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Noles Time to Shine

Nov 14, 2014 -- 1:36pm

Alex Turko (@aturko_23)


            Apparently winning isn’t everything anymore, just ask Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles.  When the college football playoff committee released their new rankings on Tuesday, it was a one-loss Oregon team that found itself ranked number 2 instead of the unconquered reigning National champions. 


            The Ducks win over the Utah Utes last weekend must have been enough to pole-vault them over the Noles despite their loss to the 7-2 Arizona Wildcats earlier this season.  Arizona is no powerhouse either, losing to 6-3 USC (who lost to Boston College from the ever so weak ACC) and 8-2 UCLA.  So how is Oregon being rewarded for losing to the Wildcats?  Since when did a loss mean less than an “unimpressive win?”  I used to think that the point of this new playoff committee was to do away with the “style points” that once ruled the rankings of the old BCS system.


            The Seminoles keep winning, and the Seminoles keep dropping.  The accumulation of 25 consecutive victories has yet to impress the committee because FSU isn’t absolutely obliterating teams like they did just a short season ago.  But what the Noles have done is win, and if they want to stay in the final four, they better keep winning. 


            What better way to gain the attention of the national media than beating the Miami Hurricanes in Miami?  As if the Noles needed any more inspiration to beat the Hurricanes, they now are not only fighting for bragging rights in this heated rivalry, but they are also fighting for their ranking.  A win over Al Golden’s Canes could be just enough for the Seminoles to impress the committee and regain that number 2 ranking.  However, beating Miami will be easier said than done.  This is a team that has improved with each game as their freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya continues to build confidence.  Kaaya is quietly leading the ACC in touchdown passes and after early losses to Louisville, Nebraska and Georgia Tech, he has taken his game to the next level, performing at a Jameis Winston type level statistically. 


            Even with the emergence of Kaaya, the Canes most dynamic offensive weapon is Duke Johnson.   Johnson is the ACC’s second leading rusher and averages 7.7 yards per carry.   Last season against Florida State he scampered for 97 yards before breaking his ankle in the third quarter.  Johnson may be the most elite back to play in Miami since Frank Gore in the early 2000’s and the Noles will have a difficult task containing this game breaker.


            The keys for a Seminole victory are simple: Limit turnovers, slow down Duke Johnson and start fast.  Jameis Winston has thrown five interceptions in the last two games alone.  If the Seminoles want to start fast and beat the Hurricanes, protecting the ball will have to be a priority.  Stopping Duke Johnson is almost impossible, so in order for the defense to be successful they will at least need to slow him down.  It will be important to get penetration in the middle of the line and make Duke stretch the run to the outside.  Forcing plays to the outside will allow the Noles to swarm to the sidelines because of their elite defensive speed. If the Noles want to avoid an upset, they need to come out of the gates firing and not look back.  A slow start against the Canes could result in an insurmountable lead. 


            Florida State has every reason to come out guns blazing and lay it on the Hurricanes.  The drop in the rankings and the pressure of the rivalry may be just enough to wake up this sleeping giant.     

Will Cocktail Party Win Spark Gator Revival?

Nov 05, 2014 -- 12:55pm

By: Nicholas Joost 

Two weeks ago, they were dead.

Leaving behind a disgraced Swamp with chants of “Fire Muschamp” still echoing across Gainesville, you were certain their spirits were crushed. More certain was the notion that Will Muschamp had finally done it, and for good.

The leash that Athletic Director Jeremy Foley placed upon Muschamp — well, Muschamp finally stretched it past its breaking point.

Foley let him tug and tug, and there went 'Coach Boom' — screaming and sweating and flailing about — dragging on until the leash snapped right at the center, whipping the entire program across its face, as he approached the edge of a fiery cliff.

You can't blame the fans for their collective sentiment towards Muschamp. A loss to Georgia had to result in his firing and you knew it was coming.

After Florida's 42-13 Homecoming loss to Missouri, what else was there to say? It was the epitome of fireable offenses at the University of Florida — even worse than Georgia Southern.

This year was finally supposed to bring us answers. Instead, leading up to the 92nd edition of Florida-Georgia, it had delivered nothing but a trick-or-treat-sized bag full of despair, and full questions:

Why is this coach still representing this program? Why is Driskel so bad? Why’d we think this year would be any different? Why isn't it basketball season yet?

That last question alone is enough to make you sick. Gator football has been that bad for a large part of Muschamp’s tenure.

If there were any Gator fans still supporting Muschamp before the Missouri game, they flipped like a switch after that rancid Homecoming night from Hell in The Swamp.

