Cavalcade of Whimsy - Why Florida Might Win
Posted Dec 12, 2006

Is there any buzz about the national championship? No, because everyone is still into the Michigan debate, but Florida really is good enough to beat Ohio State. Pete Fiutak gives ten reasons why, along with his thoughts on the coaching world, who Troy Smith should be compared to, and more in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.

By Pete Fiutak    What's your beef? ... E-mail with your thoughts  
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If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I have an opening for a plum coaching job that everyone’s treating like a night manager’s shift at Jack in the Box.

“Son, the average Rusky doesn’t take a dump without a plan.” … Was Mike Shula really that bad? After all, he led the team to a bowl game this season in what’s supposed to be a transition year, had a 10-2, Cotton Bowl-winning season just two years ago, the right family name and connections, and, of course, great hair.

The Tide's biggest losses came in a double-overtime heartbreaker to Arkansas, to national title game bound Florida, and to Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn. Fine, so the gack against Mississippi State didn’t sit well, and you can’t lose to Auburn too many times and live to tell about it, but the team has the potential for a strong 2007, and after all the issues, is still going bowling.

It’s fine that Alabama wants a head coach who can beat Auburn and it’s fine if it thinks it can do better and get someone who might be more talented. However, you actually need to have a coach ready to step in and fly if you're going to whack a guy who wasn't all that bad. For Alabama to just fire Shula to try to find another guy doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense.

How in the wide, wide world of sports did the Bama head honchos not have Rich Rodriguez locked up before the fact? How did they not have an iron-clad plan B, C and D ready to fire? You have to be a serious masochist to want the gig, but Alabama is Alabama and all top coaches have enough ego to think they can be the one to be the next Tide god. They’re all nuts.

"Let's get Mikey. He won't eat it, he hates everything." ... There's a flip side to all of this. If Shula's the real deal, he gets snapped up for another decent gig in a heartbeat.

He probably thinks he’s moving from the Big East to the ACC … I’ll bite. Tom O’Brien moved from Boston College to NC State why? Out of all the places college football is played, Boston is easily as nice as any major city. He has a consistent winner in place after building the BC program into an underrated power that’s better than NC State is now, or has been in the last several years. The fan base might be slightly more interested than BC’s, considering Boston is a pro town, but most Pack fans would take a stomping over North Carolina on the hardwood any day of the week over a big win in football. Then again, O’Brien’s a coach. They’re all nuts. Speaking of which …

As a prank, he’d throw the actual Bill Bidwell, along with a LenDale White dummy, off a roof … If even one single neuron fires in Pete Carroll’s brain telling him to pursue the Arizona Cardinal job, or any other in the NFL, he needs to sit through tapes of every pro game coached by Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban.

I know Carroll has previous NFL head coaching experience, which sets him apart from most of the star college guys who crashed and burned at the next level (Dennis Erickson, Rich Brooks, Dick McPherson, and every other hot college name you can think of not named Jimmy Johnson), but there’s one thing everyone has forgotten: he was only an average NFL head man going 27-21. Remember the tag on him at the time, for good and bad, was that he was an elite college coach who happened to have a pro gig.

The NFL is the biggest sucker bet in coaching. Even if you get general manager and personnel control, that doesn’t mean you can go out and recruit all the players you want. You’re at the mercy of 53 mini-corporations and have next to no control year in and year out about how your team is going to look and play. Hmmmmm … god-like, A-list status in Los Angeles, 90,000+ fans at every game, your pick of just about any high school player you want, yearly national title contention, ten-plus wins every year vs. 110-hour work weeks, the perfect gameplan not guaranteeing a win, battling your tail off in the hope of eight wins. Then again, Carroll’s a coach. They’re all nuts.
Now for my favorite part of the show....What does that say? Talk to the audience! Ugghhh, this is always death.” … I know I’m supposed to watch the big awards show when all the big non-Heisman individual prizes are awarded, but I can’t do it. Every year I say I’ll give it a shot since it’s my job to care, and I really do want to find out who won, but between the slowwwww pace, the awful suits (c’mon Reggie Nelson) and the brutal interviews, it's a nearly impossible watch.

Most of the players are really nice guys, and they mean well, but they’re not pros. They’re not always polished, and more often than not, they’re so coached on how to be vanilla that they don’t say anything interesting unless you get them in a non-interview type of setting. Chris Fowler and company earn every dime they get doing that show.

