Following blowout loss to Georgia, Jim McElwain sounded like he knows he is finished at Florida

 

Jim McElwain is 3-4, which might not seem so bad except the last time the Gators were 3-4 was way back in 1986.

That’s how it works when you’re coaching the Gators, a team with three national titles and a fan base that has gotten used to beating up on Georgia.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, left, and Florida head coach Jim McElwain meet at midfield after a 42-7 Georgia victory at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Nothing has been officially announced or even publicly discussed, but it sure looks like Saturday’s 42-7 loss to the Bulldogs at EverBank Field was the last straw for McElwain as Gators coach.

It was Georgia’s largest margin of victory in this series since a 44-0 victory in 1982 and it would have been a shutout if not for a late touchdown drive led by Malik Zaire, the quarterback who transferred in from Notre Dame but had gone unused by McElwain until now.

Replace all of that competitive sorrow with SEC championships and McElwain easily survives the kind of mess he caused early last week by dropping the unsubstantiated inference that he and his family and his players had received death threats. It would have been viewed as a poor choice of words and forgotten.

When it’s going like it’s going for the Gators these days, nothing is forgotten, or forgiven, by boosters who expect so much more.

“When you look back, I’ve made mistakes in my life,” McElwain said. “Yet I’ll stand by everything that occurred. It is what it is. It won’t be the first to ever happen to anybody and I get that.

“We put a lot into this program. People have been great to my wife and I. We’ll see what happens. That’s the stuff that’s out of your control, and yet I’m proud of our team. I know we haven’t won and yet those guys are what it’s all about.

“Look, we haven’t been good on offense. I get it. We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t won enough, haven’t won a championship. That’s real. That’s life. That is this business, and I take full responsibility for all of it. There’s no doubt.””

McElwain’s offenses did not rank within the top 100 of major-college teams even when the Gators were winning the 2015 and 2016 SEC East titles. He has not developed redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks and on Saturday, even after a bye week, 14 penalties showed a lack of focus by Florida, including a series of illegal procedure and false start flags against the offense.

Asked if he still wants to be the coach at Florida after all that is reported to be happening behind the scenes, McElwain said “Yeah, you know, this is a dream job. It’s a great place. Great fans. Great support. The resources are there to win. Obviously I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to deliver in the time I’ve been here, but this is one of those places I’ve said from the start where you should have the opportunity.

“My concerns are not at all me. My concerns are these guys, this university. You know, it’s a great place and that really is my concern.”

And if McElwain remains as Florida’s coach for the rest of the season, beginning with next Saturday’s trip to Missouri, how do he and the team bounce back?

“That was a blowout, and something I’m not proud of,” said McElwain, “but how you rebound when something doesn’t go right is you certainly don’t run the other way. You come back to work and get ready to go play this game next week.”

McElwain also was asked about being photographed with a smile on his face as he walked with wife Karen off the field and into the tunnel. The questioner suggested it was not a good look for a coach who just got beat by 35 points.

“She told me to keep my chin up,” McElwain said. “That’s something my dad used to tell me. It doesn’t do you any good to hang your head. Just like I told our guys. I’ve never been about good looks, so I apologize for that, I guess.”

 

Seminoles and Gators could sure use those canceled games now

No biggie when it happened.

Canceling a list of September cupcake games in the approach of a hurricane that ended up tracking through our state from bottom to top? That was just common sense for the athletic directors at Florida State and Florida, and for all kinds of legitimate reasons.

Florida State’s head coach Jimbo Fisher, second from right, talks to his staff on the sideline in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Louisville, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. Louisville won 31-28. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Now, however, the Seminoles and Gators would love to have those games back, the better to inch toward the bowl-eligible requirement of six wins in a season.

FSU has a 35-year streak of bowl participation on the line, but with a 2-4 record Jimbo Fisher has little room for error. Things would feel so much safer if that early game with Louisiana-Monroe had been played and another victory was in the bank.

Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference is 3-4 and just last week gave up 670 yards of total offense in a loss to South Alabama.

The Gators, meanwhile, are 3-3 and headed to Jacksonville for a game with the unbeaten Georgia Bulldogs, No. 3 in the AP poll. The game Florida lost to Hurricane Irma was Northern Colorado, a Big Sky team bumping along right now at 2-4.

Can’t easily reschedule this stuff without common open dates on the schedule, and all the schools announced long ago that they wouldn’t bother trying.

Were other state schools involved in the spate of hurricane-related cancellations? Of course, but the Miami Hurricanes, a Top-10 team, doesn’t need any other wins to get where they want to go. Same goes for South Florida and Central Florida, both of them undefeated and bound for the bowls.

Matter of fact, UCF may have gotten a break because their canceled game was Georgia Tech, a real pain to play.

Would they still be unbeaten if that game was played as originally scheduled? Would a

Florida head coach Jim McElwain reacts as time runs out in an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Gainesville, Fla. Texas A&M won 19-17. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

victory over Georgia Tech have gotten the Knights a better ranking in the upcoming release of the first College Football Playoff committee rankings? These are questions without answers.

South Florida, meanwhile, was able to wrangle the schedule around to play Connecticut, a fellow member of the American Athletic Conference, in November rather than September. In the process the Bulls canceled a game with Massachusetts, a 1-6 independent, but no harm there.

Bottom line, the Florida-FSU game at the Swamp on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend may put one team in a bowl and knock the other one out.

Biggie.

And in case anybody is wondering, the last time both the Seminoles and Gators failed to qualify for a bowl was 1978, when Bobby Bowden was in his third FSU season and Doug Dickey was about to get the boot at Florida.

[Injured Jay Cutler once came back in Chicago despite replacement’s success]

[Hoping for churn at top of NBA and not another Cavs-Warriors rematch]

[Even UM’s greatest teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

Would LeBron ever consider coming off the bench like Dwyane Wade is now?

Two things came to mind with the news that Dwyane Wade has asked to come off the bench at Cleveland, thinking that may be a benefit to him and to the team.

First, would it have been possible for the most popular player in Miami Heat history to return to the franchise if he had come to that sort of career conclusion a little sooner? Yeah, probably, and that would have been fun for everybody.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Dwyane Wade, left, and LeBron James have a discussion during a game against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

Second, has LeBron James, the monstrous talent who drew Dwyane back to his side with the Cavs, ever forfeited his spot in the starting lineup to someone else?

I was surprised that the answer is yes, but just barely.

Going into Tuesday night’s game with Chicago, LeBron had suited up for 1,281 NBA games and started in 1,280 of them. That includes 217-for-217 in the postseason, from the age of 19.

The one exception, when LeBron stayed on the bench for the first 5:59 of a game in December, 2007, was sold as a favor for a Cleveland teammate.

Anderson Varejao was feuding with the Cavs over a new contract and sat out that season’s first 21 games as a restricted free agent. Eventually he signed an offer sheet with the Charlotte Bobcats, which the Cavs matched in order to keep him, but the idea that Varejao didn’t want to be in Cleveland raised the possibility of a negative reaction when he returned to the court at Quicken Loans Arena on Dec. 11.

That also happened to be LeBron’s first night back after missed five games with a sprained left index finger. Nobody knew quite what to make of him staying on the bench in his warmups as the game tipped off, but later, after a 118-105 victory over Indiana, LeBron explained.

“I thought it would raise the intensity of the fans, having me, Larry (Hughes) and Andy (Varejao) come in at the same time — and it worked,” James said. “I thought by coming in with Andy it might stop some of the boos Andy might get. Just protecting my teammates.”

LeBron told reporters that was the first time he had not started a game, going back to high school and earlier.

“That was one and done for me,” James said. “I will not be coming off the bench anymore.”

And he hasn’t, and he won’t. Unlike Wade, LeBron’s ego would not be able to process the concept, much less to propose it to a head coach.

