Tag Archives: Florida

Overcoming Our Fear of College Baseball

Super Regionals are this weekend.  More of us should be tuning in than will be and I think that’s because we don’t know what we’re watching.  We don’t know what to be looking for.  Essentially, we don’t know how to enjoy college baseball.

Taking a look at our relationship with college basketball helps to illustrate my point.  Many people’s biggest beef with March Madness is that no one really knows who most of the teams are because we don’t watch the regular season.  Well, baseball has many more games and much less, almost no coverage on ESPN for you to stumble upon.

Generally speaking, we have zero idea what’s going on in the college baseball world until mid-June.  Then, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to care deeply about the eight teams that have made it to the College World Series?

Which is hosted in Omaha, Nebraska, by the way.  Not that it’s not a nice place.  I’ve never been there myself actually, but I have heard nice things.  It’s just not what you’d exactly call a vacation destination.  That fact, however driven by perception it may be, exists all the same and does the CWS no favors with potential casual fans.

How It Works

So what exactly are we watching?  How does this tournament work?  Here’s a look:

Regionals are the first round, which happened last week.  64 teams are broken into 16 groups of four.  Those groups play a double elimination tournament until one team is left standing in each region.

That brings us to where we are now, the super regionals.  16 teams remain.  They’re broken up into eight pairs and now it’s a best of three series, starting this Friday.  Win twice and you’ve made it to Omaha and the College World Series.

Once there, the eight teams play another double elimination tournament until two are left.  Those two then play a best of three championship series.

Who We’re Watching

Oregon State is the prohibitive favorite, carrying with it an astounding 52-4 record this season.  Vanderbilt is the unlucky team that will face the Beavers.  The Commodores beat #21 Clemson twice at its own field to win the regional last week.  OSU’s lefty Luke Heimlich has a chance at being selected in the first round of this summer’s MLB draft.

The only team hosting a super regional that did not host a regional is Texas A&M.  To earn that distinction, the Aggies triumphed over that Baptist School in Waco, Texas, Iowa, and the host, Houston.  College Station will host because Davidson took down the number two team in the nation, North Carolina, twice last week to get here.  If you’re looking for a Cinderella, you’ve find her.  It’s Davidson.

#9 Long Beach State and #20 Cal State Fullerton square off to determine which school will represent the state of California in Omaha.  Fullerton beat their host #8 Stanford twice to advance from regionals.  The team affectionately known as the Dirtbags holds a 5-1 record in two series against Fullerton this season.

Louisville hosts Kentucky in an even bigger rivalry matchup.  With #7 and #11 in the latest D1Baseball.com Top 25, this is the most intriguing series, on paper, heading into the weekend.  The Cards and the Cats split a pair of separate meetings during the regular season.  Louisville lefty Brendan McKay is the consensus #2 draft prospect.

Sam Houston State took the long route to the super regionals, having played five games in the previous round.  With their backs against the wall, the Bearkats won three straight games in two days, including two over host Texas Tech, to earn this spot.  Their reward is a shot at #16 Florida State, which rebounded from losing the first game in its regional last week.

#6 TCU really had no trouble sweeping through its regional.  The Horned Frogs will play host to the #22 Bears of Missouri State, who snuck by Arkansas, winning two of three one-run games between the two sides last weekend.  Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger has scouts excited about his future.

It’s an SEC affair with #17 Mississippi State traveling to #3 LSU.  The Tigers won their three games by a combined 18 runs, while the Bulldogs beat their in-state rival, #10 Southern Miss, twice on Monday to advance.  LSU’s Alex Lange is another top prospect to look out for.

If you pay attention to such things, you’ll notice that six of the 16 teams left are members of the SEC.  It must mean more down there or something.  That sixth SEC representative is Florida.  The #4 Gators welcome in #14 Wake Forest.  Florida’s 6’5” pitcher Alex Faedo has been getting a lot of mention as a potential top ten pick.

