Not feeling very confident about Florida’s 3 teams in NCAA tournament

So who goes the farthest in the NCAA tournament among our state’s three entrants?

Not sure it’s going to matter since I don’t expect the Hurricanes, Gators or Seminoles to make it out of the first weekend. Each has flaws, though Miami does a better job of masking them. Each is prone to lay a major egg every now and again.

Miami head coach Jim Larranaga reacts during a game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

If we’re assigning personality traits, FSU is tough, Florida is soft and Miami is smart. Any of them could surprise, like the Gators did last year in advancing all the way to the Elite Eight, but you could say that about most tournament teams from major conferences.

So we’ll go by who got the best draw. That’s always a good place to start.

The Gators get the break of knowing their first opponent, a No. 11 seed, won’t be coming in fresh. St. Bonaventure and UCLA are in a play-in game Tuesday night, and the winner will have to travel to Dallas and turn everything around pretty quick. That’s a potential plus for Florida, or at least it’s as much of a break as any No. 6 could ask to have.

If Florida advances, it probably will be Texas Tech waiting in the next round. The game would be in Texas, which makes that neutral court a little nastier, plus the Red Raiders won at Kansas in January. They’re well able to establish dominance in any setting.

Put it all together and I’ll give the Gators a 40 percent chance of advancing to the Sweet 16 round, and that’s only because Florida has mixed in some big wins here and there, including two over Kentucky, one over Cincinnati, a No. 2 seed, and one over Gonzaga, last year’s national finalist.

Miami’s first opponent is Loyola of Chicago, the Cinderella pick of all the national blabbers. The Ramblers are a legitimate threat, with a 10-game winning streak right now and a road upset of Florida in December, back when the Gators were feeling their oats at No. 5 in the AP poll.

The Hurricanes certainly can handle Loyola, a No. 11 seed, on a good night. Just a few weeks ago Miami beat North Carolina, a No. 2, on the road. Even if this potential trapdoor is avoided, however, it’s likely that Tennessee comes next, and in my opinion any team at the top of the SEC is a potential powerhouse.

Nobody but the Tournament Selection Committee seems to remember that the SEC had three teams in the Elite Eight last year, or that South Carolina, a No. 7 seed, reached the Final Four. As it is, a record eight SEC teams are in the 2018 NCAA tournament. Only the regal ACC has more.

So I’ll give Miami a 33 percent chance to making the Sweet 16, because there are not one but two difficult wins between here and there.

As for FSU, there are two things to know and they’re drawn from the same game, a 59-55 loss to Virginia in February.

First, the Seminoles led what might be the best team in the nation 32-22 at halftime and hung tough to the end, outrebounding the Cavaliers and playing great defense. Second, Virginia won by showing the kind of versatility you expect of a No. 1 seed and locking down to stifle FSU in the closing minutes.

That tells me FSU is dangerous enough to watch closely and good enough to beat Missouri in an opening 8-9 game, but then comes No. 1 seed Xavier, and nobody needs to be bumping heads with them so early in the brackets.

Make it a 25 percent chance, then, on advancing to the Sweet 16, and recognize that if the Seminoles beat those arbitrary odds, it will be from the bonus any ACC team gets playing against consistently rugged competition inside the league.

Overall, Florida has two national titles, back to back in 2006 and 2007, and five trips to the Final Four. FSU’s only Final Four appearance was in 1972 and Miami has never been.

You’ve got to be in it to win it, right? Having three state schools in the tournament field is a mad dash no matter how it turns out. Would love to think it will last beyond this weekend for fans of the Hurricanes, Gators and Seminoles, but then you’ve already read my predictions about that and you’re already mad so I’ll just shut up now and watch like everybody else.