He will always see himself as the best player in the building, or else he won’t enter the building at all.

[It once was the same thing in Chicago with fans favoring Cutler’s replacement]

[Hoping for a little churn at top of NBA and not another Cavs-Warriors Final]

[Even UM’s greatest teams learned how murderously tough it is to run the table]

 

 

Not the first time that fans have wanted Jay Cutler’s injury replacement to keep the job

This business with Jay Cutler getting injured and fans favoring his backup as a permanent solution is nothing new.

It happened at Chicago in 2013, when Cutler missed one start with a torn groin muscle and four more with a high ankle sprain. At no point did former Bears head coach Marc Trestman waver from the notion his starter would be back in the lineup as soon as he was physically able, even though Cutler’s replacement did quite well.

And who was that replacement? Believe it or not, Josh McCown, these days a starter with the New York Jets.

New York Jets outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins  grabs Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler  and slams him to the ground in third quarter of Oct. 22 game in Miami Gardens. Cutler was injured on the play. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Stories in the Chicago Tribune archives give the details, how McCown went 3-2 as an emergency starter that year and was coming off a great performance on the week that Trestman announced Cutler had been medically cleared to return to full practice and would rejoin the lineup immediately.

McCown completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns to beat Dallas in his final game before Cutler’s return. Matter of fact, that was enough to win McCown the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award.

Trestman explained his general philosophy on the matter like this.

“He (Cutler) is our starting quarterback. He’s our leader,” Trestman said. “It’s in the best interest of our football team, if he can move the team and not hurt himself or the team, we want him to be in there. And he wants to be in there.”

The Bears were 7-6 at the time and tied with Detroit for the NFC North lead. What followed was a near miss at making the playoffs, with Cutler and Chicago losing two of the last three games, including a 54-11 blowout at Philadelphia. Cutler was sacked five times in that one, but to be fair the Eagles dominated every facet of the game.

Use this as a template for what probably will happen with the Miami Dolphins a few weeks from now, providing Cutler is cleared to return from the cracked ribs he got in Sunday’s 31-28 win over the New York Jets.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase works well with Matt Moore, who sparked the comeback on Sunday, but he chose Cutler to run the team when Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season in August and he can be expected to choose Cutler again at the earliest opportunity.

That’s what Trestman did in 2013, rushing Cutler back into the lineup even though McCown had a higher passer rating to that point in the season, 109.8 to 88.4.

“We’re certainly very, very happy about the way Josh has performed,” said Trestman, “but this has been the plan and we’re going to execute it.”

There was one other time when Cutler came back from an extended injury absence in Chicago. He missed five games early in the 2016 with an injury to his right thumb but the Bears never got anything going with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as his replacements. Eventually the entire season went down the drain with Cutler missing the last six games due to surgery on his throwing shoulder.

“We did try to exhaust all the non-surgical remedies,” said Bears coach John Fox, who noted that Cutler finished up the game in which his shoulder was injured. “Jay is a tough guy and proved that to me in the   past.”

Gase’s respect for Cutler is also high, worthy of a one-year contract for $10 million with the Dolphins this year. Ready or not, you’ll see him again, and maybe with more emotion from Cutler than people have come to expect.

Cutler’s former Chicago teammates reported that the quarterback gave a pregame motivational speech on the night he returned from that five-game injury absence last season, and then he went out to lead a 20-10 win over Minnesota.

The guy still wants to be out there, all right. If he didn’t, Cutler would have stayed retired at 34 rather than taking Gase’s offer to return to the NFL.

[Hoping for a little churn at top of NBA and not Cavs-Warriors rematch]

[Offensive line, a real mess now, used to be source of stability for Shula]

[Even the greatest UM teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

 

Cutler and Gase are nearing their production level with 2015 Bears, but is that good enough?

If Jay Cutler and Adam Gase are finally back to the comfort level of their former collaboration in Chicago, that would be good for the Miami Dolphins.