So, there’s a bit of info that will hopefully spark your interest and get you to check some of these games out.  The best part is there are games on all weekend long.  With start times of noon, three, six, and nine, you’ll have at least one game to watch basically all day long for three days straight.  Saturday is even better, with two games in each of those four time slots.  And if any of these series are tied after two games, we get even more games on Sunday and Monday.

Join me in flipping on the ESPNs this weekend as we get ready for the College World Series.  Doing so will help us all with our apparent fear of college baseball.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ranking the SEC Bowl Games of Importance

The satisfaction of reaching a bowl game varies among programs across the SEC and college football. Having the luxury to virtually prepare for next season with a postseason game to foreshadow is how some teams may approach the bowl season as in Auburn, LSU and Tennessee returning its starting quarterbacks for next season with a talented enough roster to make an impact. Other teams like Arkansas and Mississippi State look to provide a proper send off to two of the nation’s most efficient passers along with a couple of other all-conference performers.

The once dominant SEC, yes I used that in the past tense, has taken a step down this season with underperformance and the lack of big quarterback play. The conference usually hangs its hat on its successful bowl showing and looks to capitalize on some favorable matchups heading into the new year. Making the conference look good is one thing, but individually some teams need a good showing to help boost the program’s image or to continue to ride its success. Here is the breakdown of which games I view are most important to the programs and teams individually regarding the current status of the team.

#10. Tax Slayer Bowl: Georgia vs. Penn State

With the departure of Mark Richt and the absence of eventual head coach Kirby Smart, this game is really just something to enjoy on your New Year’s Day hangover. The Bulldogs still without all-conference runner Nick Chubb can reach the 10-win mark for the fourth time in five seasons. But yet, Bulldog fans wanted Richt out and the demands were met. Welcome to college football, folks!

Game Details: Jan. 2 at Noon EST on ESPN // Jacksonville, FL // EverBank Field

#9. Citrus Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan

Frankly, just getting to a mid-tier bowl in his first season as head coach, Jim McElwain has already had a successful inaugural season in Gainesville. With quarterback issues and an inconsistent offense, not much is expected from this Gator squad on New Year’s Day. Amazingly making it to the SEC Championship Game with 10 wins, the Gators have already reached its peak this season and getting to 11 wins is just a luxury. Having that opportunity alone tells you what a fine job McElwain has done this season or the lack of a strong East division or a little bit of both.

Game Details: Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. EST on ABC // Orlando, FL // Orlando Citrus Bowl

#8. Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State

A pseudo fumble play essentially eliminated them from going to Atlanta for its first ever SEC title game appearance and the Rebels will settle for second place in the SEC with a Sugar Bowl berth. The game is important to many in the game but from an outsiders’ perspective the game will just be entertaining to watch as we know the program is in good hands with or without a win here. One thing is for certain though: NFL scouts will be aplenty.Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 5.14.13 PM

Game Details: Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN // New Orleans, LA // Mercedes Benz Super Dome

#7. Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas State

Having won its past two bowl games versus the Big 12, the Razorbacks are prone to having hot finishes as of late. The key to ending this game with a win is to carry the victory over to next season. Arkansas dominated a declining Texas squad a season ago, but failed to keep the momentum into the 2015 season. The importance of this game is to win, but to also deliver a bright spot to the 2016 season without Brandon Allen.

Game Details: Jan. 2 at 3:20 p.m. EST on ESPN // Memphis, TN // Liberty Bowl

#6. Belk Bowl: Mississippi State vs. NC State

Mississippi State was picked to finish last in the always highly competitive West division in the preseason and managed to come away with eight wins. Finding a way to get to eight wins was huge for this program and compliments Dan Mullen’s ability to hang in there with some of the top teams in the division. With Mullen’s name being tossed around for some coaching jobs it’s unsure to note how comfortable Mullen is staying in Starkville for a longer period of time. I’m guessing a win here sure would help. Oh, and we’ll miss you Dak!

