind.

2. Another mystifying result from the weekend was Boston College beating Clemson 16-10, giving them a win for the first time since September 11th. Clemson didn't score an offensive touchdown against a bad BC squad, and lost their best running back Andre Ellington to a knee injury. At 4-4 with NC State and at FSU as their next two games, they're in serious danger of not bowling.

3. Ron Zook has probably saved his job at Illinois with his new coordinator hires on both side of the ball. Win one of his last four (and with Purdue on the schedule, he will) and his Illini are going bowling. This week they get Michigan. Rich Rodriguez has lost three in a row and still has a disaster on the defensive side of the ball after three years. Lose to Zook with Wisconsin and Ohio State still on the schedule and the Wolverines are probably looking at no better than a .500 record. Not what they had in mind in Ann Arbor, which could cost Rodriguez his job.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My CP7 for Heisman notepad just dropped in value again

With Florida's struggles this season, the sudden theme of commentators has been that FSU is now the dominant team in the state. Sure, the Seminoles have lost every game to UF from 2004 on. Yes, they got steamrolled by the most credible opponent they'd faced this year. Still, if UF could lose to Alabama, LSU and a Mississippi State team that's already bowl eligible then clearly FSU is now better than they are. Further proof was to come last night, when Jimbo Fisher and company were supposed to move one step closer to returning to the ACC title game by knocking off NC State in Raleigh. It didn't quite work out that way. Now, should NC State run the table, they'll be the Atlantic Division champs. If they get past a road game at Clemson next week, there's a very good chance that will happen. As for FSU, their one "good" win is a pounding of an athletic but poorly coached Miami squad. Perhaps some folks can now ease up on proclaiming the Seminoles are back as an elite team just because they've handled the likes of Boston College and Virginia?

In the same vein of overreaction, some people have made too much of Georgia's recent run of success just as they did with their early run of losses. Their wins have come against the two worst teams in the SEC so far and a decent Kentucky team coming off an important win. The Bulldogs have a good young quarterback in Aaron Murray and some nice weapons for him to throw to, but also have been shaky on the OL this season. Their defense is a work in progress in the first year under a new coordinator, although Justin Houston can bring serious heat on the QB at times. UGA is a good but flawed team. If Florida regains some big play making capability with the return of Rainey and Demps and improved overall performance as a result of the bye week, it can definitely beat them.

One of the things I'd been hearing that I alluded to in yesterday's blog was that Caleb Sturgis was still not close to right health wise but was going to try to go. That will now not be the case, which is probably the right decision. From what I understand, Chas Henry has taken his recent struggles filling in for Sturgis extremely hard, which is only making it more difficult for him to try and improve his performance as emergency kicker. Simply put, Florida needs to be preparing as if they are always in a four down situation once they cross the UGA 40 and should be calling plays accordingly. Anything outside a 30 yard field goal is going to be extremely dicey,which is a huge problem given this team's inability to finish drives for the last month.

John Brantley has had his version of the 2005 Chris Leak talk. There are times where he'll have input on what plays are being run, although it wasn't made clear to me exactly how that's being done. In Leak's case they had asked him in advance for the plays he was most comfortable with in a certain situation. Brantley might be given choices during the game. Either way, he's got to be able to stay confident, stand and deliver the throws which are there for him to make. Too often against Mississippi State in particular there was a willingness to settle for shorter stuff or inaccuracy when he did throw it. Trey Burton will see plenty of time at QB as well, but he HAS to be allowed to throw some early for that to keep working.

I have no true feel for what's going to happen in Jacksonville tomorrow. All the history and Urban Meyer's record with extra time says take Florida, which is what I did for the newspaper picks competition I take part in for the Columbia paper each week. Suffice to say I wouldn't be in a hurry to put money down on it in Vegas were I there this weekend. I'll be live on the air in Columbia doing postgame after South Carolina's win over Tennessee while the game's going on, and I'll be extremely curious to see how it unfolds. As always, thoughts from the college and pro weekend can be found on the Twitter feed at heathradio as they occur to me. Hope you have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

LaMont gets crazy if he misses DVRing Cake Boss

Two days prior to the Florida-Georgia game, Mark Richt isn't sure who will be starting at tailback for his Bulldogs. Washaun Ealey wouldn't have been able to be full strength if yesterday was gameday, and Caleb King's coming back from a two game suspension. I assume the Bulldogs will look to use their big receivers A.J. Green and Kris Durham to attack UF's secondary considering the difficulties they had with Terrence Tolliver, but with a freshman at QB they're still going to need to be able to run well enough to keep heat off of him. I'm hearing a lot of things out of Gainesville right now, and it's decidedly a mixed bag as to what they mean. One thing I am fairly sure of is that fans expecting some kind of 2005 restructuring of the offense are going to be sorely disappointed. There are a couple of wrinkles they're putting in, in large part due to having Chris Rainey available and Jeff Demps healthier, but when Urban Meyer's saying he believes they just have to execute what they've been doing better he's not kidding.

The death of a Notre Dame student as a result of the lift he was filming football practice from being knocked over by wind naturally saddens anyone who hears about it. Once you read more about it though, it makes you angry. Declan Sullivan wasn't a victim of a fluke gust - he was up there in conditions the National Weather Service had been saying were 51 mile an hour winds. Sullivan himself sent multiple tweets indicating he was terrified while he worked. The obvious question is why he didn't come down, and the answer is almost certainly because he wanted to do his job and not seem scared of some wind. He's not to blame, but whoever was irresponsible enough to put him up there most certainly is. How could they not react to the way that lift had to be swaying during practice? It is incomprehensible someone could fail to grasp the risk that kind of wind poses in those situations. I've been to plenty of football practices and seen multiple teams choose not to endanger their video guys as a result of winds far calmer than that. There will be major consequences in the wake of this death, and there should be. Hopefully no other program will make such a foolish choice anytime soon.

Think you're pretty swamped with work? Odds are you aren't as busy as Jason Benetti. He's working four different broadcasting jobs at once, all while going to Wake Forest law school. Still not impressed? How about the fact he's also dealing with cerebral palsy on top of all that. Makes it a little harder to come up with a good excuse why you can't find time for something after you read that story.