[Justin Thomas’ climb to No. 2 in world boosts Honda Classic again]

[Players Tribune, a Derek Jeter project, gives Kevin Love an important platform]

[Marlins’ inaugural spring training 25 years ago was a Space Coast blast]

 

What Jim Kelly told an astonished crowd in Boca Raton three years ago still applies in facing down cancer

  Three years ago this month Jim Kelly gave a speech at an Inspiration Breakfast benefiting the YMCA of South Palm Beach County.
  A large crowd was on hand to hear him at the corporate headquarters of Office Depot in Boca Raton. Not just because Kelly is a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, inducted in his first year of eligibility back in 2002. Not just because he starred at the University of Miami during Howard Schnellenberger’s foundational work there, either.
BLOOMINGTON, MN – NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly does a show on Super Bowl LII Radio Row at the Mall of America on February 1, 2018. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

What drives people to Kelly’s side more quickly than any of that is his very public battle with oral cancer and the bold and hopeful attitude he brings to the mission.

  Cancer touches every family at some point or another. No, “touches” is the wrong word. Cancer pulverizes.
  So when Kelly gave that speech here in 2015, one like so many others he has given nationwide, it was to build as much immunity as possible against the despair that is this killer’s specialty. He spoke of the strength he derived from all the encouraging cards and promised prayers he had received. He spoke of faith as the armor to be worn in this personal struggle and any other.
  And now, in a statement released on Thursday, Kelly is announcing that his cancer, beaten back for a time by extensive surgery and chemotherapy and radiation treatment, has returned.
  It’s not an unusual story in terms of recurrence and the need to ramp up for another scary wave of certain punishment with uncertain results, but fortunately Kelly is an unusual man, and his family is every bit as impressive. No doubt, in time, they will be back before another large group, summoning courage from all who are there and inspiring all to stay “Kelly Tough.”
  Until then, the best I can do is return to my column from that Boca Raton appearance three years back. There is inspiration here, and it comes with no expiration date.
(Here follows a column from the Palm Beach Post on March 25, 2015)
by Dave George
Palm Beach Post Columnist
 It pays to be sitting down when Jim Kelly runs through the menu of surgical procedures he has gone through, and much of it in the last few years since cancer was discovered in his upper jaw.
“In two years’ time, I had a plate and six screws put in my neck, and then six months before that I had two plates and 10 screws in my back,” Kelly said Tuesday at the YMCA of South Palm Beach County’s Inspiration Breakfast. “I had double hernia surgery. I had six root canals. I was diagnosed with cancer and I had my jaw removed.”
There were gasps in the audience at the Office Depot corporate headquarters as the former University of Miami and Buffalo Bills quarterback rattled through that daunting list as rapidly as if he were calling out plays in the huddle.
Then came the clincher. Just a few months ago, with the gravest danger behind him and MRI cancer scans becoming less frequent, Kelly, 55, learned for the first time that doctors had given him less than a 10 percent chance to survive in the midst of his most aggressive cancer treatments.
Why did it take so long for him to hear that? Because his wife and daughters and friends wanted to keep Kelly’s psyche safe while his body was under attack.
“People that walked into my hospital room, even though I was having some of the worst days of my life, for those minutes and hours that those people were in my room, they made a difference,” Kelly said. “Hey, I grew up in a family of six boys. I had physical toughness. Where I needed it was the mental toughness. I needed people to tell me and show me with their smiles that I could do it, and don’t ever give up.”
Not a bad lesson to all of us who struggle with knowing what to do or say when someone close is critically ill. Keep the energy positive. Recycle a few giggles from sillier times. They might still have a little charge left in them.
Imagine, for instance, how often Kelly has heard about his great Bills teams losing four consecutive Super Bowls. Howard Schnellenberger, his old Hurricanes coach, even spent a few light minutes on that topic Tuesday while inviting Kelly up to the stage.
That didn’t even faze Kelly, who used a few squirts of mouth spray before his speech and explained that it’s not because of bad breath. Truth is, he no longer is able to produce saliva.
Can’t believe how good he looks, trim but not gaunt. Can’t believe he worries about lisping ever so slightly as a result of the prosthetic jaw and teeth that followed surgery. Nobody at the YMCA event noticed that. They were too busy coming up to Kelly to tell survival stories of their own and to thank him for the inspiration.
“So good to see you,” many of them said.
“Better to be seen than viewed,” Kelly regularly shoots back.
There are many appearances like this for Kelly, who still lives in Buffalo and in October will speak before a group in Rochester that provides services for the mentally ill. As always, his charitable activities center around the Hunter’s Hope Foundation, established to aid research on Krabbe Disease, the genetic disorder that ended the life of Kelly’s son, Hunter, in 2005 at the age of 8.
At Kelly’s induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, he dedicated his speech to Hunter, an exceedingly brave little boy.
To spend much time with Kelly, however, is to laugh a lot, and eventually to talk about the Bills, who are trying to rev it all up again under new coach Rex Ryan.
“I love it,” Kelly said in the VIP reception room after posing for photos with a long line of YMCA donors. “The biggest question is whether it’s going to be EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel, but I just hope that one of the quarterbacks steps up because that’s all we need.”
Just a whiff of hope and the tank is filled once more.