Game Details: Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m. EST on ESPN // Charlotte, NC // Bank of America Stadium

#5. Texas Bowl: LSU vs. Texas Tech

Pretty much having to “rehire” Les Miles as its head coach, LSU has the opportunity to get to nine wins in what has been a very interesting and lopsided season. With a win here, it gives LSU officials that doubted the direction of the program the chance to not say, “I told you so,” with a loss here motivating that comment. Regardless, LSU has the opportunity to capitalize on its impressive amount of bowl victories in its history currently at 23 wins.

Game Details: Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN // Houston, TX // NRG Stadium

#4. Outback Bowl: Tennessee vs. Northwestern

What more positive things can we say about this Tennessee program with Butch Jones? We’ve tried to embrace the new culture but the wins and intensity has yet to stick. Jones isn’t on his way out, but if an unattractive loss came to the Big Ten’s Vanderbilt, there will be some heavy heat on the program heading into 2016, but I don’t have to warn you about that happening.

Game Details: Jan. 1 at Noon EST on ESPN 2 // Tampa, FL // Raymond James Stadium

#3. Music City Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Louisville

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 5.29.28 PMThe offensive schemes in this matchup of Kevin Sumlin and Bobby Petrino are intriguing enough without whatever is going on in College Station at the moment. First off, the Aggies are going to have to find a quarterback to start the game and Sumlin will need to find a way to distract viewers and followers from the dark cloud looming over the campus. A win would of course help the rumors and exaggerations from spreading even further.

Game Details: Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN // Nashville, TN // Nissan Stadium

#2. Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis

The punishment of finishing with an underwhelming 6-6 record is a bus ride two hours up the road to take on the number one rated NFL draft quarterback Paxton Lynch (good luck with that). Gus Malzahn is 0-2 in bowl games at Auburn and both losses have come when failing to hold fourth quarter leads. Malzahn’s seat is getting warm and another bowl loss, even without much of a defensive staff, would be an extremely disappointing outcome and would create some murmurs throughout the fan base.

Game Details: Dec. 30 at Noon EST on ESPN // Birmingham, AL // Legion Field

#1. Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State

We knew Alabama would get here somehow to be the lone team to represent the SEC. The importance of this game falls on the shoulders of the SEC and the Alabama program itself. The SEC’s stance on this game is hoping to at least have Alabama win for a chance to win another national championship for the conference. As for Alabama, the loss to the later national champion Ohio State did not settle well in Tuscaloosa and if the Tide were going to drop another, I imagine there would be some uncomfortable feelings toward the football program.

Game Details: Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN // Dallas/Arlington, TX // AT&T Stadium

Ohio State Title Defense in Hands of Florida, USC

With Clemson, Alabama and Stanford just hours away from kicking off their respective championship games, Ohio State still has a glimmer of hope to be included as one of the four teams selected into the College Football Playoff. However, the Buckeyes will need a minimum of two of the three teams mentioned above to suffer startling defeats.

It’s pretty safe to say that Oklahoma has already assured themselves of a playoff berth, courtesy of blowout victory at Bedlam over rival Oklahoma State to claim the “Big 12 Championship.” The winner of Michigan State-Iowa in the Big Ten Championship will be rewarded with a trip to the playoff, which leaves two spots. The SEC Championship will be decided prior to the kickoffs of the PAC-12, ACC and Big Ten title games respectively, and should Alabama defeat Florida like we know they should, the Buckeyes can pretty much start packing for Glendale or Pasadena (not a bad consolation). Sure, USC and North Carolina have a remote chance to claim conference championships but the Clemson-North Carolina matchup could easily be considered a play-in-game, much like the Big Ten title game.

Ohio State will certainly be in business should Alabama begin the championship festivities with a loss. I still believe North Carolina, even being slated at No. 10 in the current CFB Playoff rankings, has the edge over the Buckeyes as a potential conference champion. That leaves USC-Stanford and those men of Troy must take down the Cardinal. A Stanford victory likely leapfrogs the two-loss Cardinal ahead of the Buckeyes. In other words, it’s Florida, USC or no title defense for the Buckeyes.

