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Blog Entry

Friday Mailbag: Gators ready to make a jump?

Posted on: January 20, 2012 2:01 pm
Time for the Friday Mailbag. As always, if you have a question, send it to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @cjdyal Is it possible for UF to make a Bama 08 type of jump, where both teams went 7-6 year one? UF returns 10/11 starters on D.

That Bama team had a lot more experience on offense with a very talented and seasoned O-line to lean on and a veteran QB in senior John Parker Wilson. They had 18 starters returning. The other big thing that had going for them was a really experienced coaching staff led by Nick Saban. And keep in mind, even though that Bama team had gone 7-6, all six of those losses were by a TD or less. Of UF's six losses, only two were by a touchdown or less. They were not as competitive and they're younger, both on the field and on the sidelines.

  The Gators should have a very tough defense, as you alluded to, but it's the offense that is the big unknown. It was awful last season and there are major question marks for new OC Brent Pease heading into 2012: Both young QBs are unproven and looked very shaky when they got the chance to play. There is no established tailback to lean on for those young QBs. There is no go-to guy at receiver to count on in the clutch. There is some experience on the O-line and they do have some speed, but this was still a group that was just 105th in the country in total offense. That's why Pease is one of the more intriguing hires of the off-season. There is a talent there but it seems pretty raw. Last season was a rough transition period, where things got worse before they got better. I feel like Pease is a much better fit here than Charlie Weis was.

I expect UF to be improved in 2012, but I wouldn't expect a jump that big from unranked to top six.

From @
DMcCallCU11  Top 5 sleeper teams not on the radar that may make noise in the BCS??

At this point, it's hard to get a great sense of who is "not on the radar" for 2012 and would be deemed a sleeper. I guess you could say anyone not in the SEC, USC, Oregon or Oklahoma might qualify as "a sleeper" these days. My two best sleeper candidates are both newcomers to the Big 12, TCU and WVU (assuming the Mountaineers can shed the Big East this offseason). Both teams were pretty young last season. The Horned Frogs especially so. Both should be explosive on offense. WVU, which just scored 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl, figures to be one of the top two or three scoring teams in the country. TCU should pile up points too and will be even better on D.

Three other sleepers who could make noise in the BCS (although I'm just saying could make a BCS bowl, not be a national title contender): BYU - 15 starters back, plus both specialists; FIU - 17 starters back, including 10 on D, lots of speed on offense and winnable non-conference games against Big East and ACC teams; and La. Tech, 14 starters back from a good team; they play in a weakened league and their toughest non-conference games are against a rebuilding Houston team and Virginia.
From @SilverCrushBlog What is Notre Dame missing besides stability at QB? It seems like 1988 was 100 years ago. 

Well, that is a very big missing ingredient. If you don't have an elite defense, and I'm talking about an Alabama or LSU-caliber defense or you don't have a very good QB, you can't be a top-five college team. You'd be fortunate to even be a top 15 team. Look at FSU, the Noles had a pretty tough defense, but they had issues at QB and finished No. 23.

When people say "the only difference between us and (so-and-so) is they have a good quarterback and we don't." Well, that's like saying the only difference between that Ferrari and my car is the engine. It is a very big deal. You're not talking about a tight end or a SAM linebacker.

The Irish, despite having a great WR and TE tandem, were shockingly inept in the Red Zone and had way too many meltdowns. That lack of efficiency, much of it goes back to shaky QB play, really holds a team back because it mangles any effort you have to sustain momentum and crush an opponent's will. Now maybe that's change since Tommy Rees/Andrew Hendrix have more experience or Everett Golson is ready to step out or maybe we'll find out that Gunner Kiel is mature enough and talented enough to overtake the others and be The Guy. Until that happens, there is skepticism for a program that hasn't lived up to the hype for a very long time.

Back to the other side of the ball: Notre Dame's defense was improved in 2011, but it's still nowhere near elite. ND's secondary really struggled to make plays on the ball and was still lacking when it came to facing capable offenses (Michigan, USC and Stanford). Beyond that, the Irish have some really athletic players, but not enough of them.

From @
Brentboyles  why is everybody on the band wagon with USC for next year?

I can give you seven very good reasons:

1. They are led by arguably the best QB in college football who has a ton of experience, Matt Barkley.

2. They have the best 1-2 WR tandem in the country, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

3. They return their entire back-seven on D that includes their top tacklers who were freshmen in 2011 (Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard) and perhaps the top two DBs in the Pac-12 in safety T.J. McDonald and CB Nickell Robey.

