Saturday night’s matchup at the Swamp between FSU mainstay Jimbo Fisher and Florida newcomer Jim McElwain should be the first of many years of great showdowns between the two.
We’re not asking for anything like the 12-year duel between Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier, but something close.
The only way that wouldn’t happen is if one or the other decides there is a bigger, better job elsewhere. I don’t see that happening, and that opinion isn’t budged by reports that LSU seems ready to cut Les Miles loose and start throwing money at Jimbo.
What LSU wants is what the Seminoles will fight to keep. Not a hot young coach with a sporty record for a season or two but a high-energy champion who learned the business inside and out long before he became a head coach at FSU in 2010.
Fisher, 50, was a quarterbacks coach at one SEC school (Auburn) for six years and an offensive coordinator at another (LSU) for seven more. Next came six years calling plays for Bobby Bowden at FSU. That’s how you set yourself up for a string of major bowl appearances and top recruiting classes and national title shots.
That’s how you put yourself on the top of any coach search committee’s list, and I mean any school’s list.
What should keep Jimbo at FSU is the same thing that made Bobby stay rather than going to Alabama or somewhere else. The ACC is a sure path to national championship contention, year after year. The SEC, with its annual demolition derby of huge-budget teams, is not. Neither is any team in the Big 12, where the lack of a conference title game makes it possible to be passed over in the final College Football Playoff rush, or even a plum destination like USC, where Oregon and Stanford and UCLA make a rough neighborhood.
Anything could change of course, but wouldn’t it be disappointing if we didn’t get Jimbo vs. McElwain for many Thanksgiving weekends to come?
McElwain, 53, has that long-term look in Gainesville. He’s just getting started as a head coach, having put in
three previous seasons at Colorado State, and no coach could realistically hope to make a place like Florida only his second stop.
Even Urban Meyer, a real job-jumper, stayed at Florida for six seasons.
McElwain looks like the complete package, too, and why not? His long preparation for this job included one year in the NFL as a quarterbacks coach, one year as an offensive coordinator at innovative Fresno State and four more calling plays for perfectionist Nick Saban at Alabama.
Take at a look at their debut seasons at FSU and Florida and see if it’s not an authentic and fascinating match.
Jimbo started at Tallahassee in 2010 with a 10-4 record and a loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC title game.
McElwain, 10-1 so far, will either match that record in his first Florida season or do a little bit better. The Gators could lose to FSU, lose to Alabama in the SEC championship game and lose a bowl game and the worst it gets is 10-4, good buddy.
We’re not talking about Ron Zook or Will Muschamp, in other words.
There’s a chance now for a long run between two top coaches in the Florida-FSU series, and you can’t do much better than that in a rivalry.
As long as Jimbo wants it that way, of course, and I’m guessing he does. The man is 10-1 against Florida and Miami. He’s kind of got things the way he likes them in this state.