Should the necessary chaos give Ohio State a second-consecutive playoff appearance and a chance to repeat as national champions, fantastic. The Buckeyes are arguably the most talented team in the field and may have finally flipped the switch with a dominating performance over that team up north. However, a trip to Pasadena could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for this group of Buckeyes. I mean, it’s still the damn Rose Bowl. Now, will I be rooting like hell for Ohio State to find a way into that playoff? Of course. I just don’t feel a 42-13 pummeling of an over-achieving Michigan team means that the Buckeyes are all of a sudden back to the level we expected prior to the start of the season. With that said, the Bucks saved their best performance for the most important game of the season. The problem is, a week before, the Buckeyes lost the most important game of the season in an inexplicable fashion on their home field. Ohio State may be worthy of a playoff spot as one of the four best teams in America, but they certainly don’t deserve one.

A failure to repeat with the amount of returning starters from last year’s championship team would be considered a disappointing season by many, including myself. But after the Michigan State debacle, consecutive victories over Michigan and potentially in the Rose Bowl would be a nice conclusion to the season and outweigh a one-and-done in the playoff.

There simply is no shame in playing in a Rose or Fiesta Bowl following a loss this late in the season. Teams like Oklahoma and the Michigan State-Iowa victor may want to see chalk prevail on Saturday. Who wants to run into the big, bad defending champ this time of year? Regardless, whether Ohio State makes it into the playoff or not, it’s time to finish a once-disappointing season strong. Let the chaos begin.

College Football Needs Charlie Strong To Succeed At Texas

The Charlie Strong era at the University of Texas hasn’t gotten off to the start he had hoped for, but the rest of college football should be hoping that he rights the ship soon.

With many of the traditional football powerhouses down in recent years (I’m talking about you Florida, Michigan, USC and Texas), college football just hasn’t been the same. Is it just a coincidence that when those power programs have been down, there has really only been one single dominant conference?

There has been a little more parity in the sport over the past couple of seasons, but I’ll explain why Texas is the team that must get back on track soon.

Texas is the richest and most influential college program in the country. Fans either love them or hate them. There aren’t many people that don’t have an opinion on them. When Texas was good, you had Mack Brown at the helm and he was just as good at politicking as he was at coaching. He created an empire at Texas, which eventually led to the creation of the Longhorn Network. Since Texas lost the 2009 BCS National Championship to Alabama, Texas has been on a downward spiral.

Enter Charlie Strong. Strong made a statement when he was hired in 2014, by releasing multiple players from scholarships and suspending a handful of other players. He wasn’t shy about whom he cut, either. Many of them were starters the previous year.

His actions caused shockwaves throughout the program and through the national media. It was, and still is, clear that Strong will not sacrifice integrity in order to win. The trend continued through the season as we saw other players get released due to violations of team rules. Again, Strong was not afraid of distractions to his team. He was more focused on getting rid of the cancer rather than overlook it.

Texas finished the season 6-7 with an embarrassing bowl game loss to Arkansas. The Longhorns were sitting at 1-4 heading into the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma this season. They didn’t stand a chance.

When the players realized that their coach’s job was on the line, we saw how talented they really are. We saw players play out of respect for their coach, even though many of them lost their friends from the team when they got released. Texas dominated Oklahoma. This says a lot about a coach when there are typically a lot of shady things that go on in many programs.

Texas being in the national championship discussion is not only good for the state, but it’s good for college football as well. Charlie Strong is building his program with a foundation of ethics, which is rare nowadays. In fact, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell even met with Strong about his program last year to get a sense of his five core values that he bases his program on. Love or hate the Longhorns, you have to appreciate what Strong is doing as a college football fan.

Scandals can mar a program. Many coaches will overlook or brush off accusations, especially if they are against their star players. The Joe Paterno saga is a perfect example. Not Strong and not Texas.

If Strong is able to turn the Texas program around and contend for championships again, there needs to be an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary written about it. It is the ultimate story of a relatively unknown coach to the state, being the first African American head coach at the school, not being admired by some big-name donors and still able to make it happen.