4. They bring back four starting O-linemen and now actually have some quality depth behind those guys.

5. They return a 1000-yard rusher, Curtis McNeal.

6. They get the two most talented teams on their schedule, Oregon and Notre Dame, in the Coliseum.

7. No team will be hungrier.

From @chrisasims Hey Bruce, here's a question for you: How do you expect Oregon to fare next season without Darron Thomas and LaMichael James?

  As long as Chip Kelly's running the show there, the Ducks should be fine. Despite those players moving on, Oregon is in really good shape. I had them in my Top 5 that I posted the other day

Kelly has some very talented people ready to step up. Bryan Bennett is faster and a more accurate passer than Thomas, but lacks his experience while Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and a more physical young back, Tra Carson, should ease the loss of James. Another name to remember with the Ducks in 2012 is redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota, who has coaches very excited in Eugene. The O-line also should be better.

  From @danielmcfadin How do you think Gus Malzahn's first season at Arkansas State will compare to HughFreeze's?

I don't expect Malzahn to match Freeze's 10-win total this year. ASU lost almost its entire defense and that was a surprisingly solid group that was top 25 in most categories and No. 13 against the run. Malzahn does inherit a good triggerman in Ryan Aplin, who should put up big numbers, but there are probably too many quality guys to replace to expect more than eight wins in Year One, especially when you consider the Red Wolves have to visit Oregon and Nebraska in the first three weeks of the season.

From @galdog33  reading Swing Your Sword now...great read so you think Coach Leach can start as fast at WSU as his other stops?

  Thanks! I don't see the Cougars overtaking Oregon in the Pac-12 North this year after finishing in the basement of the division. They were 4-8 in 2011 but were competitive. Paul Wulff certainly did not leave the cupboard bare. Leach walks into a decent situation. They have some good pieces on offense with two talented QBs (Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday) and one stud WR (Marquess Wilson). The down side: The O-line is very shaky. They were 116th in sacks allowed. They also really struggled on D, ranking 95th in scoring defense.

Leach, though, never has had a losing season at Tech, and I doubt he has one in his first year at WSU. I'm not sure he can double last year's win total, but I'll be surprised if the Cougars aren't a bowl team. It will be an interesting first month in Pullman. They have a challenging opener against his alma mater, at BYU. After that, they have EWU, at UNLV and Colorado. My hunch is they should be 3-1 when they face Oregon in Seattle.  

From @365ROLLTIDE even though Bama loses a lot, do you think the SEC west will come down to the Bama/LSU game next season? Thanks

I do. While I think Arkansas is a dangerous team and the Hogs get both LSU and Bama at home in 2012, I still feel like they don't have enough big-time guys on defense to win that division. Bama may only return a handful of starters but the Tide gets back the nucleus to perhaps the best O-line in the country and has a proven winner at QB to go with Eddie Lacy, who would've started probably for 100 other teams were it not for Trent Richardson.

  From @mckdaddy1 what kind of gig would Houston Nutt get if/when he gets back into coaching?

Nutt has had a lot of success in his coaching career and is still only in his mid-50s. He won SEC Coach of the Year three times, which is impressive. But it is intriguing where does a guy like this go after his stint at Ole Miss? The broadcast booth? As an assitant to the NFL?

After a great start in Oxford, things fell apart in a huge way with the worst season in school history last year. From what I've been told by sources in Oxford he left a real mess behind. I wouldn't expect Nutt to go from that to land another SEC head coaching job. Maybe next season a Conference USA job opens up or perhaps somewhere in the Sun Belt. I'd be surprised if Nutt took a job as an assistant at a bigger school since he's been a head coach for so long.

Since: Dec 6, 2010
Posted on: January 22, 2012 12:59 pm

Friday Mailbag: Gators ready to make a jump?

