Dan Mullen predicts a national title for Gators but doesn’t say when

Dan Mullen made a very public promise the other day. The Florida Gators are going to win a national championship in football with him as head coach, just like the two they won when he was Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator in 2006 and 2008.

At halftime of Florida’s Saturday afternoon basketball win over Baylor, Mullen took the microphone to brag about the school’s standards for excellence, highlighted by the reigning

FILE – In this Nov. 27, 2017, file photo, Dan Mullen, the new head football coach at the University of Florida, is introduced during a news conference in Gainesville, Fla.(Alan Youngblood/Star-Banner via AP, File)

national championship baseball team, and then, with voice rising and arms flailing, he added “On the football field, that standard is not just SEC but national championships. That’s what we promise we’re going to bring back to you here in the Swamp in Gainesville and put the Gators back on top as the most dominating team in the United States of America.”

Now it’s recruiting season and all, a time when the sales pitch never stops and the salesmen sometimes get carried away, but there’s really no reason for Mullen to hold back.

The Florida fan base was spoiled long ago by the bold promises Steve Spurrier made, and the success he had in keeping so many of them.

At his introductory press conference on Dec. 31, 1989, Spurrier said there was no reason that Florida shouldn’t take control of the Georgia series, which had been pretty much of a disaster in the previous two decades. That came true, and so did the previously unimaginable reality of Florida winning its first SEC title, and then stringing a bunch of them together.

Just prior to his first game as Gators coach, Spurrier wrote a letter to be published in the student newspaper, saying “We trail FSU and Miami heading in the 1990’s. We have the resources to catch and pass them and that is our target.” That also happened when the Gators won the 1996 national title.

At SEC media days, Florida was predicted by sportswriters to finish seventh in the league in 1990. In addition, there were no offensive players from Florida selected to the preseason All-SEC team. Spurrier guaranteed that would change by season’s end, and it did, with Shane Matthews as the highlight. Fifth on Florida’s quarterback depth chart in the summer, Matthews earned SEC Player of the Year honors that year and the next as the operator of Spurrier’s outlandish Fun ‘N Gun offense.

Of course, Spurrier said a lot of other things during his 12 seasons at Florida and infuriated a lot of people in the process. These are just a few memories of what he did and how he acted before coaching his first Gator game.

That’s where we find Mullen now. He doesn’t have his quarterback problem solved right off the bat any more than Spurrier did when he took this job. He doesn’t have a lot of momentum from the previous season, either, with the Gators coming off a 4-7 faceplant. Might as well say what people want to hear, though.

In short, like always, Florida has the resources to catch and pass everybody, and if Mullen doesn’t do it or at least come close, he won’t make it to end of that six-year contract.

It’s the same rock that Willie Taggart is pushing up the hill at FSU, and Jimbo Fisher is pushing at Texas A&M, and the one that Mark Richt continues to push at Miami. Oh, and let’s not forget Josh Heupel at UCF. That sounds like a sin of omission to many these days.

More power to any coach with the courage and the credibility to try.

And one day, when Nick Saban retires at Alabama, it will be a lot easier for all of them to reach that ultimate standard.

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Cooperstown when Marlins traded him?]

[Only accomplishment remaining for LeBron James is player-coach]

[Eagles coach Pederson once saved Shula’s bacon as Dolphins’ QB]




Bobby made FSU seem like a dream destination and Jimbo? Not so much

Of all the major college programs to find their football coaching position turned into a revolving door, Florida State is the last one you would expect.

The Seminoles finally reeled in Willie Taggart on Tuesday, completing their first full-scale coach search since Bobby Bowden came aboard in January of 1976. I know that sounds like a long time ago but you really want to know how long?

Bobby’s first FSU salary was $37,500 a year.

Former Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden celebrates after defeating Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl’s 1993 national championship game. (AP Photo/Doug Mills, File)

Jimbo Fisher, of course, was designated as the head-coach-in-waiting while serving on Bobby’s staff, making for an automatic transition in 2010 without a messy search. Now he’s gone to Texas A&M, calling the decision “a no-brainer.”