On the field, Texas being back to prominence will likely make others rise to the top. We’ve seen Michigan and Florida start trending upward. Once it happens with Texas, we could see a lot more power programs start to rise.

Off the field, there probably wouldn’t be a better story of building a championship team with a bare cupboard. The trickle-down effect could go all the way to the high school ranks because of the respect that the coaches have for Strong.

If Texas cuts ties with Strong too soon, it will send a wrong message to the fans of the program and the sport in general. Strong is more concerned with building a team of character before he can win. Texas fans and boosters will get antsy if their team finishes with another losing record this season, but they have to give him time.

Once Texas starts winning again, so will the rest of college football.

Started From the…and Now We’re Here

Disappointing and surprise seasons come due to the rankings the teams are knighted with in the preseason. Fair or not fair that’s how college sports roll. The season is almost half over and many fans have already started the “next year’s team” talks. On the other hand, hopes and aspirations are still alive for some of the higher caliber programs along with some of the surprise teams that have suddenly came out of their shell; at least for now they have. Comparing the preseason expectations and how they have performed this season I break down each SEC team to see how they have stacked up against their preseason accolades or premature dismissals.

Alabama Crimson Tide (Preseason Rank: #3; Current Rank: #8)

The preseason buzz that surrounded the Tide this preseason focused on the quarterback competition and not only who was going to be awarded the job but if that quarterback can sustain the always high-caliber Crimson Tide. Though the team already has one loss on its playoff résumé, the Tide look to be in good hands from here on out finding consistent play at quarterback with both sides of the ball looking sharp in Athens last weekend.

 Arkansas Razorbacks (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Arkansas came into the 2015 season similar to last season’s billing as looking the part but not showing its improvement on its record. Opposed to last season, this season’s version has not looked improved dropping some key non-conference games to Toledo and Arkansas and not looking good in either showdown. Bret Bielema has been a big talk guy but when is it time to walk the walk instead of just talk the talk? Time is running out.

Auburn Tigers (Preseason Rank: #6; Current Rank: NR)

One of the biggest letdowns in college football this season is the Auburn Tiger football team. Jeremy Johnson was in line to be the next big thing but has slipped out of the spotlight to find himself on the bench. The season has almost started anew with new quarterback Sean White and many defensive adjustments as the Tigers look to renew their once hyped 2015 season.

Florida Gators (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: #11)

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Within the past ten years or so, first year head coaches have made immediate impacts at their respected school. With that said, the expectations for the Gators this season were not high as they were breaking in potentially a new starting quarterback with many personnel changes. Finding Florida ranked just outside the top ten is big for a program needing a spark and now are in the driver’s seat in a semi-weak eastern division.

Georgia Bulldogs (Preseason Rank: #9; Current Rank: #19)

It’s become a status quo for Georgia football starting the season as one the SEC and national favorites but find a way to slip up along the road in disappointing fashion. It’s not that Georgia was supposed to defeat Alabama – Georgia was favored to win – but losing by three touchdowns at home to a team that is still in the growing process on offense has left the Dogs in a weird but kind of expected season. The Mark Richt hot seat rumors have been ignited and it could be SEC championship or bust for the Bulldogs. What do you think?

Kentucky Wildcats (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Similar to Arkansas’ 2014 season outlook the record should not reflect the overall improvement from this Kentucky football team. Kentucky has improved mightily since Mark Stoops took over and each year we have seen the strides of getting better. Unfortunately the record has yet to be completely rejuvenated but with addition of new SEC talent the Wildcats are in good position for the future. The question is does the future begin next week or next year?

LSU Tigers (Preseason Rank: #14; Current Rank: #7)

Another SEC team that was flooded with quarterback questions before week one, LSU answered its problem without really addressing the issue directly not having to yet with a stud running back in Leonard Fournette. Doing exactly what is expected of them, the Tigers have grounded and pounded through the schedule so far and now jump into the heart of the SEC portion part of it.

