The Sports Broadcast

A blog about sports broadcasting from the great state of Florida. They report. I decide.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

So Much for the Upset

I thought the game would be close, and thanks to the third quarter it was. I thought the Gators would have opportunities to win, and they did. Unfortunately, they came up short once again, falling to rival Georgia 31-24.

While winning 13 of the last 15 against Georgia still is a remarkable stat to fall back on, I left the game today feeling numb. In the end, penalties killed the Gators today, especially two straight holding calls that reversed two straight first downs in the second half. The Gators had great momentum building with those plays, but the momentum and the gains were negated and the drive ended in a punt. They also had too many false starts, and a classic unnecessary personal foul. In short, they were the team they've always been the past three years, squandering chances and coming up short in general. The game was there for them to win, but after pulling within three points at 24-21, the defense turned to Swiss cheese again.

This really is not the way to send Zook off. He never really got a fair shake in the minds of most Gator fans, and not everything has been his fault. The lack of talent he had to work with when he came in, especially on offenseive line, was not his fault. This year's Tennessee loss and last year's FSU loss were not his fault, but rather the fault of officiating that was so bad it's still hard to believe it really happened. It was not his fault that the team graduated eight defensive starters from last year, that DT Ray McDonald would miss significant time against LSU and the entire game against Mississippi State (who won again today), or that LB Chaninng Crowder would go down today (and his season might be over due to possibly torn ligaments in his foot). While some games the team was simply not ready to play (LSU two years ago, both Ole Miss games, MSU this year), not all of the losses can directly be pinned on Zook's shoulders. Some people actually have realized that and have been supportive of Zook despite all of the clamor for the return of Steve Spurrier (which seems to be much more of an alumni thing than student thing). There were even some students in the crowd who had printed up shirts that said "FOLEY SUCKS" on the front and "I'M A ZOOKER" on the back.

It is small consolation that most of the elite teams in college football had real trouble today. USC had no trouble against a bad Washington State team, but beyond that,
-Oklahoma escaped against Oklahoma State by just three points, which isn't all that surprising as the Sooners always seem to have trouble with the Cowboys
-Miami lost to North Carolina
-FSU lost to Maryland for the first time ever in 15 games
-Michigan needed 3OT to beat Michigan State
-West Virginia beat Rutgers by just five
-Texas A&M lost to Baylor
-Purdue lost to Northwestern (making it the Wildcats' second big win this year), and
-Indiana beat Minnesota
This was the big upset weekend that always happens in college football at least once a year. It only resulted in a loss for one of the undefeated schools (Miami), so we're still on track for six unbeaten teams at the end, causing BCS armageddon. It would be even better if three conference champions were ranked outside of the BCS top-6. There are eight slots in the four BCS bowls, six of which are reserved for BCS conference champions with two at-larges. Finishing in the BCS top-6 guarantees a school a spot in a BCS bowl under the rules, so three non-conference winners in the top-6 would overbook the BCS, causing even more problems. West Virginia, practically a lock to win the Big East, will not finish in the top-6 for sure, and with a bad loss to North Carolina, Miami might not either. Since USC and Cal are at the top and Auburn, Tennessee, and Georgia are all near the top, it's highly likely the Pac-10 and SEC champs will be in the top-6. That leaves the possibility of the Big XII North champion (probably Nebraska) upsetting Oklahoma in the title game (not likely) or Wisconsin losing to Minnesota, Michigan State, or Iowa to have Michigan, if they win out, as Big 10 champ. The three non-conference champs in the top-6 (if they too win out) would be Utah, Cal, and either Georgia or Texas.

In the end, this is just not a good year for history. Phil Mickelson won a major, the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the playoffs, the Red Sox then went on to win the World Series, and Georgia beat Florida. As I heard one person say, it's the Law of Averages year. Perhaps that bodes well for Florida's chances against FSU as UF has not won in Tallahassee since the mid-'80s.