I've never heard Benetti call a game, but I'm sure he'll never have an on air moment as embarrassing as Dave LaMont's epic meltdown while calling FAU's loss to Arkansas State over the weekend. LaMont not only raved like a lunatic about his displeasure with what he considered to be a missed call on a late hit, he actually challenged the entire press box to a fight! Amazingly, Florida Atlantic's AD is not suspending LaMont for any games or just dismissing him altogether. Lamont has also done some midweek work for ESPN in recent years. If I was ESPN, there's no way I'd put someone capable of being that big of a loose cannon on my airwaves ever again.

Game one of the World Series was reasonably watchable considering I have no particular rooting interest in either Texas or San Francisco and it wasn't a very close game. Tonight with FSU at NC State in college football that game will be the higher priority for me, although I'll occasionally check the baseball out too. No idea whether others will do what I'm doing, nor do I care. At some point today, a story will likely come out about whatever the TV ratings were for the night before's game. For some reason, some media people think you and I are concerned what they are. Odds are you're not buying advertising during the World Series, so why would the numbers mean anything to you? As long as the games are on, it makes no difference to almost all of us whether they're watched by millions or hundreds. Wish the commentators would take that into account when the ratings are talked about today.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is this really that much easier to read at 50 miles an hour THAN THIS?

When the SEC announced the so called "Cowbell Compromise", which allowed Mississippi State fans to bring their cowbells to football games as long as they rang them only at appropriate times, anyone with more than five functioning brain cells knew it wasn't going to work. Guess what? It isn't. The compromise was supposed to be a way for MSU fans to preserve their "tradition", but when the whole tradition has been to make a mockery of the rule against noisemakers how can anyone think it wouldn't end up like this? The only way this will stop is for officials to penalize MSU 15 yards every time enough cowbells ring to be any kind of issue for the visiting team. Fans don't care about fines, but they will stop if doing what they're doing is screwing their own team on the field. Either the SEC wants to do something about artificial noise or they don't, and it's time to make it clear which one it is and treat all fanbases accordingly.

Here's a stunner: the New York Knicks apparently treated NBA rules as something to be ignored, and the trouble started under Isiah Thomas. In this case, the issue is repeated workouts for prospective players at a time of year franchises aren't allowed to do that. Thomas was in charge of the Knicks when this began happening, and after reading the well researched Yahoo! Sports piece it's very hard to imagine an explanation for the events chronicled in the article that didn't involve him knowing about them. This may seem relatively tame given Isiah's disastrous tenure as a whole, but remember the Knicks were trying to rehire him just a few weeks ago. Most NBA observers still believe owner Jim Dolan will eventually bring Thomas back to the Knicks, so he has to be held accountable for this if that happens. Will David Stern make the inept showcase franchise in his biggest market pay for flaunting the rules, or not?

In February, I noted the crude behavior of recruit Markeith Ambles. The supposedly talented WR prospect from Georgia had been a commitment to Tennessee before Lane Kiffin's departure, and eventually joined the USC signing class instead after a drawn out "look at me" recruitment. Ambles did visit Tennessee post-Kiffin, a process that included him making a direct sexual proposition to a female Knoxville radio host publicly via Twitter. Everything about this kid screamed trouble at a very high volume, but talent trumps all in recruiting. Two months into his freshman season, Ambles has now been suspended indefinitely from the Trojans - turns out he's an irresponsible jerk. Go figure. People tell the world who they are all the time - it's up to you to believe them.

As Florida moves closer to bringing Chris Rainey back to the playing field, I thought some of you might enjoy checking in on another former UF guy who missed a substantial chunk of a season due to a suspension. Marcus Thomas was given another chance by Urban Meyer, but the defensive tackle blew it because he felt like going to Halloween Horror nights rather than comply with the terms of his reinstatement. (We'll see if Rainey can hold up his end of the restrictions placed on him). In his fourth NFL season, Thomas just got his first sack and appears to have grown up somewhat. The flakiness is still definitely there though: he lists his hometown as Yokosuka, Japan rather than Jacksonville and thinks next year's lockout will be good because it will allow him to start his acting career. If they make another Friday movie, Marcus could be a strong contender for a role. Otherwise, he'd better hope they play next season.

Somehow it had been off my radar that the federal government is requiring street signs no longer be in ALL CAPS by 2015. They say research shows a capitalized first letter followed by lower case is easier for older drivers to read. Maybe so, but in my experience it's hard enough to find the signs when you're driving in different cities to begin with. The bolder the letters, the easier it is for me to either be able to tell what they say or at least judge from a distance if the length is right to potentially be the street I'm looking for. Leaving the question of the cost to replace signs out of this and strictly focusing on the two lettering options, does this seem necessary to you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dooley watched a lot of Hogan's Heroes as a kid

Yesterday's post mentioned Brian Kelly already being under intense (and I would say unfair) scrutiny midway through his first year at Notre Dame. I'm not sure why people expect to be able to have instant success with new coaches taking over unsuccessful programs, but they certainly seem to in a lot of places. One guy who's beginning to make me think he's earned the criticism is Tennessee's Derek Dooley. The Vols are not a bad team because of the coaching of Dooley or his staff. The lack of depth and elite players resulting from three different head coaches and staffs in three years means they simply don't have enough horses to win against anyone decent in the SEC right now. On the other hand, they should be good enough to not go to double overtime with UAB. That's not the bone I have to pick with Dooley though. Week after week at his press gathering he downgrades his team's chances. In doing that yesterday, he came up with an ineffective analogy between his team and the Germans at D-Day. That's just not very bright. Between this, the "we need to learn to wash ourselves properly" stuff and his poor handling of multiple transfer requests since he arrived, I'm starting to wonder if the job is just too much for Dooley. Tennessee still would be insane to make any move before he gets at least three years and likely four, but he's likely burned through a lot of good will (for not being Lane Kiffin if nothing else) from folks in Knoxville really quickly.

At least Dooley's not changing his offensive coordinator right in the middle of the season, without even waiting for a bye week. Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell has made that move for his squad, meaning they're on their third OC and second head coach this season. It's not a formula for success, that's for sure. Unlike Dooley, Caldwell doesn't know he'll back next season. That doesn't mean he should be making desperation moves to try and win enough to keep the job, which is what this feels like. Having watched Vandy against South Carolina the other night, play calling's not their main issue. An overall lack of offensive talent is, and I'm not sure how changing the person making the decisions again is supposed to do something about that.