Mullen and Gators need to join SEC’s parade of true freshman quarterbacks

If Dan Mullen doesn’t start Emory Jones at quarterback next season, the Florida Gators hired the wrong coach.

That’s because freshmen are all the rage in college football these days. No more waiting around to get the system completely down. These big, strong, smart kids are having systems built around them, improvisations and mistakes included.

Former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen gives the scoreboard in the closing seconds of the team’s 31-28 loss to Mississippi on Nov. 23, 2017. Three days later he was hired to coach the Florida Gators. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Is this any way to run a major college program?

Well, Nick Saban went 14-1 at Alabama in 2016 with true freshman Jalen Hurts. On Monday night he benched Hurts at halftime and got just enough from Tua Tagovailoa, another true freshman, to win the 2017 national championship over Georgia and Kirby Smart’s true freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm.

Now comes word from FAU coach Lane Kiffin that Tagovailoa probably would have transferred if he hadn’t gotten into that title game. That’s insider knowledge from Alabama’s former playcaller, as announced on Dan Patrick’s national radio show.

What’s more, the Seattle Times is reporting that Jacob Eason, a former freshman starter at Georgia, is expected to transfer to Washington rather than sit the bench behind Fromm.

Young people are impatient by nature, of course. They want to play. They want to know that the promises they heard during recruiting were genuine, and that they won’t be left out when all the high-profile signees start stacking up at quarterback.

More important to this discussion, Mullen needs to shake things up at Florida with a bold approach that has nothing in common with the cautious offenses that Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain rolled out before him.

If Jones, the nation’s No. 4 dual-threat prospect, was good enough to get offers from Alabama and Ohio State and FSU, he’s good enough to start for the Gators against Charleston Southern on Sept. 1.

After all, Florida made a coaching change because 4-7 doesn’t work around there. Mullen was the choice because he develops dual-threat quarterbacks into big winners. Jones was Mullen’s choice in his first round of Gator recruiting because the top target of the former Florida staff, Matt Corral, is more of a pro-style quarterback.

Add it all up and there’s no reason for the Gators to look toward anyone but Jones, who as a January enrollee is already on hand and ready to dive into offseason workouts and spring practice.

Feleipe Franks is brawny and can run but his decision-making is spotty and often too slow. It figures that McElwain would have played any of the other underclassmen last year if they were ready, if only to save his own job. If this isn’t the time for a fresh look at a freshman quarterback, when will it ever be?

The need is not so urgent for Mark Richt at Miami. He’s got a returning starter in Malik Rosier who has flaws but also has wins over Notre Dame and Virginia Tech and the honor of clinching the program’s first ACC Coastal Division title. Still, N’Kosi Perry spent his freshman season watching from the sidelines last season and Jarren Williams, the highlight of a great early signing period for UM, may prove to be better than both of them if given a chance.

It’s a risk playing freshmen at quarterback, but a waste to keep the best ones idle.

Most have forgotten this, but freshmen weren’t eligible to play varsity football or basketball until the NCAA approved the idea in 1972. The old Big Eight Conference voted against it at the time but in 1985 one of its members, Oklahoma, turned to true freshman quarterback Jamelle Holieway when Troy Aikman broke a leg in an October game against Miami.

Holieway, a great option quarterback, led the Sooners the rest of the season, helping Barry Switzer to the last of his three national titles.