JBIII sadly was the best QB the Gators could put on the field the last 2 years.  For that I blame Urban Meyer and his staff for not recruiting better options.  JBIII is not a spread option QB so the Gators were very limited offensively.  Urban Meyer left town on his own and not run out.  His health, his family are more important than any football team.  But when he accepts a job as an analyst I knew the guy was not committed to Gator Nation and so did the rest of Gator Nation.  I'm glad Urban is gone. Muschamp has his heart in it, like Spurrier, Saban and Miles.  I'd like to thank Urban for 2 NCAA Championships but he has the job he wants now at Ohio State and with that program in disaray who would blame him when the Notre Dame job comes available later this year or next.  Meyer was disloyal but the Florida faithful would have taken him back.  He chose to leave, Ron Zook was the one that was run out of town.  The Gators will be much better in 2012 well above the .500 mark.  It will take some work but there is too much pride in Gainesville to go 7-6 or 8-5 for very long.  Jeremy Foley and the alumni won't allow it.  So kick us while we are down for now and enjoy it, it just won't be for very long.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: January 21, 2012 8:26 pm

Oops: that's JBIV.

My mistake.  Actually, JBIV looked slow enough to be a fifty year-old man in St Pete today.  I hope he got his degree, because he is not going to hang on with a professional football team.  Since I always wish players well, I hope his degree and family connections get him a great life outside of football.  I am guessing we watched JBIV play his last series of organized football today.  
If he wants to stay in the game, maybe he'll make a nice coach someday, but the speed of the game at even the major college level is just too much for him.  I can't even see him playing arena ball at this point.  Maybe he can be Muschamp's grad assistant next year. 

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: January 21, 2012 8:22 pm

Florida will jump: in a lake.

Thanks to endless behind the scenes politics, led by the Brantley family, every vestige of what enabled the Florida Gators team to win two National Championships is gone.  They tore apart their entire program just to build a team around JBIII.  While I'm sure JBIII is a nice kid, he really should have been made to earn his way on to the team.  
They ran Urban Meyer out of town, and got rid of the offense that was one of the best in the country.  Now they don't have enough of the right talent to run either a spread of a pro style offense, and it isn't about to get any better for a few years.  Florida will once again be lucky to be a .500 ballclub.  They will be lucky to make the Beef O Brady's Bowl in St Pete next season.
At least they are happy about these developments in Tallahassee.  Bleep: they're probably happy about this in Jacksonville, where they probably think Jacksonville State has a great chance of beating the Gators next year. 

Since: Aug 24, 2007
Posted on: January 21, 2012 2:56 pm

Friday Mailbag: Gators ready to make a jump?

Bad choise on the BAMA LSU rematch. Arkansas will start the year higher than 8th and after beating Bama at home will move up to 4 or 5. Look for the Hogs to win it all next year. The BCS won't allow another rematch even though Arkansas and LSU will be the 2 top best teams in the country next year.

Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: January 21, 2012 7:05 am

Friday Mailbag: Gators ready to make a jump?

The best news for the Gators is that they are free of the Brantley scholarship obligation.  I don't expect them to be fast-rising, but I do think that the young quarterbacks they do have were blessed with facing the rage of real defenses this year.  I would hope that this would ease the "confidence" problem that plagued Brantley.  The defense is fine, but it is the offensive line that needs to become consistent.  If it doesn't, Florida will still be known as the team with a good defense but an offense that is unable to put any points up on the board to support the defensive effort.

Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: January 20, 2012 6:44 pm

Friday Mailbag: Gators ready to make a jump?

A few thought of my own on these questions.  Not that anyone is necessarily interested, but I have nothing better to do. 

1.  I would definitely have USC has the preseason #1, and I am far from a fan of that program.  They were playing excellent football at the end of the year and return a boatload of talent next season.  If Mettenberger is as advertised, maybe LSU and USC can finally meet on the field. 

2.  I think the Gators are still at least a year away from seriously competing for anything, to include the SEC East.  Unless one of those young QB's really improves quite a bit, they are probably 8-4 next season, with losses to LSU, SC, UGA, and FSU. 

3.  Houston Nutt is done as a big time coach for now.  He has left his past two jobs in horrible fashion, so I do not see a major program bringing him onboard.  He could still get a job at a lower tier BCS school, but that is probably about it. 

4.  The SEC West should be a three team race next season with LSU, Bama, and Arkansas battling it out.  Arkansas' big advantage is that they get both at home, while Bama gets both on the road.  Both Bama and Arkansas have good QB's, so again for LSU, it is all about Mettenberger.  Should be another fun season in the SEC West. 

5.  Oregon should be just fine next year, even with their losses.  They have quality people ready to play.  I expect to see them and USC in the Pac 12 CG, and it should be a great one. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or