Ole Miss Rebels (Preseason Rank: #17; Current Rank: #14)

Chad Kelly

The star-studded recruiting class became draft eligible week one and has hit on all cylinders for the most part. Going into Tuscaloosa and coming out with a win giving Hotty Toddy consecutive wins over the Tide set the tone for what could have been an unblemished season. Not coming away with a win from Gainesville is tough but having been completely shut down on offense is why I am currently cool on the Rebels.

Mississippi State Bulldogs (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Having a historical season a year ago it was hard to predict how the Bulldogs would fare this season based on returning only nine starters from last year. State has performed right on par in where they were expected to be riding Dak Prescott’s back with key plays from the secondary. Seemingly being out of the conference race State can play spoiler throughout the rest of the season still claiming to be a solid all-around team.

Missouri Tigers (Preseason Rank: #24; Current Rank: NR)

There was a point of good, bad, and ugly the first few weeks of the Tigers’ season and hopefully it’s back to good now. Oddly enough benching Maty Mauk, with the suspension, may have been the best thing to happen for the Tigers after struggling to score points on offense on many occasions yet still sneaking by. Though still an impressive 4-1 the season has not looked as peachy as expected, but the Tigers look to be headed into the right direction with Drew Lock taking snaps from center.

South Carolina Gamecocks (Preseason Rank: NR, Current Rank: NR)

Yuck. That pretty much sums up what has been a rough year for the Gamecock fan base. Not having consistent quarterback play, heck, any consistent play has put Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks in a really sticky situation heading forward with not much positives to throw out there right now.

Tennessee Volunteers (Preseason Rank: #24; Current Rank: NR)

After writing a column titled “Put Up or Shut Up” for Tennessee two weeks ago, I am disappointed and a little surprised in what Tennessee has put out in the past two weeks. Having the youthful roster still doesn’t suffice an excuse of underachieving some lofty preseason expectations. Tennessee has blown three games when being up by at least 13 points, which has unfortunately set the tone for the season. A big win over Georgia this weekend could really turn things around.

Texas A&M Aggies (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: #9)

Getty Images from Washington Post
Getty Images from Washington Post

Struggling on the defensive side of the ball since its inaugural year in the SEC, Texas A&M seems to finally have some identity on defense complementing its always high-scoring offense. Meshing these two together have given the Aggies a 5-0 record heading into Tuscaloosa next weekend off a bye.

Vanderbilt Commodores (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

It’s a luxury if the football program is relevant in Nashville in any given season and just the norm when the team fails to reach bowl eligibility. This season hasn’t been a luxury, but it also hasn’t been a letdown either. Though to the naked eye the 2-3 record looks bad but holding their own versus conference foes Georgia and Ole Miss showing improvement slowly but surely.

The Pipeline: Driskel seeks transfer

It has been reported by the Raleigh News Observer that Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel could be taking his talents (or lack there of) to Durham, to play at Duke University .

The redshirt junior will have a year of eligibility left to finish his football career. If he does choose to make the move up north he would be able to step in and play immediately.

More Gators>> Jim McElwain’s 5 keys to early success 

Driskel’s tenure in Gainesville has been filled with ups and downs. He came to Florida as a blue chip consensus #1 pocket passing qb. In 2012 he led the Gators to a 11-1 regular season record. That season he broke Tim Tebow’s single game rushing yards by a quarterback in a victory over Vanderbilt. His 2013 season was ended early by a broken leg, and 2014 was filled with turnovers and inconsistent play which led to him being benched in favor of true freshman Treon Harris.

Duke would be a perfect fit for Driskel. Head coach David Cutcliff has a great reputation for molding quarterbacks. The Blue Devils will be losing senior quarterback Anthony Boone. Sophomore Thomas Sirk and freshman Parker Boehme both have limited experience.

The Pipeline: Florida poised to hire Nussmeier as OC

The Florida Gators look to bulk up their offensive unit by hiring Michigan’s Doug Nussmeier as offensive coordinator.