No wonder Bobby is so adored in Tallahassee, with a stained-glass image at the stadium and a statue out front. He built a lasting connection to FSU, one that couldn’t be severed despite many tempting offers to coach elsewhere.

In 1990 Alabama made an offer to Bowden but, after a few days of chewing on it, he declined.

“By that time, I felt like FSU was my school,” Bowden said in his book “Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football.”

“No matter what I could have done as Alabama’s coach, it still would have been Coach (Bear) Bryant’s program. I could never have topped his accomplishment there.”

There’s a strong element of loyalty in there, but a bit of anxiety and humility, too. Other coaches positively burn with ambition, believing themselves capable of accomplishing anything, anywhere. Nick Saban, for instance, wasn’t afraid to take on the Bear’s legacy at Alabama. Jimbo didn’t shy away from following Bobby at FSU, either.

In his book Bobby also says he passed on offers from LSU and Auburn and the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons through the years. He formally interviewed at Alabama in 1987, too, and was disappointed not to get an offer that time. Probably would have gone if he did.

There is no good way and no good time for a coach to leave one school for another, at least in the eyes of his former employer. Now Taggart is getting ripped at Oregon, where he coached for one season after upgrading from South Florida. If he ever left FSU for another job, we’d have a true gypsy, a modern-day Lou Saban, on our hands.

I’m thinking in all of this there will be a new wave of nostalgia for good ol’ Bobby.

Nobody cares now about the reasons that he stayed at FSU for 34 years, or about the close calls that almost took him away.

All that matters is that he stayed, and he never made it seem like some kind of sacrifice on his part.

In today’s climate, that is at once wonderful and weird.

[History says Dolphins can’t make playoffs from 5-7)

[Sean McVay overtakes Adam Gase as NFL’s Next Big Thing]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano]


Here are the trap games that should worry Seminoles, Gators and Hurricanes, but unfortunately won’t

With Florida State opening against Alabama, Florida opening against Michigan and the ACC media picking Miami to finally win the Coastal Division, it’s chest-thumping time in the Sunshine State.

Here is the only summertime reminder you are likely to get that the season is long and the stumbling blocks are many.

Mark Richt gestures during Miami s Oct. 29, 2016 game at Notre Dame. (Getty Images)

Yes, we are talking about the trap games on everybody’s schedule. The potential for a little humiliation to go with all that hubris. The loss nobody saw coming, except maybe for the head coach, who worries too much anyway.

Here are my choices for that watch-your-step moment with each program. See if you agree.

Florida State – The Seminoles have a seven-game win streak against Boston College and they crushed the Eagles 45-7 last year so no problem, right?

Well, actually there are a few reasons to sweat this Oct. 27 test.

First, Boston College immediately follows Louisville on FSU’s schedule. It was Louisville that crushed FSU 63-20 last season at a time when the Seminoles were No. 2 in the polls, so the rematch is kind of a big deal.

Second, the BC game is on a Friday night, which is as flukey as it gets, and on the road, where there never, ever is a cruise-control setting.

Third, the Seminoles’ last trip to Alumni Stadium was a bruising, 14-0 FSU victory on a Friday night in 2015, and the score was a much scarier 7-0 until a fourth-quarter fumble return for a touchdown.

FSU should beat Boston College every time but there are no absolutes in college football, except maybe that Jimbo Fisher will always have a good quarterback.

Florida – The Gators have won 30 in a row over Kentucky, and that’s the longest active streak in major college football. Problem is, some of those recent wins have been real squeakers.

Like 14-9 in Jim McElwain’s first trip to Lexington in 2015. Like a wild, triple-overtime escape for the Gators at the Swamp in 2014.

Florida should beat Kentucky on Sept. 23 at what they’re calling Kroger Field up there now, but there are no absolutes in college football, except maybe that until and unless the Gators develop a quarterback, they could lose a game anywhere to anybody.

Miami – I’m looking at Toledo on Sept. 23 at Hard Rock Stadium for the simple reason that no one else is.

Everybody’s staring straight at FSU the previous Saturday and maybe investing a little early-season anxiety in that Sept. 9 trip to Arkansas State, with its cute 30,000-seat stadium and the utterly insane opportunity for a Sun Belt team to build an instant reputation by testing or upsetting Miami.