With the Giants likely ending Tony Romo's season last night in Dallas, there will be plenty of speculation about Jerry Jones making a coaching move to dump Wade Phillips. It's worth remembering that he's never fired anyone during the season, and its hard to see what the benefit is of doing it now. Remember, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is supposed to be the coach in waiting. Putting him in charge for the first time with Jon Kitna as his quarterback does not seem like a formula for success. I'm guessing I could have gotten really good odds on the Bucs to have more wins than Dallas this year, but it sure looks like that's going to happen.

Apparently someone in the ESPN hierarchy thought they didn't have enough conflicts of interest and decided this would be a good way to add one. If ESPN partners with Texas to create the new Longhorn channel, they'll officially be business partners on an individual basis in a relationship unlike any the network has with any other school. There's no way to get around that being a potential problem for analysts who may be legitimately praising the Horns but have people wondering if they're doing so because of ESPN's business goals. ESPN controls most of the postseason setup at this point - will they put pressure on selection committees for their business partner Texas to get better bowl bids? Considering how much grief the guys in Bristol already get for supposedly favoring certain conferences, you'd think they would realize this isn't a great idea. In reality though, they're too big to care what anyone thinks about them. Hopefully a legit competitor will eventually emerge.

The Florida football team and visiting alums weren't the only ones having a miserable Homecoming weekend when the Gators lost to Mississippi State. ESPNU's Elizabeth Moreau, who had been in town previously working the sidelines for the Kentucky football game, wound up getting fooled by a prank phone call into smashing the window out of her room at the Hilton Garden Inn with the lid of her room's toilet tank. Moreau was in town to work a volleyball match this time, so I don't know if she actually did or not. Amazingly the losers doing this have had quite a bit of success fooling people with this type of routine over the years. Moreau has taken her Twitter page down altogether and I'm sure she feels humiliated. She's been on the big Ten Network as a volleyball analyst but had just begun to transition to football stuff as well. I hope this doesn't short circuit her TV career - no one deserves to have something like that happen to them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seriously, Raheem?

Sunday summed up the mixed bag that is currently life as a Tampa Bay fan. The Bucs trailed throughout their game with St. Louis but hung around until they finally pulled out the victory in the final seconds. They're now 4-2, a surprising accomplishment even if it's built entirely on close wins over mediocre or outright awful teams. It was in front of a stunningly small crowd, one that's been reported as being just 36,000 people. Everyone I know in Tampa Bay who's a Bucs fan seems to be so disgusted with the ownership's cheapness as well as having turds like Jerramy Stevens getting arrested (again) the day before a game that they've just stopped caring. Raheem Morris saying Tampa Bay's the best team in the NFC is ridiculous. If he's talking about records, he's wrong because the Falcons record is better. If he's talking about quality of team, then that means Bucs fans have a right to expect this team to not only make the playoffs but do something once they're there, right? Somehow I doubt Raheem would like that to be the standard his body of work this year is judged by, because they will not be in the postseason. I see five conceivably winnable games left on the schedule. Let's give them three of those and one upset - it would mean an 8-8 year. That would be much better than expectations, but nowhere close to "best in the NFC".

The college football weekend produced some more surprises, none bigger than Iowa State beating Texas. The Cyclones hadn't beaten a ranked team in two decades, and had lost by 52 points to Oklahoma a week ago. To say they're angry in Austin would be an understatement - even the surefire, can't miss next great coach Will Muschamp is being questioned. Pat Forde did an extensive piece for ESPN on Texas earlier this season, in which Mack Brown more or less predicted exactly what's happening right now to his team. Less reasonable than the anger of Longhorn fans is for anyone to be questioning Brian Kelly's ability to do the job at Notre Dame already. The Fighting Irish lack adequate athletes on defense and were missing two of their three best options on offense and had another one playing hurt. Kelly's more than proven he's a capable coach - this exact same column could have been written after Nick Saban lost to Louisiana-Monroe his first year at Alabama.

As much as Cam Newton's terrific play is responsible for Auburn being number one in the latest version of the BCS, it would be a shame for people not to fully appreciate the job Nick Fairley's doing at defensive tackle. He's been as disruptive as any player I've seen in college football this year. LSU had a shot to spring the upset on Auburn after Gene Chizik inexplicably went for a 4th down and 8 and gave them excellent field position near midfield with seven minutes to go in a tie game. Fairley blew up the ensuing attempt at a drive singlehandedly and bailed his coach out. LSU lost the way they've often won, with an embarrassingly inept final offensive play that featured no one knowing what to do despite it being after a timeout. Even Les Miles runs out of luck eventually.

I'm not sure the recent spate of people in the football world wearing pink stuff is making a huge difference in raising funds and awareness for breast cancer, but it certainly can't hurt. It's pretty hard to imagine what kind of person would genuinely have a problem with it. Meet the petty bureaucrat in charge of Washington's high school football officials, who intends to punish refs for using pink whistles and donating their game checks to the Susan G Komen Foundation. He's upset they didn't get his permission first and thinks this is an appropriate response, which makes him as big a tone deaf jackass as I have ever seen.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hope you didn't have UCLA +46.5 last night

Cam Newton is a lot of people's choice for the Heisman Trophy right now because of what he's doing at Auburn. That's why there were a lot of Tiger fans who were unhappy or chose to not believe the story when word came out yesterday that he told ESPN's Mark Schlabach he'd still rather be at Florida. Considering he chose to come to Gainesville originally and had never indicated any dissatisfaction prior to the infamous laptop episode, I'm not sure why this would come as a shock to anyone. It's not like he's trashing Auburn, but common sense says the kid would have preferred for his career not to take the detour that it did. Given were Florida's offense is right now, I'm sure the feeling from Gator fans is mutual.

This isn't a terrific weekend for college football. Although there are some games worth watching. As little as I think of Les Miles, LSU has a decent shot to beat Auburn if he doesn't screw it up. Their defense is sound against the run, which is essential to make Newton put the ball in the air. Whoever eventually beats Auburn is going to have forced Newton to try to be accurate down the field, which he isn't reliably. LSU's got offensive talent, they just aren't very good at utilizing it. Considering Auburn's D has given up 34 points or more and won in back to back games for the first time in 26 years, I think it's safe to say there will be opportunities for LSU to make some plays. If their D can keep Auburn under 30, I believe LSU wins.