[Somehow, the latest national title in Bama’s dynastic run came as a shock]

[Richt next task is to surpass his Season 2 highlights at Georgia and UM]

[$10 million sure didn’t buy Dolphins much with Jay Cutler]

Richt’s mission is to advance beyond the second-year highlights he’s had at Georgia and Miami

Miami fans are loving Mark Richt after this 10-3 breakout season, but soon they’ll want more.

Georgia fans did, even though Richt ripped off double-digit wins one season after another there while building an overall .740 winning percentage.

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt yells during a team drill before the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Saturday, December 30, 2017. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Now that the Bulldogs are in the national championship game with Kirby Smart, many fans are probably wishing they had made the switch sooner.

That’s not fair to Richt, who won more games as Georgia’s coach than anyone except Vince Dooley, the 1980 national championship coach who ran the show there for a quarter century. This is how the business works, however, and this may be why a guy like Richt gets so wound up during the Orange Bowl the other night that he grabs the arm of an official and draws a flag.

Nine times at Georgia Richt won 10 games or better, and it he would have had another if he wasn’t fired at 9-3 in 2015 just before a Gator Bowl win over Penn State. By the numbers, he should still be there, but the administration got tired of boosters grumbling about SEC titles that didn’t materialize and quarterbacks that didn’t develop and playcalling that didn’t crack the code against Alabama and Florida and other SEC irritants.

The job that is ahead of Richt now is to push past the wave of excitement that marks his second season at Miami and into a series of moves so dependable and signings so right that Clemson won’t be able to stand in the way, or FSU, or anybody else.

It was his second season that rang the bell at Georgia in 2002, too. The Bulldogs were 13-1 with a Sugar Bowl win over FSU that year, convincing the faithful, as Miami fans are convinced now, that the right coach finally was at the right place at the right time.

It was great, all right, but it didn’t get greater, and the national title opportunity that Smart has now did not come to be. It happens like this, the feeling that 10-3 over and over is some kind of a drag. If that doesn’t seem possible at Miami right now, think of how Larry Coker started out 35-3 as the Hurricanes coach but began to lose momentum with a couple of 9-3 seasons and soon, after just six years, was gone.

Oh, I know that Coker and Richt are not the same guy, that Coker inherited a championship-caliber roster and didn’t have the same legwork to do at first, but the point is this. Miami had a coach with an .800 career winning percentage and a national title but he wasn’t enough to satisfy anybody for long.

So you look at the Hurricanes’ 2018 season opener, a Labor Day weekend showcase against LSU at Jerry’s World in Texas, and it’s like Richt has something to prove again. A loss by Miami would be the fourth in a row. A win and the Hurricanes are only getting started, with anything less than another trip to Charlotte and the ACC title game to be viewed as a step back.

It’s the pressure that every elite coach at every major program accepts, and Richt means to be in the middle of it, too.

My hope is that his alma mater will be a little more forgiving than most if everything doesn’t go perfectly. That’s because nothing goes perfectly in college football, not when a team like Auburn can upset a couple of No. 1 teams and come off looking like a dog at season’s end with a 10-4 record and a bowl loss to UCF. Not when UCF can have its best season ever and forfeit a head coach in the process.

Good luck keeping it going, Mark, and keeping it together, too. All things considered, that one sideline meltdown in the Wisconsin game was probably a long time coming.

What he had this season wasn’t much different than Jim McElwain’s introduction at Florida, an exciting 10-1 start and a rapid return to the Top 10 after years of wandering, followed by three lopsided losses in a row to FSU, Alabama and Michigan.

Nobody wants to hear that, but it’s so.

[Does anybody out there, including Scott Frost, want a piece of UCF now?]

[Jeter missed the memo on how fed up Marlins fans are with fire sales]

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger will return to Honda Classic]

Before Mark Richt became available, Miami interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen, too

Miami Hurricanes administrators can sit back and grin, satisfied that they’ve got the right football coach in Mark Richt.

In just his second season at the school, Richt has Miami in Saturday night’s ACC Championship game against defending national champion Clemson, and a win there should lead to a spot in the College Football Playoff field.

Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (center) with Mike Boireau(left) and Damione Lewis (right) after a 1999 practice. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post.

Could it have gone this well with any other coach available to at the end of the 2015 season? Impossible to know, but Richt was not the only candidate who got serious consideration.

Greg Schiano interviewed with Miami back then. The opportunity came at a time in his life when the former UM defensive coordinator would have given anything to be the boss in Coral Gables. Schiano was between jobs, having been fired as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach. He was volunteering as a high school coach, as a matter of fact, at Tampa Berkeley Prep.

There was reason to believe that something would come of it, too, since former UM star Jonathan Vilma, who played for Schiano, was a member of the six-person advisory staff that athletic Blake James put together to assist in the search process.

It’s a matter of timing in these things, though. Earlier, when Larry Coker got fired at Miami, the Hurricanes were turned away by Schiano. That was in 2006, when he was building something of his own at Rutgers, and formally asked to have his name removed from Miami’s list of candidates.

Lately, Schiano’s name was turned toxic when Tennessee pulled back from a decision to hire him because of an ugly social media reaction, buoyed by campus protests.

The advertised reason for the uproar was an unsubstantiated narrative that the coach somehow ignored or condoned Jerry Sandusky’s child molestation crimes while the two were assistants at Penn State. More likely a ton of Vols fans just thought they could do better than Schiano and coalesced around a convenient rationale to scare Tennessee administrators away from what had seemed a fairly straightforward hire of a well-respected coach.

So who else did Miami interview in November and December of 2015 before Richt got the job?

Dan Mullen, freshly introduced as Florida’s new coach, talked with James and his search staff. At that time he was 54-35 in seven seasons at Mississippi State. Had he gotten the Miami job, he would have been just as enthusiastic about flashing the “U” hand signal as he was about doing the Gator Chomp in Gainesville on Monday.

Butch Davis also interviewed with Miami before the Richt hire. He had been out of coaching for a couple of years and was eager to a second stint as head coach of the Hurricanes. These days Butch is coaching at FIU and waiting to see which minor bowl assignment his 7-4 Golden Panthers will get.

All questions were answered, and quickly, when Georgia fired Richt on Nov. 30, 2015. Four days later he was announced as Miami’s coach.

No need to be smug when one of these frantic coach searches works out. For every athletic director who nails it there are 10 who regret ever being put in the position to choose, and scores who fear the moment when they will be out there scrambling to find the right man again.

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good solution who wants to be great]

[Because hiring Chip Kelly wasn’t easy for Florida, nothing else would have been]

[Hurricanes finally bring out the beast in antiseptic Hard Rock Stadium]

Hurricanes have finally brought out the beast in fancy-schmancy Hard Rock Stadium

Turns out there never really was anything all that wrong with Hard Rock Stadium, a building that has worn many other names since its opening 30 years ago. Took a while to figure it out, though.

When the Miami Dolphins didn’t get much going after moving there from the Orange Bowl, everyone agreed that the new facility had no soul. The seats were too far away from the action. The noise leaked out before anyone had a chance to feel it. Pretty and clean, sure, but where was the grit?

It was the same when the Miami Hurricanes showed up in 2008. Must have been the building to blame for all those lackluster seasons. Couldn’t have been Randy Shannon and Al Golden.

The Marlins kept looking to get out, too, reasoning that baseball wasn’t meant for so big a barn and that’s what explained the team’s perennially poor attendance.

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Zach McCloud  celebrates with fans after Miami’s 41-8 win over  Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Saturday, November 11, 2017.  (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Funny, though, how sellout crowds of 67,000-plus filled the facility, then known as Pro Player Stadium, for the 1997 World Series, and again when the Marlins won it all in 2003. Couldn’t hear yourself think in there, as I recall.

Winning big is the secret to every stadium’s charm, and the Hurricanes are proving it again with the rock-show atmosphere of their recent home wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

Along the way, Stephen Ross has spent the money and Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkle has used it wisely to spruce up Hard Rock in many important ways, including a canopy to keep sun and rain out but lock crowd noise in. If the teams stink, however, it’s like booking a show that nobody wants to see for the Kravis Center. You can send half the ushers and valet parkers home in that case because it just ain’t happening.