Florida - Georgia

The Florida-Georgia game this year could go either way. Florida may come right out a shock the likes of struggling David Greene and his Bulldogs. Greene is not having the senior year he envisioned, D.J. Shockley has never had a good down against Florida in his career, and David Pollack may find out just how hard it is to tackle Ciatrick Fason. The Gators, fighting for their coach's good name, may come out and overpursue, forget assignments, and drop balls leading to a Georgia win. This won't be anywhere close to Boise State's 69-3 win over Hawaii last night (now that's a statement game). It's going to go down to the very end.

Florida's biggest advatage is special teams, as kicker Matt Leach can make field goals from 50+ yards out, and won last year's game in the final minute. Conversely, Georgia freshman kicker Andy Bailey is only 10/15 on field goals and has a career long of just 40 yards.

Another boost for Florida is the return of DT Ray McDonald. It's very possible if he hadn't gotten injured, Ron Zook would still have his job. He was injured late in the LSU game, and after he left the LSU backs ran wild propelling the Tigers to victory. MSU's Jerious Norwood also found plenty of running room without McDonald's presence. If he stays healthy, it's not inconceivable that the Gators would be 6-1 right now, but alas, what-ifs don't win conferences or save jobs. If Georgia arrogantly thinks it will bludgeon Florida with a freshman RB with a lung infection now that McDonald is back, it could mean a disastrous slow start for the Dawgs.

Maybe I'm optimistic or just a fool, but Florida 24 - Georgia 17.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Fantasy Team

Well, AutoDraft didn't do all that bad of a job, I must say. I feel good about my team. I don't have too many outright superstars, but most of my players are looking good for this year. I have a lot of consistent guys, which is comforting too. I only ended up with one true stiff, Chris Kaman, so I dropped him and hopefully I'll get Charlotte's Primoz Brezec, if he clears waivers after another owner dropped him for Raef LaFrentz, as a replacement. Sure, Brezec is somewhat of a stiff too, but Kaman injured his ankle recently and Brezec, a starter for the Bobcats, has shown the ability to put up nice numbers against teams with no real inside presence (like the entire East except Miami). I also dropped injury-prone Jerry Stackhouse as he is in decline, and most scorers' averages drop in Dallas. I replaced him with Darius Miles, who is a bit of a risk, but he had his best season so far in Portland last year and is not injured. He was drafted out of high school, so if we imagine his years with the Clippers and Cavs as college, last year was his rookie season. He's just to fortify the bench as I have no confidence in Stackhouse. So here's the squad:

PG Carlos Arroyo
SG Michael Redd
G Cuttino Mobley
SF Steven Jackson
PF Elton Brand
F Kenyon Martin
C Chris Bosh
C empty (pending Brezec)
Utility Grant Hill
Utility Tim Thomas
Bench Darius Miles
Bench Jamaal Tinsley
Bench Jiri Welsch

If I find I need more assists and am doing okay on points, I'll put Tinsley in over Arroyo. I'm assuming Arroyo will be back for the opener. I'll have to monitor his sprained ankle. Center is my biggest concern. I just hope Bosh will continue to improve and a) I get Brezec and b) he does well, because the best alternative without trading something good is Antonio Davis. Ouch.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

He's Listening

Well, Steve Spurrier is interested in talks with the University of Florida about returning to the head coach position. While I have mixed feelings about him returning (and am leaning towards not wanting him back, but that's another story for another time), the job apparently is officially his for the taking, as if it ever wasn't. While Bob Stoops has issued a statement saying he's not leaving Oklahoma for Florida (insert anticlimax here), Spurrier reportedly would be interested in having Oklahoma defensive coordinator Bo Pellini on the staff to deal with that other side of the ball that you have to manage while not playing pitch and catch. He probably would be an excellent replacement for when Spurrier would retire the next time provided he could find a good offensive coach for a coordinator. He's not a viable candidate now though as he has had no head coaching experience other than as interim in Nebraska's bowl game last year after Frank Solich was fired.