If you're looking for an undefeated team that may lose to one that isn't also undefeated, keep your eye on Michigan State. The Spartans become a legit threat to run the table if they get past next week's game with Iowa still unbeaten, but Northwestern is a good team as well. They've got a really good QB you likely haven't heard much about yet in Dan Persa and are very well coached. If MSU is looking ahead even a little bit, they will lose to the Wildcats. Even if they are focused, they might lose anyway.

Miami isn't ranked, but this weekend's game against UNC could be very important for Randy Shannon. Butch Davis has dominated the matchups with his old program, and this time he's coming in incredibly short handed. With the loss of tight end Zack Pianalto for the year, QB T.J. Yates is missing his most reliable target he's had during this already diminished season. If the Canes can't win at home against the Tar Heels now, when are they going to be able to do so? With former Canes already questioning what Shannon's doing, this is a critical game for him. I think there's a very good chance he loses it.

NBA owners have apparently set a goal of cutting salaries by a third when they do battle with the players union after the coming season. Should they succeed, I'm sure the fans will also benefit in the form of reduced concession, ticket and parking prices. All joking aside, the NBA's problem is a simple one. It's given entirely too much money to people no one cares that much about seeing play. This is a league that has seen people like Bryant "Big Country" Reeves get six year, 61 million dollar contracts. Why should the union help the NBA owners not be stupid by agreeing to cut their own pay? If the NBA doesn't think players should make the money they do, all it takes is owners not being willing to give it to them. The problem with that approach is that owners like Mark Cuban want to win and will pay guys whatever it takes to make their team better. The cheap owners in places like Memphis don't like that, so they're trying to keep it from being possible any more with the upcoming labor battle. The only question is whether the lockout will last all season, but there's no question it's coming.

I'll be in Columbia this weekend, and with the Gamecocks on the road in Nashville Saturday should be a pretty busy college football watching day. Sunday it's another terrific NFL matchup as I head to Charlotte for San Francisco at the Panthers. follow along on Twitter at heathradio should you be so inclined. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How do you really feel, Mike?

As often as we interview sports figures, you'd think there would be lots of blunt honesty on display. The reality is that most coaches and players keep things polite on the public level, even though privately they'll blast them. Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer isn't known for being a extraordinarily lively sound bite, but he threw the typically "coach speak" aside yesterday as emphatically as anyone ever has. The topic of discussion was Zimmer's return to Atlanta after being DC on the Falcons staff Bobby Petrino screwed over by quitting with three games to go in 2007. Zimmer unloaded both barrels on Petrino, then reloaded and did it again. From the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy...

“He came in and said he resigned, he would talk to us all at a later date, walked out of the office and no one has ever talked to him since. Not that anybody wanted to.

“He’s a gutless b—–d. Quote that. I don’t give a s—.”

When told that we might might not be able to use the B word, Zimmer went one better: “How about this, gutless MF. You can use that."

It's nice to see someone in sports show legitimate emotions for once rather than insult everyone's intelligence by pretending all competitors are equally dangerous and there's no special satisfaction in beating some of them. It also helps that Zimmer's absolutely right - Petrino is a gutless MF for the way he handled that situation. He's pretty tough with female reporters wearing hats he doesn't like though.

One of the toughest challenges for people and companies is to be honest with themselves about what they are. North Texas failed that test miserably when they decided to fire their football coach after the 2006 season. Sure they'd won four conference titles with the guy, but he'd had a down year. This is the MEAN GREEN of Denton, Texas we're talking about. Greatness is not just expected, it is demanded! Compounding their error in canning the coach, UNT then decided to hire a successful Texas high school coach to take over. After he went 6-37 in the last three and a half seasons, they fired him yesterday. So what do their fans think they should do now? Go get Mike Leach! Riiiiight. To quote a Ben Folds song, "You've got to learn to live with what you are".

Someone in Hollywood actually thinks there's money to be made with a movie based on the Family Circus comic strip. They're hoping to own the movie going grandmother audience, apparently. Can't wait for the hilarity of "NOT ME" being brought to the big screen. Some people might have tried to adapt a funny comic strip rather than one that's seemed stale and out of date since the Reagan administration, but the producers of this epic clearly knew better.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A quick one

Only have time for a brief post this morning, because I'm headed to Charlotte for ACC basketball media day. Wish I could go to the SEC's in Birmingham tomorrow, but I have to be in Columbia for a remote broadcast so it's not feasible. One thing has to be addressed though:

Today the NFL will announce more on their plans to take serious disciplinary action toward players who are guilty of helmet to helmet hits or delivering other unnecessarily vicious blows during the flow of play. They fined several players for those offenses yesterday, but now the threat of suspension is out there. Channing Crowder believes this will make the game of football less manly. In the meantime, would you like to buy a photo of one of the hits a player was fined for? The NFL will sell you the photo of James Harrison destroying Mohammed Massaquoi for as low as $15.95 or as expensive as $249.95. The hypocrisy of that isn't surprising, but it needs to end at once. I'm all for trying to protect people playing a dangerous game, but rather than threaten tougher penalties the number one thing the NFL could do to stop this kind of play is have its officials actually enforce the rules they already have. Many hits that lead to NFL fines never drew a flag on the field.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I may sponsor the St Pete Bowl once Beef O'Brady's stops

What's a coach's job in any sport? My position is that they're responsible for having the players properly prepared physically and mentally to compete. They need to be able to adjust strategy to account for the circumstances of the game. On the other hand, they can't do the players jobs for them. I had some South Carolina fans wanting Steve Spurrier fired yesterday for a loss to Kentucky seven days after the biggest win in school history. Spurrier fumbled when the Gamecocks were in field goal range Saturday night, and also failed to field a punt deep in his own territory which led to a UK field goal. His busted coverage on 4th and 7 allowed Randall Cobb to easily score the game winning touchdown for the Wildcats. Sounds ridiculous, right? In the end, players have to do their jobs once coaches put them in position to do that. Coaches will be held accountable for their team's record, but people have got to ease up on trying to blame everything up to and including their case of gout on the coach of their favorite team. That seeming race folks are in to be as negative as possible leads to things like Randall Cobb lashing out at his own team's "fans" after their biggest win in a few years. It's not good for anybody.