The question is how good? That crazy comeback in win at Atlanta featured Cutler’s first Miami game with two touchdown passes. He kept everything short and safe and, in the second half at least, he kept the Dolphins offense humming.

Quarterback Jay Cutler walks out to the field for warm-ups prior to his final game working with Adam Gase in Chicago, a 24-20 loss to Detroit with three interceptions on January 3, 2016. (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images)

We can project the best of this solid effort onto the rest of the season, or maybe even something better, but to me it’s more realistic to look at what Cutler and Gase did together with the Bears. That’s always advertised as one of Cutler’s most efficient seasons, remember, and at the of 34 efficiency should be his highest goal.

First, if you’re looking for Cutler to run off a long string of victories, he never did that when Gase was his offensive coordinator and playcaller in Chicago. Their longest win streak was two in a row, which happened twice that season, and two in a row is where the Dolphins’ win streak is right now.

You have to go back to 2013 to find a longer win streak for Cutler. He won five in a row back then, spanning from the end of the 2012 season into the start of the next one. It didn’t last, though, as the Bears missed the playoffs at 8-8.

As for multiple-touchdown games, Cutler is just getting started at Miami with his first against Atlanta. He didn’t have any in 2016 but in 2015, working with Gase, it happened seven times. There’s some promise there.

The most explosive passing game Cutler and Gase had together in Chicago was a 37-13 win over the Rams. Playing indoors, at St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome, Cutler completed 19 of 24 passes for 258 yards with three touchdowns. Included in that were scoring plays of 87 and 83 yards. Altogether, it was a career-best quarterback rating of 151.0 for Cutler.

In 2017 with the Dolphins, he has climbed above a rating of 100 just once, in the opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers, and has an average rating of 85.3 through five games. That’s short of his career-best 92.3 rating for the 2015 season, achieved with Gase.

In short, we’re seeing something just a little shy of the rhythm that Cutler and Gase found in 2015 as a quarterback-playcaller tandem. Through the first five games of that season the Bears were 2-3 and Cutler had four interceptions to go with seven touchdown passes. In 2017 the Dolphins are 3-2, while Cutler has four interceptions and five touchdown passes.

If Cutler is going to vary a great deal from 2015, it figures he will be a little worse over time instead of better. He’s older now, and so far has been involved each week in low-scoring games with little margin for error.

Look again to 2015. The Bears had three wins and four losses in games decided by a field goal or less.

Boy, is that familiar. Miami has scored 71 points this year and has allowed 73. It wouldn’t be that good, either, without a defensive touchdown scored on a Reshad Jones fumble return against Tennessee.

All of this puts a ton of pressure on Cutler to take advantage of every opportunity. That’s what the Dolphins need to make the playoffs, but he’s going to need all the help he can get.

We’re pretty much seeing the 2015 Jay Cutler right now, and the 2015 Bears finished 6-10 with a couple of overtime losses.

[What will Miami get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee?]

[Spooky offensive room once was source of strength for Shula’s Miami teams]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]

 

Hoping for a little churn at the top of the NBA and not the seemingly inevitable Warriors-Cavs rematch

 

Surely in the minority here, but I’m glad Dwyane Wade is with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the simple reason that it makes the 2018 NBA Finals worth watching.

It’s going to be Golden State vs Cleveland again next June. You know that. Every other team in the league knows that, too, though they will try to convince themselves otherwise as the new season kicks off this week.

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant defends Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

Does this make the 82-game regular season that stretches before us a crashing bore? Of course not. There will be all kinds of drama. Sensational and courageous playmaking. Comebacks and upsets and teams, like the Miami Heat last year, playing absolutely out of their heads for significant stretches.

In the end, though, it we wind up with Warriors vs. Cavs again, for what would be the fourth year in a row, it will be abundantly clear why fans get so worked up about the free-agency signing period each summer. It’s the only time when competitive conditions across the league are subject to real change.

Come to think of it, even that has become a bit of a wash in recent years, with all kinds of great talent going all kinds of interesting places but the Warriors negating that collective energy by taking Kevin Durant for themselves.