Speaking of replacements,
it seems everyone is making a Zook replacement list these days. It's a compliment to the university how many good names are being thrown around in addition to Stevie. Aside from Spurrier, here is a quick list of my thoughts on the coaches I've seen in the various lists as a way to compile them into one big list and not waste more space in future posts on the subject (alphabetically within category):

Almost 0% Chance
-Norm Chow (offensive coordinator, USC) - He's a coordinator with no head coaching experience. Though a comparison to Zook is madness, that describes the outgoing coach's resume too. Foley likely isn't interested in another rookie head coach. He's definitely qualified, though.
-Ralph Friedgen (head coach, Maryland) - He's probably a bit old for what the Gators are looking for and has never been able to win a big game. Even in his ACC championship year, the Terps were torched by FSU and annihilated by UF in Spurrier's last game.
-Jon Gruden (head coach, Tampa Bay Bucs) - He can get better money in the NFL, and if he's unhappy in Tampa, he can get almost any other NFL job he wants. Why would a man who has a Super Bowl ring want to sit in some hot shot high schooler's living room and beg him to come play for him?
-Dan Hawkins (head coach, Boise State) - He has said that he likes Boise, and that if he wasn't coaching football, he'd be with his wife in Africa with the Peace Corps. That doesn't sound like the profile of a coach who is itching for a top coaching job.
-Mike Leach (head coach, Texas Tech) - Wasn't the defense, not offense, the problem against MSU? While the offense would surely deliver some fireworks, Leach-coached team are not known for defense.

-Tim Murphy (head coach, Harvard) - Jeremy Foley would never get away with hiring the head coach of Harvard at this point, even if he was a finalist 3 years ago.
-Rick Neuheisel (unemployed) - That's like asking for scandal.
-Doug Williams (executive, Tampa Bay Bucs) - His presence on the list would please UF President Bernie Machen, and he has all of the right qualifications except for one. He has never been a head coach in Division I-A, and that's probably one of the first requirements that candidates must pass.

50/50 Chances

-Butch Davis (head coach, Cleveland Browns) - He has to get fired from Cleveland first, and Jeff Garcia might just play well enough to save Davis' job. He also might not want to leave the NFL either.
-Kirk Ferentz (head coach, Iowa) - He's a great coach, no doubt. He also creamed the Gators in last year's Outback Bowl and loves his Hawkeyes. I think it's now some kind of rule that he must be mentioned for every major coaching opening, college or pro.
-Mike Price (head coach, UTEP) - He took an absolutely horrid UTEP team and got it off to a 5-2 start immediately. The man is an incredible coach who belongs at a much higher-profile school than UTEP. However, he still has some baggage over the scandal at Alabama, and that did happen in the SEC. If not for the Bama incident he'd be a sure bet, but if not for the scandal, he'd be coaching Alabama now.
-Rich Rodriguez (head coach, West Virginia) - He is one of the biggest reasons as to WVU's rise to prominence and is an excellent coach. However, he seems to like West Virginia a lot and has a better chance at going to a BCS bowl every year in the Big East than he would at Florida in the much tougher SEC.

-Jeff Tedford (head coach, Cal) - Though he's been compared to Spurrier, he's not a lock to come if offered the job. He likes the West Coast, is already becoming a living legend at Cal, and has the recruiting playground of California to work with. Still he does have some issues with Cal and their stadium plans, and UF probably could give him more money.

If Offered the Job, They'd Take It
-Urban Meyer (head coach, Utah) - Last year at Utah he went 10-2 and this year the Utes are #6 in the BCS. He finishes games and isn't afraid to run up the score to make sure no 4th quarter collapses happen. He has ties to Machen. He gets his shot at a national title. He gets Chris Leak to coach for a year if not two. I don't see any difficulties here.
-Les Miles (head coach, Oklahoma State) - He can win games he's not supposed to as he has won two of his past four meetings with Stoops' Oklahoma team. He's an excellent recruiter. He'll never escape the shadows of Oklahoma and Texas at OSU. His teams are capable of hanging half a hundred on opponents when they're on. It's another great fit.
-Bob Petrino (head coach, Louisville) - He almost beat Miami with Louisville (read that again). He got the best high school quarterback in the nation to go to Louisville last year (read that again). Last year's scandal with Auburn proves he's willing to move up to a big time school. The Auburn affair looked bad (especially since Auburn is another SEC school) but it's nowhere near the degree of the Mike Price scandal. He'd leave for Florida in a heartbeat, and might actually be waiting by his phone for a call from Jeremy Foley every waking moment not spent at practice.