The BCS numbers are completely meaningless right now, with half a season left to play, but they were released on Sunday. By the end of the year there may be the usual controversy or things may have worked out to the point only two teams remaining have popular support for the title game. What can not be disputed, regardless of the final outcome, it how ridiculous the formula is. It uses half a dozen computer ratings designed by people with little to no qualifications. It has no check and balance to make sure the ratings turned in have been done correctly. As an example, back in 1998 Jeff Sagarin accidentally had included Kansas State as having beaten Indiana soundly in a game as part of his calculations. They'd actually beaten Indiana STATE, a 1-AA team. He caught the mistake later, but if K State hadn't blown the Big 12 title game to Texas A&M that could have accidentally put the wrong team in the national title game. You'd think that would have been a warning, but a dozen years later there's still no safety net for that kind of mistake or for someone intentionally skewing the data. I've asked this question for years: why can't the BCS have one computer rating designed which can be understandably explained to coaches and fans while also being verified by outside sources? How can they possibly claim the way it's done now makes sense?

There hasn't been a Poulan Weedeater Bowl for years, but when people are looking for a ridiculous bowl name to mention that still tends to be the one that springs to mind. There's now a new contender, with the Mobile Alabama game turning into the Go Daddy bowl. Can't wait to see the jackets those bowl scouts will be wearing in the press box. Wonder what new "shocking" content they'll come up with to try and drive people to their web site during the game. Can't keep trying to convince people Danica Patrick's doing a stripper routine on your site forever, guys.

The Miami Herald is holding a LeBron James poetry contest. One of those whose six line or less masterpieces about LeBron coming to the Heat are chosen will get tickets to a game and read their poetry on air. Here's my entry...

LeBron is a king
who has no ring
His show "The Decision"
displayed with precision
why he'll face derision
because he's a tactless jerk who can't handle playoff pressure and wants an easy way to win

All of you are competing for second place.

Monday, October 18, 2010

And how was your weekend?

Whenever Florida's losing, I know some friends are going to call me. Because I only cover South Carolina and have no personal tie to the school, I know fewer people who are likely to be upset and look to me for an explanation while the game's on (but it does happen). As noted in Friday's post, I was at a 5 PM wedding Saturday. While it wasn't my choice to be there, once you are you have to behave appropriately. As a result, my phone was off for a lengthy portion of both the Gamecock and Gator games. When I turned it on and had 29 text messages and 7 voicemails, I had a feeling things had not gone well for somebody. Turns out it was both. I'd thought having to hear hours of stuff like "Single Ladies" and "Cupid Shuffle" was going to be the worst part of my night - so much for that.

I'll spend three hours today discussing the Gamecock situation on the air, and since the core readership for this blog is my old Gainesville audience that's going to be the sole focus today. I'll look at the rest of the weekend tomorrow when I've had more time to watch my DVR'd games like Arkansas/Auburn. Fairness requires me to note again that injuries/stupidity are playing a significant role in the debacle the Gators offense has become this season. The current run of losing and total offensive futility dovetails with Jeff Demps getting hurt and being available only in an extremely limited role. Chris Rainey might have been able to help, but he texted himself out of commission. Caleb Sturgis being out at kicker has been gigantic. Matt Patchan's still missing at tackle, as are guys like Jon Halapio and James Wilson at guard. Andre Debose going out early in Saturday's game with an ankle injury removed someone who supposedly was going to play a meaningful role in the attack as well. Chris Dunkley might have been a factor at receiver this season but will likely redshirt with a hamstring injury. All of these things are clearly out of anyone's control, and have to be taken into account when judging the situation.

To me, the biggest thing Florida fans have to be concerned about can be summed up in a comment Chris Spielman made early in Saturday's game. After noting UF's struggle with blitz pickup (on a play where neither of the tackles Marcus Gilbert or Xavier Nixon either one came close to blocking the defensive ends either), Spielman mentioned he had discussed the topic with offensive coordinator and line coach Steve Addazio leading up to the game and Addazio said they were fine. To quote Spielman, "Right now, you're not fine." If Addazio refuses to acknowledge problems, it's hard to have a lot of faith he knows what's necessary to solve them. The things he tried at times to get the offense going Saturday night were nothing short of bizarre.

Going for it on 4th and 1 at your own 39 down ten early in the second quarter is the act of a desperate team. If you're doing it, you have to come with the best possible play call you have. Addazio inserted Jordan Reed to run a wildcat look at quarterback, the first time he had taken a snap in the game, and brought Robert Clark in motion toward the short side of the field. Reed handed it off to Clark - not sure if he had the option to keep it himself or not. The timing of Reed and Clark wasn't good (go figure, since neither guy had touched the ball yet) and MSU read it all the way. It didn't have a chance in hell of succeeding. The defense bailed them out, or the game would have been over right then.

Later in the quarter, once Florida actually put together a drive into MSU's red zone, it was time for another critical call. It's 3rd and 5, and you again need one of your best plays. Addazio's call was for Brantley to run an option to the right which was clearly supposed to set up a pitch to what appeared to be Deonte Thompson lining up in the backfield. The play was blown up and never had a chance, because it made no sense. If you want to run option against a blitzing team that's been blowing up your OL all half, you can not do it with your slowest possible choice at the QB position. How could that possibly have seemed like the best choice in that situation?

Was the idea behind the bizarre Brantley call that MSU wouldn't expect it? That certainly wasn't a priority on any of the Trey Burton stuff, because he never threw a single pass to force them to respect that threat despite being a quarterback. The Bulldogs weren't even covering John Brantley on numerous plays when he lined up at WR, meaning whatever offensive numerical edge is gained by having a running QB is nullified. There's never been any indication of using Brantley off a reverse from a sweep to throw deep either - so why bother even having him out there?

As frustrated as people justifiably are with Addazio, Brantley's level of play has not been good enough to win. Whatever the factors are - his injuries, concern he won't have enough time to make the throw, being shuffled in and out of the position, maybe inexperience too - he's not making accurate enough passes or going through enough reads. There were times in that game where plays were actually there to be made and he either settled for shorter options or failed to make the necessary throw. There's no question the failure of his line to deliver plays a significant role in that. The continuing inability of guys like Mike Pouncey to play at the level they have previously shown they are capable of is baffling.

