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For Mercy's Sake, Fire Muschamp Now

Oct 20, 2014 -- 9:58am

The University of Florida should fire Coach Will Muschamp now. Not tomorrow, not next week or the week after but right now. In fact, it should have done it yesterday or sooner.

The university should do it not for the fans or the media but for Muschamp and his players -- and for the overall health of the program.

Why let Muschamp (and his family) dangle in the wind and continue to catch the harsh and incredible amount criticism fired at him? Why let the players finish the season in such a negative atmosphere? Why should the program endure six weeks of being a punching bag?

Fire Muchamp now and get on with moving to the next chapter of Gator football.

My suggestion is make offensive coordinator Kurt Roper the interim head coach. Let’s find out if his offense can work away from Muschamp’s shadow. I doubt it will. I’m not sure the Gators have the personnel and probably not the time to give Roper’s offense a fair shot. But the season is lost and what do the Gators have to lose?

Let the fans and media turn their attention to who the next coach will be. I don’t know who the Gators will go after but I do know few coaches, pro and college, will say no to Florida without listening first. The Florida job is one of the best, maybe top 10, in all of football. Florida offers absolutely everything needed to win big and writes paychecks with the best them.  

Muschamp was a bad hire. He deservedly earned a reputation as a top defensive coordinator; as a motivator and recruiter. But he’d never been a head coach and quickly proved (to me, at least) that he was in over his head as the big boss.

Dragging out this mess any longer makes no sense. Call it a mercy firing. 

Look for Seminoles to Roll Irish

Oct 16, 2014 -- 5:47pm

Florida State should beat Notre Dame.

The Seminoles have more talented players than the Irish. And they’re just as big and strong, but they’re faster and quicker.

But is FSU a better team?

It is if the Seminoles put the team first and individual glory/NFL dreams second.

I have maintained since before the season began that the Seminoles’ biggest obstacle is themselves. To use a coaching cliché, if the individual Seminole players do their jobs they’ll whip the Irish by two touchdowns. Thus far this season they’ve gotten away with some undisciplined and selfish defensive play against far inferior competition. Notre Dame, 6-0 and ranked 5th, is easily better than any team the 6-0 and 2nd-ranked Noles have played. Still, FSU is an 11½-point favorite. The odds-makers know.

I expect the Seminoles to play their best game Saturday night. There’ll be a lot of happy “choppers” shortly before midnight in Tallahassee after the Seminoles roll the Irish 45-17.

This week’s other predictions:

Missouri (4-2) at Florida (3-2), 7 p.m. – It’s tough to predict the Gators to beat anybody. Is RB Matt Jones still dinged? Are the coaches still mad at RB Kelvin Taylor? Who’s going to play quarterback? Can anyone other than WR Demarcus Robinson get open? Will there continue to be glaring coaching mistakes? But how can anyone pick the Tigers, who lost at home to Indiana – this isn’t basketball, you understand – and then were embarrassed at home by Georgia, 34-0. Oh well, somebody’s gotta win. The Gators, favored by 5½, wins 17-16.

Browns (3-2) at Jaguars (0-6), 1 p.m. – Cleveland is 7 points from being 5-0. The Browns are also 5 points from being 1-4. They’ve played their best football the last two weeks, overcoming a 28-3 deficit to win 29-28 at Tennessee and thumping their rival, Pittsburgh, 31-10. The matchup is actually good for the Jaguars. The Browns run the ball more than any NFL team and the Jaguars are decent against the run. Still, how can you honestly pick the Jaguars to win any game? Cleveland, favored by 5½, wins 27-17.

Finding Positives with the Jaguars

Oct 14, 2014 -- 3:09pm

I’ve been told I’m too critical of the Jaguars.

I’ve been told I should look for the good and not dwell on the bad.

Okay, I’ll try.

Blake Bortles shows more promise than any other quarterback the team has drafted with a top-10 pick. Byron Leftwich. No. 7 overall in ’03, had his moments but not many. Blaine Gabbert, drafted No. 10 in ’11, was a disaster.

Coach Gus Bradley is without question the friendliest, most upbeat and most accessible head coach in franchise history.

Owner Shad Khan is deep-pocketed, generous, committed to Jacksonville and fan friendly.

The jumbo video boards are unbelievable.

The Jaguars have been extremely competitive in their last two games.

The defensive play has improved.

Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is a tackling machine.

I see rookie wide receiver Allen Robinson having a long productive career.

Rookie right offensive guard Brandon Linder looks like a keeper based on everything I’ve been told.

Jaxson DeVille is the best mascot in professional sports.

The players as a group are as fan friendly as any I’ve seen in professional sports.

Paul Anger is a fine punter.

I trust placekicker Josh Scobee.

Carson Tinker hasn’t made a bad long snap.

And . . . I’m thinking . . . I’m thinking . . . 

Will Muschamp has Run Out of Miracles

Oct 13, 2014 -- 10:48am

I was beginning to think Will Muschamp lived a charmed life. Or he had the largest rabbit foot known to man. Or he’d sold his soul to the devil for football victories.

Yeah, I thought it was going to be 2012 all over again for the Florida Gators and their wild-eyed young head coach.

You remember the 2012 season, right? The Gators were the worst 11-1 team in major college football history. Other than a slip-up against Georgia, the Gators couldn’t seem to lose no matter how badly they played.

The 2014 Gators seemed headed for another such season. Remember the 4th-and-7 touchdown play against Kentucky after the play clock appeared to have expired? The Gators won in triple overtime. Remember the game-winning field goal at Tennessee when again it appeared the play clock had expired?

But last Saturday night in The Swamp against LSU the Gators’ ran out of lucky charms – but not before sending chills through their fans and shock waves through LSU’s Tigers.