Boston Red Sox: 2004 World Series Champions

The Boston Red Sox just won the World Series. History was made and erased tonight. If there ever was a curse, it's gone. You'd have to be an idiot to believe they overcame all they had to in order to get to this point.

Really, for me it's not all that foreign to think of Boston as the champs. Sure, I know the history and I've heard the stories. However, Boston has been a good team for most of my sports-conscious life, so it's not unusual in my mind for a good team to win a title. It's not like writing about the Bengals or Clippers, who have been perpetually horrid, winning a championship.

In addition, I don't know what the loser mindset is like. I was born into the Steve Spurrier era at Florida, I remember the Reds in 1990 and the powerhouse Orioles teams of the mid-'90s, the Magic have made the playoffs more times in their 15 years than they've missed them, and even the Bucs had the best period in team history during my lifetime. I do not, and cannot, understand what this means to Boston fans.

As for the Cardinals, I can empathize some as the Magic were swept from the Finals in 1995, and that same year the Gators lost to Nebraska in the national title game 62-24 (which is about as close to the sweep feeling as you can get in one game). Tony LaRussa now has set some records about getting swept in the Worlds Series. I don't know what kind of record it makes, but Edgar Renteria now has been the final batter in two different Worlds Series (you heard that one here first, folks) though last time it was a bit of a different situation with the Marlins in 1997.

I really don't like it when fan bases are referred to as "nations," so I simply say congratulations to the Sox and New England for putting up with them for so long. It is now finally worth it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

It's Over

Forget everything I wrote yesterday about the World Series. It's over. The Cardinals may win tonight (not likely), they may win tomorrow night (even less likely), but it's too little too late. I was trying to inject some suspense into the Series, but yes, Agent Smith, I hear the sound of inevitability, and it is the Red Sox being the 2004 World Series Champions. It's a mere formality at this point. Bravo, Boston, you earned it.

Talk about a buzz-kill. After upsetting Florida over the weekend causing the firing of the Florida coach, Mississippi State finally found out today the penalties it will get for Jackie Sherrill's transgressions. It doesn't look good. MSU gets four years of probation, loses 4 scholarships a year for the next two, is banned from bowls this year (as if it makes much of a difference), and loses 11 recruiting trips a year for the next two. It's going to be a while before Sylvester Croom and company will be contending in the SEC West, but once the penalties are lifted, watch out.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Back to Baseball

In addition to the turmoil in the Florida football program, oh yeah, the World Series is going on. Curt Schilling likely has made his final start of the year, which might end up being bad news for the Red Sox. Sure, the Cardinals have Tony LaRussa managing them and that's always a disadvantage for you in the playoffs, but it's no sure thing that Boston will uncork the champaigne at Busch Stadium. The Cards are undefeated in the postseason at home, and now return to Missouri for a potentially momentum-building three-game set before returning to Fenway, if necessary. In addition, the St. Louis lineup has not been itself in the Series yet, and if the home cooking wakes them up, watch out Boston. Pedro Martinez starts Game 3, and though he's not facing the Yankees, he still is past his years of consistency and might lose it at any time.

Speaking of losing it at any time, Derek Lowe is starting Game 4. Yes, he closed out the New York series with 6 excellent innings, but you just never know which Derek Lowe will take the mound beforehand. Then, in Game 5 it's Tim Wakefield again, who was the starting participant in a slugfest a few nights ago. Things are far from over, and the Sox should know that very well not only from this year, but from 1986 when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Mets and looked like they might then close it out going home to Fenway.

Well, I still don't think that Steve Spurrier will take the Florida job in the end, but he made some comments on the Zook firing that amounted to "When Jeremy Foley calls, I'll listen to what he has to say." Some of his exact words were "...now that [Zook] doesn't have a job, I guess there will be some discussions. We'll see what happens." Read one way, that could mean that he's interested in returning to UF. I did see a video clip of him making those statements though, and he didn't sound excited at all; in fact it was more of his patented "God didn't smile on the Gators today" tone that he always spoke in after losses. I think that might actually be code for "We'll see how soon the Dolphins fire Dave Wannstedt." ESPN's Chris Mortenson thinks that Spurrier can have another shot at the NFL, and in the short excerpt you can read before the Insider "pay up now" notice, Atlanta Falcons GM Rich McKay agrees, and says he thinks there are a few others in the league that would too.