Which new talent grouping interests you most? My choice is Oklahoma City, with Billy Donovan trying to find a formula that works for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Fascinating stuff, but again the Thunder aren’t expected to measure up to the Warriors in the Western Conference, so there they go again.

Trying not to be so cynical here, but a little churn at the top keeps the interest going stronger and longer for me.

Even with all the talk of Tom Brady and New England dominating the NFL, the last 10 Super Bowls have been won by eight teams. Two each by the Patriots and Giants, and the rest spread around among Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and Denver. That grows hope in more fan bases. It makes the regular season count for more than just playoff seeding.

As for baseball, here’s one that surprised me. There hasn’t been a World Series rematch since the Yankees beat the Dodgers in 1977 and again in 1978. And here we are looking at the Warriors and the Cavs for a possible fourth year in a row?

Thanks goodness it’s a league and an industry driven by stars because the teams alone seem to be fairly ordered.

As for the Boston Celtics winning eight NBA titles in a row from 1959-66 and a total of 11 in 13 years over the same stretch, we won’t go there, hopefully, ever again.

[What Miami will get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee?]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]

[Even greatest UM teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

 

 

Don’t know what Miami will get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee

 

College football is the world’s grandest carousel. You can laugh yourself silly riding on it, or throw up and wind up screaming to get off, or simply stumble away dizzy and a little unclear on what just happened. All on the same Saturday afternoon.

These random and ridiculous thoughts come to me as No. 8 Miami prepares to play Syracuse on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. There are a couple of ways Mark Richt could play this.

SYRACUSE, NY – OCTOBER 13: Ervin Philips of the Syracuse Orange celebrates their 27-24 upset win over Clemson Tigers after fans storm the field at the Carrier Dome on October 13, 2017. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

He might say “Syracuse just beat Clemson, the defending national champion, so that means the Orange are as good as anyone in America.”

He might say “Syracuse lost to Middle Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee lost to Florida Atlantic, and FAU hasn’t had a winning season since the guys on our team outgrew trick-or-treating, so that means the Orange must be as bad as anyone in America.”

You know he won’t use that second option, but he could.

Likewise, Lane Kiffin could point FAU toward Saturday’s game with North Texas and build off the Owls’ recent 58-28 rout of Old Dominion. Here’s how that fictional rallying cry might go.

“Men, I’m going to be mightily disappointed if we have to settle for 58 points this week. North Texas got beat 54-32 by SMU last month. Then SMU went out and gave up 56 points to TCU. Now you tell me why we shouldn’t score 80 this week, and why I shouldn’t be benching some starters if we fall short.”

No, that would be stupid, and it’s nothing short of rat poison for me even to suggest it.

You just can’t build logical chains with these results, or else you wind up with something like this.

LSU beat Auburn.

Troy beat LSU.

South Alabama beat Troy.

South Alabama’s only other win this year is against an FCS team, Alabama A&M.

Conclusion: South Alabama should schedule Auburn for homecoming next year. Of course, that would never happen, and, of course, that would end very badly for South Alabama.

One more thought on Miami vs. Syracuse before we go.

In 1998, when those two teams were members of the Big East, I covered a game at the Carrier Dome in which the Orange utterly destroyed the Hurricanes 66-13 to clinch the conference title. Couldn’t have been more shocking, or more dangerous for what Butch Davis was trying to build. So what happened next?

Miami upset UCLA, then No. 3 in the AP poll, the following week. Syracuse, meanwhile, got rolled 31-10 by Florida in the Orange Bowl game.

That’s the way the carousel spins. It’s why Richt can legitimately say of the 2017 Hurricanes, “We’re a very, very solid football team that’s fighting like mad just to win the close battles.”

Clearly, he’s been around, and around, and around.

[Offensive line was stable foundation for Shula teams, but it’s gone sour now]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]

[Even UM’s greatest teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

Offensive line room, the source of Dolphins’ strength during Shula years, needs fumigating

The Miami Dolphins’ offensive line meeting room used to be where you went to find the grownups.