Well, let it be known that Toledo beat Arkansas State 31-10 last season in that same little stadium. And that Toledo played great in a game at BYU last year before losing 55-53 on a field goal as time expired. And that the Rockets’ Logan Woodside led the nation in touchdown passes last year, including five in that BYU game. And that Nick Saban once was the head coach at Toledo, which surely counts for something.

Miami should beat Toledo every time, but there are no absolutes in college football, except maybe that teams with FSU and Notre Dame on their schedule are going to have a milder reaction to a MAC matchup.

That’s all for now, but I’m reserving the right to freak out over more potential trap games as the season rolls along.

[Jeffrey Loria says there is no deal on Marlins sale so stop talking about it]

[Astros and Nats might bring World Series buzz back to WPB next spring]

[A dream travel itinerary to see Sunshine State’s top college football games]



Malik Zaire is what the Gators want, but what they need is for Feleipe Franks to win the starting QB job

Barring a last-minute snag with the university’s academic guidelines, Malik Zaire will begin taking practice snaps with Florida this summer.

He’s got one season of eligibility left as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, which means that Jim McElwain has about six months to ride this train before the Gators resume their mysterious game of “Pick a quarterback, any quarterback.”

In this Sept. 5, 2015, file photo, former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire looks to a pass against Texas, in South Bend, Ind. The Southeastern Conference tweaked its graduate transfer policy Friday, June 2, 2017, making changes that would allow former Notre Dame quarterback Zaire to land at Florida. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this picture, of course, unless you are Feleipe Franks, the top 2016 recruit who has yet to play a game at Florida.

The Gators, who have been stuck in the primordial ooze offensively, gain a dual-threat passer who was the MVP of a bowl win over LSU in 2014. Zaire earned that Music City Bowl start by taking the job from Everett Golson, another eventual grad-student transfer from Notre Dame who chose Florida State among many options for his final year of eligibility and immediately earned Jimbo Fisher’s trust as the Seminoles’ starter in 2015.

McElwain clearly is in win-now mode this year, just like every year. He’ll go with Zaire if he appears to be better than Franks or Luke Del Rio, who was barely adequate as a starter last year and is coming off surgery on his throwing shoulder.

To imagine, however, that Zaire will transform the Gators from two-time SEC East champions to national title contenders is fairly silly. That kind of transformation takes time, and time is what you don’t get with graduate transfers.

Far better, whenever possible, to develop a quarterback within the system with two or three years of good production in sight, the way McElwain did with Garrett Grayson in his first head coaching stop at Colorado State.

On top of that, Florida is just three months removed from the 2017 season opener against Michigan. If Zaire is the starter, McElwain will be banking on immediate spotlight production from a quarterback who couldn’t win the starting job on Notre Dame’s 4-8 team last year and because of injuries, academics and spotty play threw just six touchdown passes in three seasons with the Irish.

If that really does turn out to be the best option, then Franks isn’t much of an option at all, whether it’s this year or any other. There is more than quarterback depth in question here. The position is all about dynamics, too, and a plan for showing future recruits that they won’t be drawn in just to be pushed to the back of the treadmill.

Here is what Bobby Bowden said when Jimbo was working on bringing Golson to FSU, and remember that Golson got Notre Dame all the way to the BCS national championship game earlier in his career.

“If you’re bringing him in, you’re showing no confidence in your other quarterbacks,” said Bobby, who in fairness often toggled back and forth between a couple of passers during his great FSU coaching career.

It’s a tough call, and not one that McElwain has to make right away, but there isn’t much room for rumination. Michigan is coming off a 10-win season that included a double-overtime loss to Ohio State, one of last year’s College Football Playoff teams.

Golson’s season-opening start at FSU came against Texas State of the Sun Belt Conference.

[Will Trubisky, another lightly-used college QB, match Tannehill’s numbers?]

[A Marlins sale prior to All-Star Game seems too neat and tidy to be true]

[A clearer picture of the challenge Brad Kaaya faces at Detroit]

The best scenario here is for Zaire to push Franks hard, eliciting greater focus and stronger leadership from the kid, but for Franks to win the starting job outright and keep it.