Nussmeier, Held the same position at Michigan for one year and at Alabama the two years before. Head coach Jim McElwain will continue to fill out his coaching staff in the weeks to come. Earlier this month he hired Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State to run the defense.

Related>>The Pipeline: Florida tabs Collins as DC

Nussmeier’s greatest success came at Alabama. He lead the Tide’s offense to 2nd overall in 2012 and 12th in 2013. Coach McElwain and Nussmeier go back to coaching together on John L. Smith’s staff at Michigan State from 2003-2005.

Early analysis suggests that this is a very good hire. Florida fans in Gainesville want nothing more than to see the offense explode in the McElwain era.

The next big move to the staff McElwain needs to make is retaining defensive backs coach and stud recruiter Travaris Robinson.

SEC: Postseason Woes

The postseason can be filled with excitement, but also disappointment. Sure, a bowl game rewards the success of at least a subpar .500 college football team, but can also just be the entry way of a conversation starter of how your team underachieved based on the  tier bowl they are participating in, therefore lacking the trait of enthusiasm for fans and sometimes even the players and staff.

The letdown of a teams’ success or lack of is not always represented in a way if a pitfall, but more disappointing as what the projections were in the preseason. For example, Auburn, South Carolina, and Florida all were supposed to be at least in some kind of consideration for the SEC Championship Game, but bumps in the road took place and not the usual high-caliber SEC bowl games are now the threes destination.

Auburn’s season stands out of the group with solid wins and solid outings against some of the high profile teams in college football. The disappointing aspect of Auburn’s season was scoring 30 to 35-plus points and totaling for over 400 yards or so offense, but then failing to finish the game coming up short in losses to Texas A&M and Alabama. The defense was miserable for a fan and staff to watch, but with the shooing of Ellis Johnson and the arrival of Will Muschamp, Auburn could be in good hands and shouldn’t see those 35-plus point outings as wastes any longer.

After a terrible 4-8 season in 2013, Florida was in a deep hole offensively to open up the new 2014 season. Kurt Roper was in line to sport his offense with dynamic athletes on offense and a highly-touted senior at quarterback. The defense was never the glaring issue, but the offense was still the pits, which later called for Muschamp’s job. A trip to Birmingham, Alabama for their 2014 regular season “success” should tell you enough of how Florida’s season went, but the future should be in good hands with Jim McElwain as the head man.

A consistent record of 11-2 had this South Carolina fan base buzzing with high expectations, especially in an eastern division with no clear cut winner (I mean come on, Mizzou won it again). The high praises of new starting quarterback Dyaln Thompson stampeded preseason magazines and gave enough comfort to the Carolina fan base to look elsewhere to find concerns regarding their team’s success entering the 2014 season. Thompson never hit that elite or even top tier caliber of SEC quarterbacks and preseason All-SEC running back Mike Davis didn’t set the woods on fire out of the gates either. The defense continued to struggle finishing near the bottom in every defensive statistics.

I finished the other two teams’ write-ups with positive outcomes to look for in the future, but I’m timid to make any predictions on where this Carolina program is headed. No, Steve Spurrier will never have the status quo of having an average team year in and year out, but the stunning 33-6 record over a three year period is totally in the rear view mirror.

The offseason has its ups and downs supporting more disappointing scenarios than positives due to failing to reach loftily expectations. The SEC has a few, but the nation as a whole is filled with sad faces including Nebraska, USC, Louisville, and other programs that were poised for big years, but failed to reach such high expectations.

The Pipeline: Florida tabs Collins as DC

Jim McElwain shook things up this week, as reports have surfaced that Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will accept the same position at Florida.

ESPN’s Joe Schad has reported that the deal will be for three years.

Collins’ defense was terrific in Starkville.  The defense ranked 10th in the FBS, allowing just 19.4 points a game.

Many in Gainesville thought that McElwain would retain D.J Durkin as DC. It now looks all but certain that Durkin will leave the Swamp. He has been linked closely to Texas A&M.