Pro Football Hall of Famers like Larry Little and Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson. Sturdy veterans like Norm Evans and Bob Kuechenberg and Jon Giesler.

And running the operation was the late John Sandusky, who spent 26 years coaching for Don Shula in Baltimore and Miami.

Former Dolphins assistant John Sandusky. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Since Sandusky left the Dolphins in 1994, the team has had nine coaches in charge of the offensive line. One of them was cut loose in the Bullygate scandal of 2013 and another resigned in disgrace this week.

The whole lot of them have come and gone in Miami just like the head coaches, two of which, Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin, first built their reputations in the league as offensive line coaches and are coaching that position now.

The new guy, Dave DeGuglielmo, is really an old guy. He was Miami’s offensive line coach from 2009-11, losing seasons all.

It makes a difference who has that job.

For all the flash that Dan Marino showed, it was his blocking that made it possible. For nine straight years in the 1980’s, while Sandusky was coaching Miami’s offensive line, the Dolphins led the league in fewest sacks allowed.

For all the changes that came to the league during Shula’s time, spanning Miami’s Super Bowl years to the wide-open passing attacks of the later years, the offensive line was the foundation of every game plan.

Today, it seems that Adam Gase ought to bring in an exorcist to cleanse the offensive line room of whatever has gone wrong. Even with three first-round draft picks as starters, the unit can’t function. Leadership is a constant problem, too. Chris Foerster, the man caught in what I’ll call the Coachcaine scandal, is only the latest and most troublesome example.

Until this gets fixed, the Dolphins have no core strength. The offense will remain out of balance. The head coach will continue to fight for first downs when he’d rather be fighting for a division title.

Sandusky wasn’t fully appreciated around here. He was stable. He was reliable. Most of the time, he wasn’t noticed at all.

Everything the Miami offensive line needs to be, in other words, but for a long time now it has seemed like too much to ask.

[Even UM’s national title teams proved how tough it is to run the table]

[Mood swing for Adam Gase, who was part of NFL-record scoring at Denver]

[Is it possible that Derek Jeter has rarely even seen the Marlins play a game?]

 

Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights

Some college football programs are consistently strong. Others are consistently overmatched. Then there is Central Florida, where thunderous mood swings are king.

Four years ago the Knights finished 12-1 with a Fiesta Bowl win. That was good enough for a school-best No. 10 ranking in the final AP poll.

Two years ago UCF was 0-12 and lost those game by an average score of 38-14. That was bad enough to get George O’Leary fired, seven bowl appearances and all.

CINCINNATI, OH – OCTOBER 07: Tre’Quan Smith #4 of the UCF Knights celebrates with Wyatt Miller after a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the first half at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Now it’s 2017 and the Knights have flipped the switch again. They are 4-0 and ranked No. 22, which is higher than the Gators and Seminoles. UCF leads the nation with a scoring average of 47.5 points per game and is building momentum for showdowns with South Florida and Navy, the other two American Athletic Conference teams in the AP Top 25.

Among the reasons to watch the Knights is redshirt junior wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith from Village Academy in Delray Beach. He leads the team with seven touchdown catches, including three in last week’s 51-23 blowout of Cincinnati.

Now here’s where it gets tricky.

The coach behind this latest turnaround is Scott Frost, who played quarterback on an unbeaten team at Nebraska and later called the plays for Oregon as offensive coordinator. Either one of those programs could come calling for him to be their head coach some day, just like Oregon came to get Willie Taggart from South Florida, and that could abruptly turn the Knights’ train around once more.

Best, then, to root for Nebraska to upset Ohio State this week. The Cornhuskers are a disappointing 3-3 under Mike Riley, who is 18-14 there overall. These are the times that have Nebraska fans antsy.

And these are the conditions that keep UCF fans antsy, too. Perpetually so, whether the team is flying or crashing.