Nobody owes anybody anything in a case like this, but it sure would be nice to see McElwain partner up with a quarterback for a serious stretch and see how far they can go together. It’s the only area where the coach has failed to make consistent progress at Florida, and it’s the missing link for any SEC boss who wants to challenge Alabama for the league championship.



FSU keeping Jimbo is the program’s most important news since hiring Jimbo


LSU really messed up by not getting Jimbo Fisher when he was available as he ever will be.

This was the year to strike, with no College Football Playoff possibility for Florida State and no reason for Jimbo to delay a decision until January.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and running back Dalvin Cook celebrate the team's 31-13 win over Florida in an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and running back Dalvin Cook celebrate the team’s 31-13 win over Florida at Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

This time next year the Seminoles could be right back in the national championship chase. LSU, meanwhile, will probably be licking its wounds after getting aced out again by Alabama in the SEC West.

Ed Orgeron isn’t the guy you need to catch and pass Nick Saban. If he coaxes Lane Kiffin from Alabama to run the Tigers’ offense, it would be closer to reality, but why wouldn’t Kiffin hold out for a head coaching job or stick with the No. 1 team?

Orgeron was 3-21 against SEC teams in a previous head coaching opportunity at Ole Miss from 2005-07, and Saban didn’t even have Alabama up and running until 2008.

Jimbo, on the other hand, is an elite coach. He’s one of four active coaches with a national championship, joining Saban, Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops.

He’s a recruiter persuasive enough to get Alabama native Jameis Winston to Tallahassee instead of Tuscaloosa.

Also, he’s close enough to his players to find and push all their buttons, including the ones that make them go out and pound Florida on a week when their head coach is being rumored as the top candidate at another school.

If you want all of that, you’ve got to pay for it, in the same way that Alabama broke the bank for Saban.

Instead, Jimbo is out on the recruiting trail, avoiding the kind of big rebuild that new Texas coach Tom Herman is facing. Everything is in place for many more great seasons with the Seminoles. Jimbo has seen and will see to that.

[Ravens have a sophisticated offense weapon that Adam Gase lacks]

[Tebow’s Arizona Fall League season is over but look for him at spring training]

[One recent Dolphins head coach made quite an impression on Gase]

This is such massive news for FSU, but there may actually be people who don’t fully appreciate it. The monotony of beating both Florida and Miami the last four years makes it seem as if such dominance is automatic. It is not.

The jackpot of getting superstars like Dalvin Cook to play for FSU instead of Florida or Miami is impossible to quantify.

The disappointment of not playing for a national title every season? Beyond being a little silly, that’s missing the larger point.

If Jimbo’s not your head coach, who would be better to lead the Seminoles?

The name of Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt keeps coming up as a possible replacement one day. He called the defensive plays for Jimbo during FSU’s national championship season of 2013, but Pruitt has never been a head coach.

Kirby Smart, another highly-regarded Alabama defensive coordinator, was in a similar position when he got the Georgia head coaching job. Favored to win the SEC East in the preseason, he is working on a 7-5 debut with home losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech and a dud of a performance against Florida in Jacksonville.

A guy like Pruitt probably does better than that with the talent Jimbo has put together at FSU, but wouldn’t you just rather have Jimbo?

Other names tossed around as possible FSU coaches during the period of LSU’s flirtation with Jimbo include North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (coming off losses to 4-8 Duke and 6-6 North Carolina State in the last three weeks), Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy (if he finishes in Top Ten, that will make twice in 12 seasons at Stillwater), Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre (turning Buffs around but his only postseason experience as head coach is a Military Bowl victory over Bowling Green) and Chip Kelly (brilliant run at Oregon but he’s on an NFL kick now and seems to have lost his momentum).

I even saw Les Miles’ name come up as a person for FSU to call in a pinch. That would be taking the guy LSU fired to replace the guy LSU hired. That would be taking a guy who misses so many details and loses games over penalties and a general lack of discipline.

Remember that game a few weeks ago where LSU lost to Florida despite being a two-touchdown favorite at home? Orgeron said his running back ran the wrong way on the goal-line stop that won the game for the Gators, leaping over the middle instead of looking for a short toss around the end. That’s the kind of game Miles sometimes lost, and the kind of game that always had Tiger fans calling for his head.