Ask anybody who attended the Notre Dame game last Saturday night if the stadium experience felt flat to them.

Ask if they would like to return to the Orange Bowl days, with backless benches for sitting and backyards for parking.

The answer from some will always be yes, so sweet was the big-game sound of the Hurricanes and the Super Bowl Dolphins back there. It’s nostalgia, a magnet to the past, and that’s understandable.

Don’t imagine, though, that Hard Rock is actually soft, that opponents will never worry about coming there because the place is just too corporate. That notion doesn’t fly anymore.

The 9-0 Hurricanes have proven it wrong and you can tell it because there reportedly will be something close to a sellout for Saturday’s home game with Virginia. That’s for a noon start, the exact opposite of those late-night parties of the last two weeks, and it’s against an opponent that drew just 40,963 customers the last time these two teams met at Hard Rock.

The new building that Joe Robbie built isn’t so new anymore after three decades of sports events and concerts and such. It’s far from perfect, no matter how many expensive improvements are made, and there always will be a little too antiseptic to satisfy some rough and ready football fans.

What counts for personality down there, however, will always be the personality of the spectators themselves. And if they’re wildly happy, as they have been lately with the Hurricanes, Hard Rock Stadium will continue to be a wild and happy place.

The kind of place that earns a rugged nickname that rolls right off the tongue, like The Rock.

 

Notre Dame has already lost to one elite team but is Miami in that class?

 

Notre Dame has crushed every ACC team it has played this season, beating Boston College, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest by an average score of 41-20, but maybe that’s not the way to measure Miami’s chances of knocking off the Fighting Irish on Saturday night.

Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson in action during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

If you want to believe that the Hurricanes are candidates to win their way all the way into the four-team College Football Playoff, it’s more encouraging to look at what Notre Dame did against another team in that elite class.

We’re talking about the Georgia Bulldogs, the only real threat to Alabama in the SEC and a team loved by the CFP ranking committee. In September Georgia went to South Bend and built a 20-19 signature win on swarming defense.

Mark Richt is right to talk about the muscle that Notre Dame packs on the line of scrimmage, offensively and defensively, yet Georgia did just fine.

The same Notre Dame team that rushed for 515 yards and seven touchdowns against Boston College managed just 55 rushing yards against the Dawgs.

On the other side of the ball, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel each averaged around 5 yards per carry against the Irish. It can be done, and it will have to be done by Miami if Malik Rosier is going to have time to hit some of his favorite passes way downfield to Ahmmon Richards and Braxton Berrios and Darrell Langham.

Overall, Georgia and Notre Dame were an excellent match, and it’s conceivable that they might meet again in the playoffs depending on the dozens of things that still must play out. Miami can either prove on Saturday night that it belongs in that same class or settle back onto the other good path that’s available to them, the path to a first-ever ACC title.

To me, the Hurricanes have a defensive front seven that plays and produces like Georgia’s does. The bonus is Richt’s playcalling on offense and a willingness to trust Malik Rosier in ways that Georgia coach Kirby Smart can’t quite do with his freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm.

There even were a few gadget plays early in last week’s 28-10 dismissal of Virginia Tech. That steals some of the confidence from a physical defense when it comes to teeing off on basic handoffs and conventional dropbacks. It slows down every reaction just a bit and keeps the strongest players slightly off balance, even when those gadget plays, throwbacks to the quarterback and such, don’t quite work to perfection.

Bottom line, I’m not so worried about the 710 yards in total offense that Notre Dame ran up on Wake Forest, a 2-3 team in the ACC. Same goes for the way that the Irish limited North Carolina State to 50 yards rushing.

Miami is supposed to be the cream of the ACC now and would be expected to muscle up on those conference rivals if they met them right now.

Instead it will be the Irish on Saturday night, a team that has pushed everybody around except Georgia, and should find the Hurricanes pretty tough to bowl over, too.

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]

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]

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]