All except one — Jeremy Foley, ironically — the only man with the power to end this nightmare. Or so we thought.

Instead, it turned out the team that died two weeks ago still had a pulse. And as Mike McNeely raced to the goal line after a fake field goal, the beating pulse was about to kick-start a beating of its own against the stunned Bulldogs.

Even if it only meant for one night, the Gators would put this nightmare to rest on its own. Led by the powerful rushing combo of Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, the growing confidence level was palpable, and Georgia had nowhere to hide. The Gator offense was disciplined and commanding, as Jones and Taylor accounted 389 yards.

You hoped it'd never end. And now here we are, still getting goosebumps over the Saturday in Jacksonville that not even the wackiest, die-hard Gator could have predicted. You almost forgot how it felt to watch the red and black side of Everbank Field evacuate the premise when there was still plenty of football to be played.

And it felt better than ever seeing it on Saturday.

Florida’s 38-20 triumphant upset of Georgia will be remembered for one reason or another over the years. Did it save Muschamp’s job? Will it become a turning point for the Florida program?

We don’t know.

Florida could lose to Vandy this weekend, and the “Fire Muschamp” chants will be back in queue. That’s just the reality of it all.

Obviously, questions about the program remain — but one vital question was answered right around halftime of Saturday’s game against Georgia:

This team is going to put it all on the line for its coach, who was given the game ball in the locker room following his first victory in the rivalry. Will it put too much pressure on them, knowing they're potentially a bad game away from losing their coach? It could, but pressure is no stranger to this team.

Confidence? Now that’s been a stranger to Will Muschamp’s offense, and they got to know each other a little bit in Everbank Field.

These guys didn’t become Gators go 4-8, and certainly not to go an entire career without beating Georgia. These players came to the University of Florida for moments like Saturday — and for the first time in a long time, they never let that moment slip from their grasps.

The road won’t be easy, but it’s paved with chance and opportunity. That’s all you can really ask for in life.

Especially for a team that was dead two weeks ago.

Gators, Georgia and Grizzard

Nov 03, 2014 -- 1:46pm

B: Dan Hancock (@danhancock1978)

What does Florida’s victory on Saturday mean to Gator Fans? On Sunday, I was reminded of an old Lewis Grizzard joke, which helped me with an answer. Grizzard, before his passing in 1994, was considered by many southerners to be as good a story teller as any since Mark Twain. He wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and wrote many books about life in the South since the age of 23. If Lewis Grizzard wanted to be known for anything, it was being a proud graduate of The University of Georgia. Lewis was also known for being slightly provocative, but his humor was all based on real life happenings and the culture of the time. So when Lewis Grizzard said that “Southern Baptists have become so liberal that they’re actually making eye contact in the liquor stores,” I was reminded of this comment yesterday. 


Still on a buzz from Saturday’s victory, I stopped by the grocery store to stock up on munches for Sunday’s Jags game. Since I live in Melbourne, I don’t see a lot of locals in their Sunday that includes teal and black. I saw some very happy Gator fans still in their orange and blue and proudly marching the isles of the place where shopping is a pleasure. There was even eye contact and a few random “Go Gators” without being provoked. 


Does Saturday’s win mean that the team is fixed and that the remainder of the season is on cruise control? Absolutely not. What it does mean, hopefully, is that the notion of “all kinds of weather” will still hold true. It’s not fun to see the Gator Nation lose interest and stop supporting the team. It was good to see Will Muschamp be shown the respect that the University of Florida head coach deserves. It was good to show young fans that beating Georgia matters. Many under the age of 20 think that Florida’s main rival is Florida State. While they may be a close second, they are not Georgia. This rivalry matters. This being such a huge upset matters for the future of the rivalry, especially next year’s game.

Although Florida State is not the primary rival, they are the next big rivalry game and it’s traditionally a tough game at the end of the season. If Saturday did nothing else, I hope it put a little extra worry in the Seminole’s fan base for the game on November 29. They have been lucky too many times already this season. Hopefully Saturday’s game will give Florida the confidence to go into Doak Campbell Stadium. 


Like a popular Grizzard book published in 1983, If love Were Oil, I’d be a Quart Low, If confidence was oil, Gators would be a drop away from blowing a head gasket. They may be a few weeks away from a possible oil change, but for now, they may have enough in the engine block to get in and out of Tallahassee. 

Can Noles Avoid Another Thursday Trap?