[Even UM’s national title teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

[Mood swing for Gase, who enjoyed NFL-record scoring extremes at Denver]

[Is it possible that Derek Jeter has rarely even seen the Marlins play a game?]

Look to greatest Hurricanes teams to see how murderously tough it is to run the table

 

Now that Florida State finally has been pushed out of the way, the temptation is to look at the rest of Miami’s schedule and imagine a clean sweep into the ACC championship game.

Of course, this is premature celebration.

Because Miami has only played four games.

Because just last Saturday a couple of top-10 teams, Oklahoma and Michigan, were upset at home.

Because, most of all, this is college football, where the safest bet always is on chaos.

PASADENA, Calif. – UM’s coach Larry Coker holds up the crystal football from the 2001 national championship game. Staff Photo by Scott Wiseman/The Palm Beach Post

Didn’t stop any of you from dreaming, or from concluding that Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech and Notre Dame and all the others on Miami’s remaining regular-season schedule are simply overmatched?

OK, just prepare for the fact that unbeaten seasons are never easily earned, by any program at any time, and here is some proof provided by three of the greatest teams in Hurricanes history.

1987 – Jimmy Johnson’s Hurricanes, an independent at the time, beat Florida and FSU in the season’s opening month and went on to finish 12-0 for the program’s third national championship.

There were a couple of scares, however, before the bowl game. Toledo, a 3-7-1 MAC team, made Miami struggle for a 24-14 home win, with a fumble return for a touchdown providing the needed breathing room.

Then, with an Orange Bowl bid already accepted by the Hurricanes, South Carolina flirted with an upset. Miami won 20-16 but the game was as grueling as they come, with a bench-clearing brawl that was caused when Hurricanes All-American Danny Stubbs kept charging through a whistle that stopped the play for a penalty and slammed South Carolina’s quarterback to the ground.

1991 – This time Dennis Erickson was the coach of a 12-0 national championship team at Miami, with a 17-16 November win over top-ranked FSU as the highlight.

What remained after that were a couple of games against Boston College and San Diego State, the kind that can be overlooked. BC pushed hard on its home field, pulling within 19-14 and threatening to win with a drive that reached Miami’s 26-yard line in the final minute. A sack by Kevin Patrick ended that scare.

2001 – Larry Coker’s debut season as Miami’s head coach was another 12-0 national championship season.

The pattern of furious finishes held again for the Hurricanes, who were still competing in the old Big East. Conference rival Virginia Tech nearly ruined the season in early December before losing 26-24 to Miami at Blacksburg. And don’t forget the Hurricanes’ remarkable 18-7 win at Boston College in November.

The Eagles intercepted Ken Dorsey four times and were driving toward a potential winning touchdown when a miraculous break went Miami’s way. With less than 20 seconds to play, a pass bounced off the knee of Hurricanes cornerback Ed Rumph and into the hands of defensive tackle Matt Walter. That could have sealed the game right there, but Ed Reed grabbed the ball from his teammate’s hands and ran for a touchdown.

Will Mark Richt’s Hurricanes similarly keep piling up the wins now, one way or the other? Can’t say they won’t. That FSU win provides all sorts of momentum and confidence.

What’s tougher now is the existence of a conference championship game that those earlier Miami teams didn’t have. That means defending national champion Clemson could be in the way of a College Football Playoff spot, and that’s not good.

My advice is to enjoy each Saturday for what it is worth. Each experience is heavy enough without stacking them all together in your mind and trying to lift an entire season out of the way at once.

Richt needs no reminders of how difficult it is to win them all. His 2002 Georgia Bulldogs were 8-0 and all the way up to No. 5 in the AP poll before a loss to Ron Zook’s unranked Gators. It was the only dent in a 13-1 season.

[Mood swing for Adam Gase, who enjoyed NFL-record scoring surge at Denver]

[Is it possible Derek Jeter has rarely even seen the Marlins play a game?]

[Dolphins needed Lawrence Timmons more than they needed to punish him]