Beleaguered Gator QB Jeff Driskel hadn’t thrown a strike on a deep ball since anyone can remember until he suddenly hit Demarcus Robinson in stride for a 73-yard gain after LSU had taken a 3-point lead with 2:40 to play. Even when tight end Tevin Westbrook dropped a TD pass – the short throw was right between the numbers and hit both of Westbrook’s hands – the Gators appeared headed for overtime by kicking a field goal with 1:48 to play.

When the Gators got the ball back there was a sense of another miracle victory under Muschamp’s watch.

Then devil reneged on her deal. A Driskel pass went off of someone’s helmet into the waiting arms of a Tiger. Finally, the young man who’d earlier missed an extra-point kick (more good fortune for the Muschamp Gators) was called on to do something he’d never done: kick a 50-yard field goal.

Colby Delahoussaye split the uprights with 0:03 on the clock. LSU 30, Florida 27.

Muschamp had run out of miracles and probably his chances of saving his job.

Jaguars Will Win First Game of 2014

Oct 09, 2014 -- 3:57pm

Back in the day when college coaches often said funny things, one pot-bellied good ‘ol country boy quipped he “didn’t like throwing the dadgum pigskin ’cause when you throwed it three things can happen and two of ‘em are bad.”

Times have changed -- not to mention the rules, the modern athlete and the demands of the fans who see 50-49 games as entertaining and classics and 10-7 games as boring and bad football.

At the top level of football, the NFL, teams now pass and pass and pass to set up the run, not the other way around. While most coaches would, no doubt, love to be able to pound the ball, that’s simply not the way the game is played these days. A good running game now usually means having the ability to have the option to run the ball.

Running backs have been devalued. The big money is in throwing the ball, catching the ball, protecting the man throwing the ball and in knocking down the guy throwing the ball.

 I bring up running the football because the Jaguars do it so poorly and their fans are lamenting this glaring weakness as a major reason for the team’s 0-5 record. The fans are right – to a degree.

But the Jaguars, like most teams, don’t need a 100-yards-game runner. They simply need a running game that can succeed on 3rd-and-2.

This week’s predictions:

Jaguars (0-5) at Titans (1-4), 1 p.m. – The good news for the NFL is so few people will even have an opportunity to watch this stinker. The TV audience will only be the two teams’ markets, which are among the smallest markets in the NFL. With a combined record of 1-9, this game is the NFL version of UMass playing Georgia State. As for what to expect on the field, the Jaguars’ defense actually played well last week against Pittsburgh, which has a clearly superior offense when compared to the Titans. That’s definitely the case if the Titans have to go with backup QB Charlie Whitehurst again because of Jake Locker’s thumb injury. The odds are in the Jaguars’ favor that they won’t go 0-16, and this is one of their best opportunities to prove it. Get ready to give a big black and teal roar. The Jaguars, 6½-point underdogs, win 24-17.  

Florida State (5-0) at Syracuse (2-3), noon – The Orange’s offense is in decline and now it’s starting QB is out with an injury. That’s not the formula for success. If the Seminoles take the game seriously they’ll be able to name the score. FSU, favored by 22½, wins 52-10.

LSU (4-2) at Florida (3-1), 7:30 p.m. – Have two teams with winning records ever felt so miserable? Florida’s Will Muschamp seemingly coaches each game trying to save his job. LSU Coach Les Miles, despite his impressive overall record, is getting hammered in Cajun Country. The Tigers have already gone to a freshman quarterback. The Gators wanted to but their freshman, Treon Harris, has been suspended. The loser of this one will not want to read his e-mails. LSU, favored by 2, wins 21-20.

One Loss Teams Not Out of Playoff Contention

Oct 07, 2014 -- 3:48pm

Wipe away those tears ‘Bama fans. Stay strong Sooner Nation. Keep the faith Aggie lovers.

I offer the same words of encouragement to all of you fans of the 13 once-beaten Big Boy college football programs. There’s a lot of football to played before a 13-person committee tells us exactly which teams will be invited to participate in the first-ever Gridiron Final Four.

Last week’s gaggle of upsets seemed to shake up the college football world, but not really. Remember, this week only marks the end of the first half of the season. There are eight unbeaten major teams but at least three will fall in the next two weeks. (TCU plays at Baylor and Auburn plays at Mississippi State this week and Notre Dame plays at FSU next week.)

Of the remaining five at that point, none has an easy stretch run. It doesn’t take much imagination to think all of the unbeatens could be gone by Nov. 1.

If you play the odds, you give a strong nod to Florida State getting an opportunity to defend its title. If the top-ranked Seminoles get by Notre Dame, they’ll be sizeable favorites in their remaining games.

Georgia Tech is 5-0 but not getting much respect. The Yellow Jackets are ranked 22nd or 23rd depending upon which poll you see. But if they do make a run they’ll have to win at Georgia in their regular-season finale and then (probably) have to beat FSU in the ACC Championship Game.

By the time November arrives there’ll be at least a dozen teams that still have legitimate dreams of making the Final Four.

Don’t be fooled into thinking major college football is approaching anything close to parity. It remains the major sport with the biggest gap between the “haves” and “have-nots”. (Can you even put, say, Temple and Tulane in the same sentence with, say, FSU and Auburn?)

But there are more schools now than ever that truly make the effort – spend the money -- to win the big prize. The reason is simple: money. The payoff for winning is larger than ever and growing. The “Final Four Playoff” is the tip of the financial iceberg.

You can look at Ole Miss and Mississippi State as two examples of what I’m talking about. Ditto for a pair of private schools in Texas, Baylor and TCU. 

I don’t know how much money members of the 13-person committee will be paid for their work or even if they’ll be paid anything. But the members will deserve more than they get because making the selections will be controversial and difficult.

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