Bottom line, Jimbo’s decision to stay at FSU is far bigger news than Herman going to Texas or any other coaching switch.

We’ll see that when FSU plays Alabama or Ohio State or Michigan or Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff sometime in the next few years. Those are the teams with heavyweight coaches and monster programs all tied up tight and looking for more.

Those are the only situations, apparently, that would ever convince Jimbo to leave and try his hand somewhere else. LSU either didn’t make the cut or wouldn’t pay the price.

In the end, it comes out to be the same thing.





Gators are close to turning the tide in the FSU rivalry

Jim McElwain did the best that he could last year cooking up a rallying cry after Florida’s utterly flat 27-2 loss to Florida State.

“Give them credit,” McElwain said. “They won the game. I guarantee you we’ll show up there next year.”

Yeah, well, that’s how the schedule works pretty much on its own.

SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 19: Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles breaks a tackle to run in his final touchdown of the day against the Syracuse Orange during the third quarter on November 19, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Florida State defeats Syracuse 45-14. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY – NOVEMBER 19: Dalvin Cook of the Florida State Seminoles breaks a tackle to run in his final touchdown of the day against the Syracuse Orange on November 19, 2016. FSU defeated Syracuse 45-14. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Can’t blame the Florida coach for being a little flustered, though. The Gators entered the game at No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings but needed a safety just to avoid being shut out in the Swamp for the first time since 1988.

The offense was kaput, all right, with Treon Harris at quarterback. That left Florida’s powerful defense in a terrible position, fighting and fighting through three quarters on the wrong side of a 13-2 score and finally fizzling in the fourth quarter.

That’s when Dalvin Cook got 150 of his 183 rushing yards and both of his touchdown runs. Until then both teams had been fairly stagnant. Nine punts by the Gators. Seven punts by the Seminoles. Truth be told, seven of FSU’s 15 first downs came in the final 8:00, when the game already was on ice.

OK, so it hardly was a classic but the Seminoles pushed their winning streak in the rivalry to three games overall and they won at Gainesville for the third consecutive time, too. ”Our players know how hard it is to do that,” said Jimbo Fisher.

Has anything happened to help switch the momentum for Saturday’s prime-time renewal of the rivalry at Doak Campbell Stadium? Sure, plenty.

[Here’s one former Dolphins head coach who really impressed Adam Gase]

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

[Might be last chance to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

The Gators are coming off a huge victory, for openers. Last week’s goal-line stand to beat LSU also put Florida back in the SEC Championship game. In 2015 the game before FSU was a scary Gator escape from FAU. In overtime.

Also, the Gators have a legitimate field-goal kicker now in Eddy Pineiro, who was 3-for-3 against LSU. Last year Austin Hardin couldn’t be trusted to make an extra point. Against FSU, he missed from 51 yards on the final play of the half and had a 37-yard try blocked when it started out low.

Finally, the Florida defense kept Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice from killing them on the ground last week and came up with the biggest plays of the game when it mattered most in the closing minute.

Injuries were no excuse. Fatigue was no excuse. Spotty support from the Florida offense was no excuse, either.

Of course, Cook is the problem now, and he’s coming off a 225-yard, four-touchdown performance against Syracuse. His ability to run stronger and hurt teams more as the game goes along is his biggest threat.

If Florida can get a handle on that, avoiding big breakout plays by FSU’s new career rushing leader, these two teams just aren’t that far apart.

Call it 19-16 FSU, and call me a coward for not predicting an upset.

If this really does turn out to be the last game in Tallahassee for Jimbo, LSU’s top target, and Dalvin, a potential NFL draft gem, they’ll both bust a gut to keep it from being a loss to the Gators.








More reasons than usual this week for FSU fans to root for a Gator blowout loss

Strange times for Florida State fans.