Oct 30, 2014 -- 11:14am

Alex Turko (@aturko_23)


            We all know the all too familiar term “trap game.”  For some odd reason these “Seminole traps” have coincidentally always fallen on a Thursday night.  Every Florida State fan shares the same uneasy feeling about playing on a Thursday.  It could be that it just isn’t orthodox, or that we always have to play on the road since our university won’t allow us to host a Thursday night game, or it could be because we believe in some curse that looms over the program for these mid-week games. 


            I don’t believe in curses or magic so the reason I hate these games is simply because they never seem to end well for the Noles.  Pick your poison of Thursday night heartbreaks: 1995 in our first ACC loss against Virginia, 2010 or 2012 against NC State or 2002 against Louisville in the pouring rain!  Florida State was favored in all four of these losses. 


            Bobby Petrino will lead the 25th ranked Cardinals into Papa John’s stadium with aspirations of repeating the result from the 2002 upset of Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles.  Petrino, an offensive guru, finally has his offense back at full strength with the return of star wide-out DeVante Parker, running back Michael Dyer, and starting quarterback Will Gardner. 


            Fisher claims Parker is a future 1st rounder and he strengthened the coach’s statements with 9 catches for 132 yards in his season debut last weekend against NC State.  Dyer is best known for his phenomenal performance as an Auburn Tiger (transferred to Arkansas State then Louisville) against Oregon in the national title game in 2011.  Dyer also seemed to hit his stride just in time for the biggest game of the year, rushing for 173 yards versus NC State. 


            The Cardinals defense has been tremendous against the run this season, an area FSU has struggled with offensively.  A storyline to watch will be how Jimbo Fisher attacks this defense.  He could come out guns blazing and spread the field against a less talented Louisville secondary.  I’m hoping Fisher puts the ball in the hands of Jameis Winston and let him silence the crowd with his right arm.


            Florida State will have to endure the initial surge from the hometown Cardinals, who are almost guaranteed to play over their head in an attempt to knock off the champs.  I think they’ll take some blows in the early stages of the game, as the Cardinals will be throwing everything they have at the undefeated Noles.  Playing turnover free football will be important for the Seminoles to keep the crowd out of the game and avoid the Thursday trap.

Weekly Football Picks

Oct 24, 2014 -- 12:03pm

CJ Rooks (@cjrooks0415)

Rooks Report Week 9 (10/24/14)

Happy football weekend to everyone and thank you for reading another edition of the Rooks Report.

Last week was the first losing week of the year. To recap I went 3-6 and my only wins were Alabama, Jaguars and Vikings.  My losses were Wake Forest, Tulsa, Arkansas, Rutgers, Washington and the Giants.  I knew I was going to cool down at some point, but another week brings another opportunity.  Some of you have wondered how I choose my games.  I have a method that focuses specifically on line movement and I don’t think every game is good to bet on.  If you want to be successful betting on sports think about quality of quantity.  As always best of luck to everyone this weekend and any feedback you would like to give is always welcomed.

Record on the Year: 33-17 ATS

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Penn State Nittany Lions +14.5:  Lets start this week with a team that nobody thinks stands a chance, but Penn State fans and me.  I like the Nittany Lions in this position.  They come into this game having lost two straight and now face an Ohio State team that has won four in a row and scored at least 50 points in those victories.  I like Penn State because of their head coach James Franklin.  Franklin made a name for himself having his team prepared in the underdog role and he did that in the SEC.  I am not calling for the upset, but I like Penn State to keep it close.  I still am a believer in Christian Hackenberg.  If his offensive line gives him time he has the skills to pick apart this weak Ohio State secondary.  This line will only continue to climb.  Grab Penn State on Saturday +14.5

USC Trojans @ Utah Utes Pick Em:  Yes, I know Cody Kessler just threw 7 touchdown passes last week against Colorado, but that won’t continue this week.  Utah is not getting the best quarterback play either, but I like this team because of their defense.  The only difficult defense USC has played was Stanford.  Yes, they won, but only because Stanford imploded in the red zone.  This Utah defense is for real and now they are coming home to their fans and that place will be rocking.  I like the Utes.  If you look closely at the line movement you will find something interesting too.  According to one site the line opened USC favored 1.5, but it has since dropped down to a pick-em.  The public and majority of bets are on USC because of their name and the big performance last week.  I will go opposite and take Utah.

