Thanks to Urban Meyer, we had to say goodbye to our Christmas holiday a couple of days early and jump back in the saddle. That’s okay because it was a fun, but sometimes confusing, ride with the head Gator over the past 48 hours.
So it’s Monday, Dec. 28, and it’s finally time to get serious about the bowl season. What have we learned and what do we still hope to learn?
1. Urban Meyer is channeling Mike Krzyzewski. At least that’s what the Gators hope. Coach K will be the first to tell you that he was in bad shape in 1994. He came back too early from back surgery and would not back away from a ridiculous schedule. Micki Krzyzewski, his wife, finally put her foot down and the Duke coach walked away and left the reigns of the powerhouse program to assistant Pete Gaudet. Duke went 13-18 but the following season Krzyzewski returned rested and with a little more perspective. The ailments, of course, are different because we’re talking about Meyer’s heart. But the goal is the same—get away from the Beast you have built long enough to learn how to control it without killing yourself in the process.
2. In the absence of information, speculation will fill the vacuum. And speculation is not good. I’m not sure Florida didn’t do more harm than good with its strange press conference in New Orleans on Sunday. There weren’t a lot of answers forthcoming because, Meyer and AD Jeremy Foley said, the decision was so fresh. I’ll take the two men at their word. But Meyer’s uncertain status (Will he be involved in recruiting? Will he run spring practice? Will he do this or that? Will he really be back for the 2010 season?) is going to hang over this program until this is resolved. The cynics out there believe that this whole thing is just a ploy to salvage this recruiting class and get Florida through national signing day in February. In the absence of answers, that kind of cynicism will thrive until it is proven wrong—or confirmed. It is a risky place for the Florida program to be.
3. Georgia cannot get embarrassed in Shreveport. It would be a mistake to read too much into the importance of today’s Independence Bowl game between Georgia and Texas A&M. The idea that these games serve has a spring board for next season is overstated. Having said that Georgia needs to look like a well-coached football team despite the fact that three defensive assistants are gone. An eighth win in what is perceived to be a disastrous season would not hurt either.
By the way, did you notice this chart that was floated around when it looked like Meyer was stepping down at Florida? It is the top five active coaches in college football by winning percentage:
I just found it interesting that Richt was fourth on the list but to read some folks on this blog and others you would think the guy can’t coach a lick. This was a lousy season at Georgia, no doubt about it. But numbers don’t lie. Richt has averaged 9.88 wins per year in nine seasons. He must be doing something right.
I’m not saying that Georgia fans are wrong to complain about this season. Georgia was not a well-coached football team in 2009 because of the penalties and turnovers. But all criticism should be tempered with some kind of perspective. It’s not, of course, but it should be.
4. C.J. Spiller should have been in New York: The Clemson running back/kick returner showed again last night why he was one of the top five football players in the country and certainly the most explosive player in the game. He had 172 all-purpose yards in the 21-13 win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. If Clemson had won the ACC championship game over Georgia Tech on Dec. 5, I think Spiller would have gotten an invitation for the Heisman Trophy ceremonies. By the way, the ACC really needed that win over an SEC team after two straight bowl losses.
5. A class act by the Gator Bowl: The Gator Bowl has decided to give tickets to any former Bobby Bowden player who would like to see his last game as a head coach. Over 300 former players have signed up for the tickets and will lead the Florida State coach onto the field on Jan. 1 against West Virginia. It is a fitting tribute to the man who will retire as the No. 2 winner in Division I-A football history. The Gator Bowl ruffled some feathers in the ACC when it took Florida State at 6-6 and let teams with better records (ACC championship loser, Miami) fall down the bowl list. But this was a class act by Executive Director Rick Catlett and that organization.
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