I hope Gator fans haven't all gone completely nuts - lord knows some of my friends apparently have. Among the suggestions/ideas I heard on my drive back from Charlotte were to fire Steve Addazio immediately, fire Teryl Austin immediately, bench John Brantley permanently "because he sucks", and demand Urban Meyer resign if he doesn't get to Atlanta "because the talent's too good not to be there". Midseason firings of staffers accomplish nothing (ask Tommy Tuberville how well his decision to do that his final year at Auburn worked out for him), and while there are people on Florida's staff like Brian White with previous OC experience I'm not sure the schemes he's run square up well with either Florida's current personnel or the schemes they've been using.

Anyone suggesting UF should remotely consider ousting a guy who's won two BCS titles and another BCS bowl game in his first five years if this year turns into a total failure is too stupid to boil water. If Urban Meyer had actually taken a full year leave of absence and this was going on, fans would want him to come back and fix it. Do some of the current problems stem from the "leave of absence" situation? Probably, but that doesn't mean Meyer's lost his coaching mojo for good. The next two weeks will determine whether this season turns into a disaster or a semi-disappointing transitional year in Gainesville. With time to focus on improvements rather than a game and for guys to heal, perhaps there will be meaningful progress versus Georgia. If there's not, even Steve Addazio won't be able to say things are fine.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Can't wait for the electric slide part of the evening

It's kind of a mediocre week in college football, but there's always stuff worth keeping an eye on. We'll see whether Jeff Demps is back to something close to full strength and if that's enough to put some big play pop in the Florida offense against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are more aggressive on defense under their new coordinators, and there will be opportunities to take advantage of that if UF's offensive staff can recognize when the blitzes are coming. I don't think the MSU secondary's a great matchup for the Gator WRs, but it's anyone's guess whether John Brantley is physically ready to exploit that or will be given the opportunity to do so. In the end, it's hard to imagine Florida losing a third straight and doing it on their home field. I doubt they will. Other stuff I'll be interested in:

1. Nebraska is dying to kick the crap out of Texas. The Longhorns have had two weeks to figure out what's wrong with them this year, but I'm not sure they've got the ability to fix things like a mediocre offensive line that appears to be in poor shape. I've got the Cornhuskers in the national title game right now. A road game at Oklahoma State's as tough as it gets for them after this until the Big 12 title game.

2. Arkansas and Auburn may team up to put 80 plus on the board given what's expected out of their two defenses. If the Razorbacks win the SEC West officially becomes a giant jumble, while if they lose then they're pretty much eliminated. If Arkansas doesn't hit at least 35, I don't think they win.

3. I know everyone expects Alabama to thump Ole Miss, but history says beware. Houston Nutt's been a double digit underdog seven times and covered all seven of them, winning three games outright. He's 4-0 against the spread as a double digit underdog since getting to Ole Miss. I don't think the Rebels can beat Alabama, but they may give them more of a scare than you'd think.

4. I'm far from sold on the idea Ohio State's the best team in the country, but I don't think this weekend tells us they aren't. Wisconsin is what they usually are, a slightly above average Big Ten team who played garbage non conference games and won them all. Austin Peay, UNLV and San Jose State couldn't beat the Badgers if they formed a combo team. Minnesota's awful too. The Buckeyes should win comfortably. Failure to do so will be further evidence they're overhyped at the moment.

I'm a believer in the concept of instant replay as a way to make sports better. It can't solve every problem created by the inevitable human errors of officiating, but if it fixes some of the obvious ones it's still worth having. Having said that, college football does as bad a job of executing it as it possibly can. I'll never forget listening to Al Ford, the SEC replay official who did a dreadful job on the Chris Leak "fumble"/incomplete pass during the Florida-Auburn game in 2006, explain while sitting at the same table as me in the press box in Columbia a week later that he "knew it was a fumble" because of Leak's reaction on the play. Apparently anyone who tries to gather a loose ball must have fumbled it. That's incompetence personified, and it's what we see far too often from replay officials. Rather than being specially trained guys who know how to use video equipment and have no loyalty to the guys on the field, they're former officials who may not have even been good at that. Even by the low standards I have for these guys though, what the Pac-10 allowed to happen at Arizona last week blows my mind. If an SEC team's fans found out the replay ref who sided with one school over theirs on four different reviews was an alum of that school who's also an athletics program booster, they'd be ready to riot. The Pac-10 officiating chief doesn't grasp why this is a problem, which is why the Pac-10 apparently needs a new officiating chief.

Ole Miss finally has a mascot. The Admiral Ackbar idea was vastly more amusing than what they came up with, which turned out to be the "Rebel Black Bear". What makes the bear a rebel is that he wears a Houston Nutt style hat and a necktie, not conforming to the clothing free lifestyle of your typical bear. The fact the issue of what Ole Miss's mascot should be has captivated Mississippi for nearly a decade is pretty remarkable - hopefully this will be the end of the story.

There are fourteen college football Saturdays each year. I'll get to spend tomorrow's at a wedding in Charlotte wearing a suit - lucky me. Note to the single guys reading this: make sure your future wife doesn't choose any bridesmaids who went to places like Ithaca College. Otherwise, you will be forced to go to their fall wedding which will start at 5 pm to make sure you don't get to see any of the important games of the day live. Whenever I do have a chance to make observations via Twitter, I'll do so - the handle's heathradio should you feel like following. Have a better Saturday than me (maybe we'll get to do the Chicken Dance!) and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No agent wants to be friends with Todd McShay - too dumb

Chris Rainey's likely reinstatement to the Florida football team has some folks up in arms. There's nothing people in the media like better than being able to feel righteous about something. I've already written my thoughts on Rainey's eventual return previously and don't see the point of repeating myself. One argument I've seen made repeatedly in the past day has been to say "if it was Meyer's daughter Rainey threatened, he wouldn't have been reinstated". Guess what? A judge in an auto theft case would probably sentence the guy who stole his car to a stiffer sentence than the one who stole someone else's. That's why we have a justice system that's at least theoretically based on reason as opposed to a personal desire for revenge. Sentences for crimes aren't uniform, they're based on the facts of a case. If there's no evidence of intent to carry out a threat and no previous history of violence, doesn't common sense say that should be treated differently than a case where someone did get violent? Rainey's not a saint. He's also not Lawrence Phillips or O.J. Simpson either. Urban Meyer knows him and his situation, and has chosen to allow Rainey the chance of being back by the Georgia game. I don't have a problem with that.