Either way, it certainly will not be a one-man search. This ordeal is, however, bad news for Urban Meyer, who said he had to turn his cell phone off because of how many friends and family members were calling him about the UF job. According to the Independent Florida Alligator, the UF student newspaper, reporter Michael Lewis of the Salt Lake Tribune has said that a big-time program would be able to pry Meyer away from Utah due to his desire to win a national title. Though I think Meyer would be an excellent choice for the job, it won't be a two-man search either. UF President Bernie Machen prides himself on building diversity, so you can bet he won't want to get anything less than an A in his first UF coaching search when the Black Coaches Association releases their annual coach search grades next fall. I think that Foley also has realized the folly of trying to keep in in the UF family since UF has not had a long tradition of winning football (unless he wants the next coach to be Buddy Teevens or Brian Schottenheimer, or he decides to stage the dramatic return of Galen Hall). Right now the university is only allowed to talk to unemployed coaches like Spurrier or the don't-even-bother-mentioning-him candidate Frank Solich, so there won't be any news on the replacement front anytime soon that isn't more Spurrier rumors. At least this time, they will have a good amount of time to make a decision.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The End (Officially)

Ron Zook will no longer be the coach of the Florida Gator football team following this season.

I didn't think I'd write that sentence with certainty in the middle of a season. I didn't think I'd write it for a few years even. What I think doesn't matter though.

I'll go ahead and say it our front: I like Ron Zook. I think he's a good guy who is good for a football program. However, he has proven that he just is not ready to handle being the head coach of a top-tier school. Whether or not it seems fair for him to be fired right now, it had to be done. The program is floating along without any kind of direction right now, and there are too many great players on the team to allow things to progress as they are going. Chris Leak, Channing Crowder, Andre Caldwell, Chad Jackson, Deshawn Wynn, and Dee Webb all have only one year left before they are eligable for the NFL draft. Ciatrick Fason can leave after this year, though there is a shot at him returning for his senior year. They make up an impressive core of players, and with the overall talent of the rest of the program, they should win at least one SEC East title, if not overall SEC title. It did not appear that it was going to happen under Ron Zook, so he had to be let go.

The overall attitude of the team is another problem. I would not say that a so-called "culture of losing" had evolved in the program as it stands seven games over .500 for Zook's tenure, but a culture of mediocrity seems to have set in. Until Saturday, the Gators had not lost to a team that was clearly inferior in every aspect, so the losses seemed to get brushed away by Zook's "we're getting better and better" line. This is could have been an excellent football team. Was the preseason #10 ranking a bit optimistic? Sure, but not unrealistic. There is a difference, however, between not living up to a preseason #10 ranking and losing to a team that is so bad that after the game the voice of the Gators on the radio Mick Hubert sounded like he was ready to cry.

In the end, there should be no crying, especially not for Ron Zook. Coaching is a business, as they say, and he won't stay unemployed for long. He's way too good of a recruiter for that. He'll find himself a coordinator job somewhere, and probably end up as the head coach of a mid-major program eventually under much more reasonable expectations. He also could go back to coaching in the NFL. While here at Florida, he enjoyed plush amenities (check out his office, and if it's still there, read the last paragraph of his 10/18 message about how SEC opponents are difficult "especially in their home stadium... I expect
Mississippi State to be no different."). His paycheck made him a very wealthy man. Maybe he's not in the "you me and Tim Russert" bracket that W and Kerry argued over in the debates, but he's set for life. He also had an experience few others will ever have - head football coach of the Florida Gators.
As for replacements, I have already made a list, and so has Ivan Maisel (which is nearly identical to mine). One more person to add: Butch Davis. If the Browns continue to underacheive, he might join Zook in the unemployment line. Keep in mind that it wasn't Larry Coker that built up those powerhouse Miami teams of 2000-2002.