LSU is in contact with Jimbo Fisher’s representatives again, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, and the school may finally be in the same kind of stubborn mood about hiring Jimbo that Alabama was about hiring Nick Saban.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher shouts instructions during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 29,2016. Clemson defeated Florida State 37-34. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher shouts instructions during the second half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 29,2016. Clemson defeated Florida State 37-34. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

So chew on this for a minute. The only thing that can stop the momentum on the Jimbo hunt, or even slow it, is for Ed Orgeron to blow Florida right off the map this Saturday. That would build support for LSU’s popular interim coach, whose only slip in five games as Les Miles’ replacement is a 10-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama.

Flip the coin and imagine a Gator upset at LSU, overcoming a ton of injuries in the process and winning a game at Tiger Stadium that originally was scheduled for the Swamp.

That would pull the magic carpet from under Orgeron and convince everyone from Bogalusa to Natchitoches that Jimbo is the only man capable of getting the Tigers back in the national title conversation.

Bottom line, for the long-term stability and sanity of the FSU program, the most vital Florida loss in the next two weeks is at LSU, not Tallahassee.

The Seminoles aren’t going to make the College Football Playoff field this year. Their bowl assignment is going to be pretty good but not monumental regardless of what happens in the Florida game on Nov. 26. If they can keep Jimbo, however, FSU could get right back on track for greatness next year and for seasons to come.

The magnetism between Jimbo and Baton Rouge is strong. When LSU won the 2003 national championship, Jimbo was the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. He’s great with quarterbacks, while LSU has struggled for years to find any kind of consistent offensive rhythm under Miles.

Whether Jimbo would leave FSU for the minefield of the SEC West I have no idea, but either way, this is going to be in the wind through the end of November, up to and beyond the Florida game.

[The FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

[Glad Dolphins didn’t make same mistake with Tannehill that Rams are making with Goff]

[Running out of opportunity to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

That’s how it works all over the country. If you have an elite coach, everybody wants him. If you don’t, then you don’t want him either. Jimbo deals with this situation constantly, and how it handles it this time will be the most interesting of all.

The buyout tag on Jimbo’s contract is $5 million, by the way, if he wants to coach somewhere else in 2017. That wouldn’t bother LSU, however, if they can get their man. The Tigers fired Miles in September knowing it would cost something like $10 million to make him go away.



FSU coming off horrible loss and that isn’t so great for the South Florida Bulls on Saturday

Don’t expect Florida State to lose a second consecutive game on Saturday. That hasn’t happened to Jimbo Fisher since 2011.

In this Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, photo, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher walks off the field after losing an NCAA college football game against Louisville, while Louisville players prepare to dowse their coach with Gatorade, in Louisville, Ky. (Pat McDonogh/The Courier-Journal via AP)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher walks off the field last Saturday while Louisville players prepare to dowse their coach, Bobby Petrino, with a celebratory Gatorade bath. (Pat McDonogh/The Courier-Journal via AP)

We’re talking 66 games without back-to-back losses. Only Oregon, at 70 games, has gone longer in that category.

Of course, FSU’s 63-20 disaster at Louisville last week was a bonafide shocker. It reset the entire ACC race and had the people who projected the Seminoles in the College Football Playoff field feeling pretty foolish.

There’s no reason why FSU shouldn’t handle 3-0 South Florida this week, though. Jimbo has the team’s full attention now, and the humiliation of losing that way to Louisville will provide plenty of motivation. No team had ever scored 63 on the Seminoles, and that covers all the lean years prior to Bobby Bowden’s arrival at the school.

There were six games last year where the FSU basketball team didn’t allow 63 points, for crying out loud.

[Adam Gase is lagging behind NFL’s other first-time head coaches]

[Tim Tebow tries to blend in with Mets’ Instructional League kids]

[Lamar Jackson could do what no Palm Beach County player ever has]

Reminds me of a few other times, however, when devastating scores were dropped on state teams but the effects were shaken off very quickly.

In 1998, Butch Davis’ Miami Hurricanes took a 66-13 beating at Syracuse in late November. One week later they returned to the Orange Bowl to upset No. 3 UCLA 49-45.

Steve Spurrier had to take his medicine, too, in the national championship game following the 1995 season. Florida came in unbeaten but lost the Fiesta Bowl to Nebraska by the startling score of 62-24.

One year later the Gators won their first national championship, blasting FSU 52-20.

As for FSU’s chances of making the College Football Playoff field and possible a spot in the national championship game at Tampa, consider this.