The Sports Illustrated piece with an ex-agent naming names on college players that he paid over two decades has stirred up lets of interest. One of the people who it appeared might have consequences from it was Mel Kiper, Jr. Well, never mind all that. Less than a day after the original story appeared, ESPN has ceased investigating what was alleged by Josh Luchs - that Kiper assisted in recruiting players for agent Gary Wichard by talking them up in phone calls and hyping them to the public. The odds are the answer to the question are mixed - Kiper does seem to excessively favor some Wichard clients like Kentwan Balmer, but not so many that he's become a pure shill for Wichard. Not sure how they exonerated Kiper so quickly, but I think the network's done themselves and him a raw deal by not giving off the image of a proper investigation being conducted. It makes sense for Kiper to be in frequent contact with agents considering his quest for info on all sides of the draft process, but he needs to be careful going forward about how that interaction is perceived even if he considers the guys he's dealing with friends.

Bud Selig and company want to expand the baseball postseason further. They'll try to cover up the reasons why by saying it gives more teams an opportunity to reach the playoffs (specifically that the Red Sox never miss them again). As usual, it's actually all about money and television programming. The new playoff games would reportedly become fodder for the Major League Baseball owned television channel. My concern is what this will do to the timetable for the postseason, because there are already way too many games played in absurdly cold outdoor temperatures in places with perpetual contenders like New York and Philadelphia. Adding more playoffs also diminishes the value of playoff statistics, not an inconsequential thing in a sport whose best fans tend to be obsessed with the numbers. I'm just not convinced this is the right move to make right now, even though they almost certainly will.

I've had several people ask me what I think of the radio situation in Gainesville, with Renee Gork being brought in to pair with Steve Russell on 850 in the mornings. First of all, I'm glad Renee got away from what was going to be an uncomfortable situation as long as she continued to live in Fayetteville as a result of the infamous "hat episode". The reaction to that was insanely over the top, and while it certainly wasn't designed to get her back to Gainesville I'm glad to see something positive come from it. I haven't heard Steve's show since he moved to mornings, but going from two to four hours a day without a partner was asking a lot. Steve believes callers are the primary focus of a show (which is a fundamental difference between us, but it's his show so he has every right to run it his way), and as someone who's worked mornings before I know there won't be that many callers before 8:30 unless there's a topic people are going crazy about. Having Renee there for him to go back and forth with and add some new ideas and energy should make that a better program. Gainesville listeners are lucky that beginning at 7 there's also Jeff Cardozo on 105 the Game and Brady Ackerman on 1230. That's a lot of worthwhile options for morning sports talk. As someone who's friends with all of them, I hope they're all able to succeed. (I was also asked if there was any chance I'd be returning to Gainesville radio. The circumstances that brought me to Columbia haven't changed, so that's not in the cards. Always glad to be on as a guest though.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sorry it took so long

A few things have to be acknowledged when looking at this season's Florida football team. They've suffered a remarkable number of injuries, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Between losing Matt Patchan before the season and James Wilson during the year plus other guys getting nicked up, there's been a less than ideal blend on the line. The kicker's not available for around half the season. Jeff Demps is banged up and missed the most recent game after he shouldn't have been used against Alabama. John Brantley himself is also not right physically, although just how badly he's hurt isn't clear. It's impossible to know how big a factor those things have been in the poor play of the Gator attack, but they clearly do play a role. Having said that, with the season at the halfway point it's impossible to ignore the reality that this group is not coming close to fulfilling its potential.

So what needs to happen now? Here are my thoughts:

1. More receivers have to play. Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore have been useful, but there has to be a way to get young guys on the field. Andre Debose, Robert Clark and Stephen Alli have athleticism that can help a team. If they don't know the full package, figure out one they can run and use it. This edition of Florida is not good enough to refuse to use players as a motivational tactic. Trey Burton is not Percy Harvin - there's no reason he should be the primary weapon at this point of his career.

2. Mike Gillislee almost always seems to be productive when he touches the ball. He's a sophomore. Emmanuel Moody's a senior, and while people have waited for him to be the force he was touted as coming from USC it's never really happened. Gillislee averages two more yards a carry and a yard more per catch, plus he's someone who's still improving. It's time for more 23 and less 21.

3. There has to be a more efficient way of calling plays to avoid wasting timeouts and rushed snaps that lead to penalties. The perfect example came in the first quarter with a first and goal at the 6. There was obvious confusion by the 17 second mark on the play clock, and time out called at the 10 second mark. What did Steve Addazio come up with? The exact same Burton up the middle "wildcat" look that everyone in the building anticipates for a one yard gain. What was the problem there? Why is the playcalling process so slow? Why have the gameplans been so poor that the only team Florida's scored on in the first quarter is Kentucky? Shouldn't those early plays be creative stuff you've got to attack the opponent based on what you've seen on tape?

4. It's understandable when a freshman like Jon Halapio gets blown up by an SEC defensive lineman. It's not when it's happening to seniors like Marcus Gilbert and Mike Pouncey. Whatever people may think about his playcalling, Steve Addazio is a good offensive line coach. Do some of these guys have senioritis, and if so what can be done to change that?

Florida could desperately use a bye week this week. Instead, they get Dan Mullen and a decent Mississippi State team coming to town. Florida should be able to beat the Bulldogs, but the contrast between what Mullen is doing with a stable of players nowhere near as talented as UF's and what is happening in the Swamp could make some people very uncomfortable Saturday evening.

When Florida changed their offense in 2005, Mullen told me they went to Chris Leak and asked him what plays he was most comfortable running in various situations and built the plan around that. At this point, it appears a similar conversation with Brantley would be wise for the Gator staff.