More Gator>>Jim McElwain’s 5 Keys to early sucsess

Taxslayer Bowl A Perfect Fit for Tennessee Volunteers

The Tennessee Volunteers capped off their season by announcing they accepted a bid to play in the Taxslayer (Gator) Bowl on January 2, 2015. The bowl is played in the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium, Everbank Field. This will be the Vols first bowl game since 2010, and their first “January bowl” since the 2008 season. Many coaches and media members have used the term “January bowl” as a measuring stick for football programs. Games played on New Year’s Day and onward are seen by a wider audience than most December bowls. For this reason, among others, the Vols are right at home. If there’s one thing Tennessee Football enjoys, it’s being the center of national attention, and the Taxslayer bowl will do just that.

Tennessee fans were thrown around on social media Sunday, hearing multiple false reports on their bowl destination before the final word came down from Butch Jones announcing the Taxslayer bowl. Even the NCAA website had Tennessee playing West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. It could have been handled better, but that’s a topic for another day.

By no means am I saying teams in the Music City, Liberty, Belk Bowl, etc. are any better or worse than the Vols, but a January, Florida bowl is the best thing Tennessee could ask for. First off, the game is played in Jacksonville, Florida. A great city, full of activities for Vol fans, and most importantly, WARM WEATHER, will bring flocks of Vol fans to the game. Because the Vols haven’t been to a bowl game in a while, look for the stadium to be heavily Orange & White come January. In my opinion, a Nashville, Memphis, or Charlotte bowl destination didn’t sound too appealing. When I think of a good bowl game, I think of warmer weather. Something so small, like taking a trip outside your state, has a deep impact on a football team’s progression during the offseason. These seniors & players will get to actually travel to a bowl game, and make tons of memories out of it. The younger players will want to recreate these memories, which can only help a football team.

Butch Jones has preached all season about the importance of spreading the Tennessee brand of football. He noted that games similar to Oklahoma, especially on the road, are huge in grabbing a wider football audience. Nationally televised games have more fans, coaches, and recruits watching than others do, and Tennessee needs exactly that. The Taxslayer Bowl will give the Volunteers a national platform to launch its brand from. The Vols will get to show people who wouldn’t normally watch the Vols, what Tennessee Football is about. I cannot stress enough the importance of national television and media attention. It is invaluable. Recruits are the biggest reason we want to spread the Tennessee name. The more recruits talking about us, the more stars we can rack up. And we all know that you can’t win if you can’t recruit, especially in the SEC. Most recruits in Tennessee know who the Volunteers are, and playing in a bowl game where people already know you is all well and good, but it could be better. That’s exactly where the Taxslayer (Gator) Bowl comes into play. Getting the opportunity to play in front of people who don’t know you will ultimately further PR more than a game in your home state. Playing in Florida, a massive recruiting pipeline, will give recruits a chance to watch Tennessee play in person. Recruits that otherwise, might write Tennessee off because they don’t know enough about the Vols. Exposure, Exposure, and more Exposure. That’s what it boils down to. If the nation knows who you are, and where you’re going, they will come be a part of it.

Now that I have gawked over the destination the Vols are headed to in a few weeks, it’s the appropriate time to talk about the other team showing up in Jacksonville on January 2nd. The Iowa Hawkeyes. I see tons of similarities between these two programs, which will make for a great bowl game story. Both teams play tough football, are from storied conferences, and carry a loyal fan base with them. B1G football vs. SEC football. The SEC hasn’t played well against other Power 5 teams recently, but the Vols could help the SEC’s dominance if they win in January. The most intriguing part of the matchup is how even the teams are. Both have strong defenses, and sometimes-questionable offenses, but they play hard for all sixty minutes. This game will be a toss up, and most likely one of the better match-ups of this year’s bowl season.

In the end, the Taxslayer Bowl chose two great teams to participate in postseason play. Anytime the SEC plays another power 5 conference, it warrants attention, which Tennessee will feed off of. With the Vols playing in January, in the Gator bowl, against a tough Iowa team, they are ready to make a statement to the NCAA.