Ohio State and Oregon played in the inaugural national title game under the new playoff format and they got there after taking surprising losses early in the season. The Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech in September of 2014 and Oregon lost to Arizona. In each case the opponents were unranked and in each case Ohio State and Oregon were top-10 teams playing at home.

By that measure, losing to No. 10 Louisville on the road shouldn’t disqualify FSU from anything at this point. Let’s see how the rest of the ACC season plays out.

Louisville plays at Clemson on Oct. 1. Four weeks later Clemson is at FSU.

Now if you want to argue the other side of this thing, looking at FSU’s 6-4 record in its last 10 games as the sign of a serious decline, this South Florida game is the real litmus test. It was a 17-7 September loss to the Bulls in Tampa that ultimately convinced everyone that 2009 should be Bowden’s final season.

My view is that Jimbo has got things tightened down a lot better than that. Louisville is going to make a lot of teams look bad this year. Suddenly they’re a national title contender.

The Seminoles have nine more games, including dates with Miami and Florida, to prove that they are, too.


If the head coaches had to take over the huddle in a pinch, which old-timer would you want quarterbacking your team?


From the childish category of my-dad-can-beat-up-your dad, here’s a question for you.

Pictured below with quarterback's coach Earl Morrall are (left to right): Vinny Testaverde, Kyle Vanderwende, Jim Kelly, Mark Richt and Bernie Kosar. (Contributed photo)
Pictured below with former UM quarterbacks coach Earl Morrall are (left to right): Vinny Testaverde, Kyle Vanderwende, Jim Kelly, Mark Richt and Bernie Kosar. (Contributed photo)

If in a charity football game you had to name a quarterback to save the day in the fourth quarter, and if that quarterback had to be one of the head coaches from Florida’s major college football teams, which one would you pick?

Here’s my order.

  1. Scott Frost, Central Florida – He’s 41, which helps, and he’s 6-foot-3, which hurts anyone trying to tackle him. Most importantly, Frost quarterbacked Nebraska to a share of the national championship in 1997. Michigan won the AP title. The 13-0 Cornhuskers, led by Frost’s three touchdown runs, beat Peyton Manning and Tennessee 42-17 to win the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll.
  2. Willie Taggart, South Florida – He’s 39, finishing up his career at Western Kentucky in 1998 as a four-year starter at quarterback. Was an All-America at the I-AA level and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which honors the top offensive player in that division. Payton, by the way, played at Jackson State so don’t underestimate small-school talent.
  3. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State – He’s 50 and still pretty spry. Bounced around a bit after high school before landing at Samford, where he was the Div. III Player of the Year in 1987. Played a little Arena Football League, too, after getting his college coaching from Terry Bowden. Maybe you’ve heard of Terry’s dad.
  4. Mark Richt, Miami – The oldest of our contestants at 56, he was a star quarterback at Boca Raton High School and led the Bobcats into the state playoffs. A backup to Jim Kelly at Miami, he completed 45 percent of his passes over a four-year Hurricanes career with nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Finished in 1982, one year before Howard Schnellenberger’s national title team.
  5. Jim McElwain, Florida – He’s 54. Played a little quarterback at Eastern Washington in the early 1980’s but gave up his senior season of eligility to pursue a more promising career as a graduate assistant coach. Good multi-sport star in high school back home in Montana.

Can’t rank Charlie Partridge of FAU here because he played defensive line at Drake. FIU’s Ron Turner was a receiver at Pacific.

Tell the truth, though, I’d like to stretch this imaginary category a bit further if it’s a matter of winning or losing, and when isn’t it?

Give me Steve Spurrier off the bench at Florida. Of course, he’s going to need a clean pocket. The ol’ ballcoach doesn’t get around like he used to, but he’s still crazy competitive.

[Thumbs up for Hard Rock Stadium, which sounds as loud as a stadium should]

[Strange but true, American football once was an Olympic sport]

[The Olympic gold medal sprinter who played for the Dolphins]

AP’s all-time Top 100 may favor Buckeyes, but FSU is on the fastest climb

Hey, I thought we weren’t supposed to worry so much about the Associated Press college football poll anymore. Now the AP has come out with its all-time Top 25 based entirely on the organization’s data and everyone’s getting bent out of shape?