There are fewer obvious issues on the defensive side of the ball, but LSU repeatedly exposed UF directly down the middle of the field with Terrence Tolliver because of horrible tackling by the Gator secondary. For all the hype about the fake field goal (and for the record, I think it was a forward pass although I've given up trying to figure out what replay refs are thinking), it was actually not that effective a call. All it netted LSU was a new set of downs with no timeouts and 27 seconds remaining at the UF 31. The killer for Florida was once again getting gashed down the middle to the three on the next play. If Will Hill doesn't feel like playing this year, put him back on the bench and keep him there.

Georgia finally getting a win was a positive for Mark Richt, but the happiness didn't last too long. Tailback Caleb King was taken into custody on a bench warrant for failure to appear in court or pay his fine from a speeding ticket. Should Richt hammer him for that? I'd think not, but considering the "enough is enough" tone he set with the dismissal of the most recent player to run afoul of the law Richt might feel he needs to do something to discipline King and show he's serious about getting the Dawg arrest issues in check. Meanwhile, can someone explain why athletes seem to constantly trip up on stuff like this? Sure speeding tickets are annoying, but you still have to pay them. It's not that hard a concept.

North Carolina football's performance this season has been remarkably strong considering all the players who've had to miss time while in NCAA limbo. After winning three in a row, they finally got official word yesterday three of their stars won't be back. The really puzzling part of the whole thing is that two of these kids could have gone pro but chose to return for another year. Maybe they thought their stock would go up with another successful season, but if Marvin Austin and Greg Little wanted trips to Miami that bad they could have had as many as they wanted. By returning, they chose to delay that another eleven months. Apparently they thought this was a "best of both worlds" option. My wife did a story on Robert Quinn in high school and liked him. This is a kid who beat a brain tumor to emerge as a top college football player and likely first rounder. He couldn't wait a few more months for "two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel to Miami"? There should be ways for star kids to make money while in college - my suggestion remains allowing them to do endorsements - but this stuff appears to had little to do with needing money and everything to do with wanting to live the NFL lifestyle before it was actually available to them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Been a weird month in Hogtown

I'm going to need another day before I'm ready to write a full blog post. Between being on the air five hours prior to South Carolina's upset of Alabama and then going into the night with expanded local postgame, I didn't get a chance to see several games I want to write about more extensively. One of those was LSU/UF, and considering this blog was originally created for me to keep in contact with my old Gainesville radio audience I want to make sure I know the full details when I write about it. Now that I'm back from the Panthers game, I'm busy going through my DVR'd games tonight and tomorrow during the day and will have an expanded post here tomorrow.

By the way, for those of you who do read this from Gainesville, it appears Rock 104 may soon be getting the gas pipe in favor of a country format called 103.7 the Gator. Between that and wearing those ridiculous orange jerseys this weekend, it appears some people's decision making skills down there are seriously out of whack right now.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stupidity has to be punished, so LSU has to lose

This weekend's LSU-Florida game's going to be fascinating because neither team comes in feeling good even though combined they have one loss (and that's on the road against the #1 team). Despite that and both being ranked in the top 14, these two programs are perceived as largely inept right now. LSU's looking for answers on offense and may try moving their coordinator downstairs. I don't think that'll solve the issues ailing them. It's up to Florida how this game goes. The buzz I'm hearing from Gainesville is that they're going to open up the playbook and let John Brantley execute an offense more suited to his skills. If that turns out to be true, the Gators should be able to pull away in the second half as LSU inevitably makes mistakes. If the playcalling is more of the same, it'll probably be a tight game late. I think Andre Debose has his "Trey Burton" game and becomes a guy national people are talking about, and Florida wins by two touchdowns or more.

South Carolina gets their shot at Bama tomorrow, and I'll be curious to get a firsthand look at the Crimson Tide. I've believed all year the Gamecocks have a chance in this one, not because they're better but because of the setup. They've had two weeks to get ready, while Bama's coming off back to back huge games at Arkansas and at home with UF. South Carolina has good enough WRs to make plays in the passing game if they can protect the QB. I'm not predicting the upset, but there are a lot of people who think Alabama -7 is free money. If you're one of them, I suspect you'll feel otherwise watching that game during the second half.

Other CFB thoughts:

1. I don't completely trust either side in the FSU at Miami game. For all the hype about FSU's supposed defensive improvement, I have yet to see proof of it against a team with quality athletes. Miami's not well coached, but they have the better horses in this one. Odds are that's good enough to walk out winners.

2. One of two things is going to happen in Athens Saturday. One possibility is Georgia's going to bow up on the offensive line, blow an undersized Tennessee off the ball and help get the Dawg offense really going for the first time all year. The other is that even with some Mark Richt gimmicks this week (full pad practice on Monday for first time ever, he's leading the team out of the tunnel for the first time too) nothing gets better and Georgia loses again. If they do, I think it's the point of no return for Richt. As long as A.J. Green stays on the football field for 60 minutes, I think the former storyline is what we see.

3. ESPN has spent the last few years revealing almost everything there was to know about the BCS math before it was released on FOX. Now that they're dedicating a lengthy show to the ratings release every Sunday night, what do you think the chances are of them spoiling their own show? Haven't heard a single mention of their "BCS guy" Brad Edwards lately - hmmmm.

Tampa Bay will always have the 2010 AL East title to look back on, but it appears the franchise decided to get started on showing people what next year's stripped down team will like early by completely failing to show up at the plate . It's not like this is some kind of shocker, since the Rays offense was uninspiring at best throughout the season, but it's a shame that such an amazing run the past three years is going to end on this note. The Yankees concerted efforts to lose enough to avoid Texas and Cliff Lee in the first round have been rewarded, as they're about to sweep Minnesota out of the playoffs too. Tim "F**k Yeah!" Lincecum made the Braves look silly during his complete game win, and considering tonight's intended starter Tommy Hanson got injured while not even playing it's safe to say this may not be Atlanta's year.

Busy weekend for me, with College Gameday in town for the Gamecocks and Bama. I'm hosting a pregame show outside the stadium at 10:30, and if SC pulls it off I'll be on for another two-three hours afterwards. Sunday it's on to Charlotte for Bears at Panthers. Todd Collins versus Jimmy Clausen in a QB duel - can't wait! Somewhere in the midst of all that, I'll be sharing thoughts on Twitter. Follow along @heathradio should you be so inclined. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.