Two words: George Mason … I realize Boise State plays in the WAC and has a cushy-soft schedule, but if you’re going to put together any sort of playoff idea/proposal for this year (cough, Sports Illustrated, cough), you have to include the Broncos in an eight-team format. At some point you have to start letting the little guy know that they actually play in D-I. Otherwise, it’s time to cut the cord and just make a super-league of the top 60 to 75 programs.

You listen to me - you've got a Ben Vereen quality, I can't put my finger on it.” … Everyone repeat after me: Troy Smith is NOT Michael Vick. Look at any pre-2000 draft guide or pro prospects preview and every black quarterback is compared to Randall Cunningham or Warren Moon (and should either move to defensive back or go play in the CFL for a few years), just like every white wide receiver is like Steve Largent.

Aren’t we past that now?

Smith is an African-American quarterback and isn’t six feet tall (despite what he’s listed at), just like Vick. That’s where the comparisons stop. Vick is never-before-seen fast for a quarterback, while Smith is athletic and can move, but not a blazer; there’s a big difference. Smith is a near-polished passer while Vick, well, Vick can run really, really fast. If you need a comparison as far as size, athleticism and style of play, Smith is Drew Brees without the mole.

There’s no truth to the rumor that Lou Saban is being considered a candidate … Dennis Erickson at Idaho? Bob Toledo at Tulane?! No matter what you think about the Black Coaches Association and its goals, at some point you have to wonder if any non-white, non-old, non-retread is even being interviewed for any of the openings.  

“From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence!” … A bunch of goofy, whiny, Michigan lawmakers passed a resolution calling for a college football playoff system with Senator Mike Bishop screaming that future “injustices” must be avoided. It’s good to hear they’re not wasting their time on important things like, oh, I don’t know … anything else. All that urban decay in Detroit, Flint, and other Michigan cities is all taken care of, right? New industries are being created to make up for the dying auto biz? Two words for the lawmen so they can get their gripe on: message boards. While they’re at it, maybe they can pass a resolution to find out whatever happened to the missing two seconds at the end of the 1998 Michigan – Washington State Rose Bowl.     

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
I’m not saying I think Florida will beat Ohio State, however, were not exactly talking about Buffalo here. This is a very, very good team that’s being treated like a Green Party candidate. For some reason, no one appears to be taking the Gators, or the national title game, all that seriously even though the two teams are relatively even. Here are ten reasons why the Gators might beat Ohio State and be your 2006 national champion.

Relax Buckeye fans, the ten reasons why Ohio State might beat Florida are coming next week.

10. Switch the schedules around
What if Florida played Ohio State’s schedule? Northern Illinois, win. At Texas, with the way the Longhorn offense was playing in early September, win. Cincinnati, Penn State, at Iowa, Bowling Green, at Michigan State, Indiana, Minnesota, at Illinois, at Northwestern. Win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win. Michigan? In the Swamp? Florida. I’m not saying Ohio State couldn’t or wouldn’t beat everyone on Florida’s slate, but considering the problems it had with Michigan, would it have gone unscathed with games against Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas? The Gators would be 12-0, or at worst 11-1, with the Buckeye schedule, which brings me to …

9. Has Ohio State actually stopped a real offense?  
We all saw against Texas A&M what the Texas offense is like when Colt McCoy wasn’t Colt McCoy, and on September 9th against OSU, he was just starting to figure out what he was doing in the second game of his career. The only other offense the Buckeyes faced with the skill, speed and athleticism like Florida’s attack was Michigan’s, while LSU, Auburn and Tennessee all have Ohio State-like talent at several spots. The Buckeyes have sort of faced a spread offense like Florida’s, beating Northwestern like a drum, but this is the souped up version. Can the OSU corners handle the speedy, talented Gator receivers?

8. Urban Meyer is really, really good
Meyer is now 61-11 in six years as a head coach while doing the near-impossible in making Gator fans start to forget about the Steve Spurrier days … at least a little bit. While Meyer’s known for rocking in year two at a program, highlighted by his run with Utah to the Fiesta Bowl, Florida was supposed to be a year away before the spread attack finally had the right pieces in place. Give Meyer and his staff more than two weeks to prepare and their teams don’t lose. Jim Tressel is a fantastic big game coach, but Meyer’s an equal when it comes to preparations, and is nearly peerless when it comes to adjustments.  