Miami fans are howling that five national titles ought to be worth more than No. 13 on the all-time list.

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2003,  file photo, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel holds up the championship trophy after Ohio State beat Miami 31-24 in two overtimes in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. The Associated Press has been ranking the best teams in college football for the last 80 seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
TEMPE, Ariz. – Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel holds up the championship trophy after Ohio State beat Miami 31-24 in two overtimes in the Fiesta Bowl to win the 2002 national championship. The Associated Press has been ranking the best teams in college football for the last 80 seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)

The Florida Gators come in at No. 10, second only to Alabama among SEC schools, and that has everybody else in the conference upset.

Florida State is No. 9 and what Seminoles fans want to know is how Texas, a proud program stuck in a terrible slump, could be ranked above them.

All of this is beautiful to me. It’s the reason the AP list always has mattered in August, when there are no games to play and passionate college football nuts can’t wait to win something, anything, even an imaginary list built on all kinds of arbitrary factors.

What’s needed here is an understanding of exactly what this all-time Top 100 is supposed to be. The AP isn’t saying that Ohio State, No. 1 in this poll, is the best program in history.

It’s not saying that the Buckeyes’ five AP national championships are more important than Miami’s five, or that Notre Dame’s greatness in the 1940s was more significant than FSU’s in the 1990s.

This thing is an amalgamation of everything that has come before, with AP staffers doing an exhaustive search of every poll since the poll began in 1936. From that points were awarded for how many times a program was included in the Top 25 through the years, how many times it rose to No. 1 in a weekly poll and how many times it was awarded an AP national title.

Consistency is rewarded most of all. Being a name brand for longer than other programs brings consistency in this setting.

Regional bias in the earliest years of the poll makes a big difference, too. And if anyone’s looking to debate which polls matter and which don’t, forget it. This AP Top 100 recognizes national champions recognized by the AP alone, and not all those ancient other ones that you’ve never heard of which always show up on the resumes of Alabama and Notre Dame and other bluebloods.

Put it all together and it’s ridiculously impressive that FSU could find a spot in the all-time AP Top Ten.

[The Olympic gold medal sprinter who played for the Miami Dolphins]

[Amar’e Stoudemire belongs on my list of all-time greats from state of Florida]

[Here’s a fun look back at Dolphins’ first training camp at Boca Raton in 1966]

The Seminoles didn’t even field a football team until 1954. That means 18 years of AP polls had already gone by with no chance of representation for FSU but tons of recognition for Ohio State and Oklahoma and Southern Cal and Nebraska and similar monster programs.

FSU didn’t appear in an AP poll until 1964. Since then Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher have combined to push the Seminoles to the No. 1 position in 72 weekly AP polls. That’s only two times fewer than Alabama, which has been at this thing from the start.

Penn State, meanwhile, has been No. 1 in 19 weekly polls and has just two AP national titles, which doesn’t compare too well with Miami’s 67 times at No. 1 plus five national titles.

Still, the Nittany Lions come in at No. 12, one spot above the Hurricanes, because they’ve always been there. That’s what the numbers say, with Penn State appearing in 53.4 percent of all AP polls throughout history and Miami appearing in 41.5 percent.

Bottom line, don’t let this thing eat your lunch. It’s something to talk about, or shout about, with the certainty that no one will ever be completely satisifed, even all-time top dog Ohio State, which has Urban Meyer but still can’t seem to push Jim Harbaugh and Michigan out of the headlines.

Here’s a reason to crow. The AP Top 100 verifies that FSU, Miami and Florida have established themselves as elite programs and that they’ve done so the hard way, by winning a lot of games in a short time.

The Hurricanes would be higher if they hadn’t lost their momentum in recent years. On top of that, it won’t matter what any all-time poll says if Miami gets great in real time. That’s what brings in the recruits and makes the stadium rock and gets people eager to see the rankings the drive the industry these days.

That would be the College Football Playoff committee rankings. A topic for another day, much later in the season, long after this provocative and entertaining AP Top 100 has been pushed down the list of rage-worthy college fan debates.