Arizona State Sun Devils @ Washington Huskies +3.5:  Here is another case of what have you done for me lately.  Arizona State just blew out a decent Stanford team last week while the Huskies got whooped up in Oregon.  On top of that Arizona State is going to get their starting quarterback back in Taylor Kelly.  Why do I like Washington?  It is the same reason as last week and the same reason I like Penn State this week.  The home team is an underdog and the head coach is a genius in the underdog role.  On top of that this Washington defense is very good and after that bleak showing last week I expect them to be ready to play.  This line opened at 3.5 and has not moved with all the attention on the Sun Devils.  I say go with Washington and grab the 3 with the hook before it drops.

Texas Longhorns +10 @ Kansas State Wildcats:  I almost didn’t add this game, but I think Charlie Strong will get one big win for himself this year and he is running out of chances.  Don’t be fooled by the close game against Iowa State last weekend.  This Longhorn team was riding high after almost defeating Oklahoma.  This line also tells a story too.  Texas was a 2 touchdown dog against Baylor and Oklahoma and now goes on the road and is only getting 10 points.  I think Vegas is screaming for you to take Kansas State after that huge upset win over the Sooners.  Its tough to bet against Kansas State and the wizard Bill Snyder, but I like Charlie Strong and his Texas team to at least keep it close. Watch this line movement, you may want to grab Texas now before it drops again.  Longhorns for the cover!

Alabama Crimson Tide @ Tennessee Volunteers +17.5:  Well this game sure has set up nicely for Vegas.  They knew after Alabama’s performance last weekend they could put any number they wanted to on the board and the Crimson Tide were going to get money.  The line opened at 14.5 and has climbed to as high as 17.5 in some places.  Volunteers head coach Butch Jones said that Justin Worley may not play, but if you read other reports apparently he is playing coy and there is no doubt Worley will suit up.  I think Butch Jones has had this game circled ever since Lane Kiffin was named offensive coordinator for Alabama.  This is Tennessee’s super bowl.  They have had a demoralizing year and they need a confidence pick me up if they want to become bowl eligible this season.  The youth of the Volunteers scares me, but I think they will be able to pass the ball on this young Alabama secondary.  Once again I am getting sucked into a good head coach in an underdog role, Butch Jones.  Grab the points here, but don’t watch this game unless you have the stomach for it.  It is either going to be close or an Alabama blowout in the first quarter.

Chicago Bears +6 @ New England Patriots:  Now onto the NFL.  The Bears are not playing up to their potential and now they have a locker room feud.  On top of that they get to go play a Patriot team that has been one of the hottest teams in the league after a loss to Kansas City.  I think it is a perfect time for the Bears to rebound and get their season back on track.  The Bears are loaded on offense and here we go again I like head coach Marc Trestman.  He has got to get Jay Cutler to play better.  We have seen glimpses of what this offense can be if it’s run correctly. Every week Bears fans have to be losing their mind and thinking what could be if Jay Cutler played better.  Trust me he will this weekend.  The Patriots are happy right now just getting the wins.  New England is trying to get their defense back on track after losing Jerod Mayo for the year and just made a trade to try and fill that hole.  This Patriot team is good, but a touchdown favorite over a talented Bears team is too much.  The line opened at 7 and had dropped to 5.5 before it climbed back up to 6.  That is smart money on the Bears.  Grab the 6 while you can and watch out on Sunday for a close game.  Maybe even an upset.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Arizona Cardinals -2.5:  Philadelphia will of course be the popular play.  They have turned into the public darling because of their high-powered offense.  However, this is the game where you will find out if Nick Foles is a legitimate NFL quarterback.  This Arizona defense is for real and they play even better at home.  The secondary will be the test for Nick Foles.  They will press the Eagles wide receivers and I think get the better of them.  Arizona is the team that nobody is talking about and they are sitting at 5-1.  The Eagles just blew out the New York Giants and will be feeling even better about themselves after the buy week.  I say roll with the Cardinals and grab the 2.5 before it gets to that key number of 3

Miami Dolphins @ Jacksonville Jaguars +6:  I bounced back and forth on this game because I don’t like to bet with emotion, but I think this line is way too high.  The Jaguars were only a four-point dog last week against a talented Cleveland Browns team.  Now all of a sudden the Dolphins are almost a touchdown favorite.  I don’t think so.  This line opened at 5 and is only going to get higher unless sharp money comes in this weekend.  The public loves the Dolphins after their win last week against Chicago and expects them to handle the Jaguars with ease.  Not so fast.  Blake Bortles will need to limit the turnovers this week, but I expect another close game for Jacksonville.  Miami is not that good of a team to be favored almost a touchdown on the road.  Grab the Jaguars and the points.

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