7. The Florida run defense
Yeah, Michigan’s run defense was supposed to be a rock and Ohio State ran through it, but Florida’s is better and more talented. Only four teams ran for over 100 yards on a Gator run defense that allowed just 2.8 yards per carry. The defensive front is physical enough to hold up against the fantastic Ohio State O line, while the back seven is fast enough to keep Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells from busting off any backbreakers (just ask Darren McFadden and Felix Jones). Texas held the Buckeyes to 79 rushing yards.

6. Field goal, schmield goal
Florida can’t make field goals. That could turn out to be the Achilles heel in the title game, but the rest of the special teams are amazing helped mostly by freshman punt and kick returner Brandon James and the punting of Eric Wilbur. Maybe Chris Hetland’s 33-yard field goal against Arkansas has officially broken him out of his year-long funk.

5. Chris Leak 
50 games, 11,000 passing yards, 87 touchdown passes, 13 rushing touchdowns, one SEC championship. Leak has seen it all, and after beating Arkansas, done it all while surviving the Ron Zook era to become a steady, yet mellow, leader of the Gators. Troy Smith might be unflappable, but Leak is the textbook definition always maintaining an even keel if he throws a pick, throws a touchdown pass, or gets replaced by Tim Tebow. He’s not going to be rattled.

4. Percy Harvin
Talk about your X factors, now Ohio State has to deal with the same problems it gives everyone else with Ted Ginn. Harvin has grown into an elite all-around playmaker as a runner and receiver growing into the type of gamebreaker who has to be accounted for on every play. Any focus taken off Leak is a major plus for the Gators, and Meyer will find creative ways to get his young star the ball. Outside of their practices, the Buckeye secondary hasn’t seen anyone like Harvin all year long.

3. Time to heal
All teams are banged up at the end of the year, but the Gators will get RB DeShawn Wynn back after missing most of the SEC championship with a shoulder problem, while the dinged up defense should be as close to 100% as it’s been since September. As opposed to the SEC title game version, this will be a fully functioning, almost fully healthy Gator team.

2. Something seems strangely familiar, part one 
Remember the last time a team just found ways to win, even if it wasn’t pretty, was a big underdog for a national title game in Arizona, and had a precocious freshman who was a tone-setting power runner? Oh yeah, the 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes. Florida has an eerily similar feel with freshman QB Tim Tebow the emotional spark plug, sort of like Maurice Clarett, while the Gators win with great D, timely O, and an ability to pull out every close game helped by a heady, veteran Craig Krenzel-like quarterback.   

1. Something seems strangely familiar, part two 
No. 1 USC was supposed to blow past No. 2 Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl. Oklahoma didn’t need to show up in the 2001 Orange Bowl against  Florida State, right? Of course, No. 1 Miami was going to walk all over Ohio State in 2003. The pressure is 100% on the Buckeyes, so if Florida can get a little momentum early, it has every shot at pulling this off in what shouldn’t be considered a shocker in any way. This Gator team really is that good.

Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa)
- That sound you heard was a collective “aw s***” from ten Big Ten head coaches after Mark Dantonio was hired at Michigan State. Everyone loved John L. Smith for a reason.
- Bryant Gumbel could be the worst play-by-play announcer in the history of the spoken word, and Cris Collinsworth, one of the best studio analysts in the business, has turned into nothing more than a corporate suck-up when trying to pick up Gumbel’s slack. The faster everyone realizes the NFL is the purest form of sports media evil, the better off the world will be.
- I say this every year at this time: no one’s forcing you to watch every bowl game. If you’d really rather see the latest episode of CSI: Duluth or the leggy Deal or No Deal chicks, no one’s stopping you. Some of us do have to watch, and care, about San Jose State vs. New Mexico and Rice vs. Troy. Don’t ruin it for us.
-  What kind of complex must Idaho players have? First, Nick Holt leaves the head coaching gig to take back his job as the defensive coordinator at USC, and now Dennis Erickson is one and done for Arizona State. Right, and players shouldn’t get to transfer without penalty or leave for the pros any time they want to.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated:
Jen ... Underrated: Vince
2) Overrated: Ohio State vs. Florida … Underrated: Appalachian State vs. Massachusetts
3) Overrated:
Less fat ... Underrated: More meat
4) Overrated: Christmas shopping for others ... Underrated: Christmas shopping for yourself
5) Overrated:
Aretha Franklin ... Underrated: Andra Franklin
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … 
Those Michigan lawmakers submitted a resolution that said the column sucked. It passed.