Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Final Report

Well, Gators, this is it. I thought seriously about pulling a page from "The Office" and imitate Michael Scott's finale where he ended up skipping his last day and the big party that was planned for him, but I couldn't resist a final Report. I wish I could tell you that I have something special planned, but I truly don't know how to put a bow on this thing.

I guess I'll start at the beginning. The Gator Report started as an email to some buddies after each game back at the end of Spurrier's tenure. The emails got forwarded and people kept asking to get added to the list. After college, I roomed with a childhood friend who was getting his MBA at Florida while I was starting my career. He now runs an entire division at IBM and I'm still schlocking insurance, so that should tell you who the brighter roommate was. It was his idea to start the blog online and when he first explained to me how it would work I thought he was nuts. It was several years before my father in law and a few other "experienced" readers figured out that I didn't have to send them the text anymore but they could actually go to the same website every week to read the Report. The first blog was in the 2005 season, and since then we've had over 200,000 reads of The Reports that followed, a number that still baffles my mind. I think the highlight of my career as a "writer" came when a group actually got in touch with me and invited me to speak at a Gator gathering before the national championship game in Miami in 2009. They were actually offering to pay me! In declining, I told them what I have told you all for years- I actually know jack shit about football, but I sure do love the Gators. My other favorite moment was when I was sitting in the Grove waiting for UF to play Ole Miss one year and overheard some guy say that he heard that Mr. Report was going to be there that day. I leaned over to him and said that I'd heard that guy was a real asshole.

I read some of the old Reports before writing this one and it confirmed my decision to hang it up. I don't look forward to writing these like I used to and that's led to some fairly dry Reports compared to the old days. It doesn't help that my grandmothers and daughters are all online now and I worry about their reaction when they realize their grandson or dad says fuck all the time about a game played by kids. That's a free life lesson, folks- When you're afraid to say fuck when fuck is the best possible word from which to choose, then you need to stop what you're doing.

Making it easier to quit is the fact that I think we have a good coach and the program is heading in the right direction again. We're not Alabama by a long shot, but hell, nobody is nowadays (Note to Georgia: You can't beat Bama by hiring a Saban disciple. See Muschamp, Will. That goes double for you, South Carolina). I like Coach Mac. He doesn't wear socks and he explains things in ways that I think are well received by fans and players alike. For example, when he said before the Citrus Bowl that you can tell how a game is going by which line is going in the direction they want to go, that pretty much sums up football.

Now, don't get down about how we ended the season. I've seen far better teams lay eggs in  meaningless bowl games and the truth is that if you're not in one of the playoff games, your bowl performance is just slightly more significant than how you play in the Orange and Blue game. Our D didn't show up, but who can blame them? They knew the offense wasn't going to do much, particularly down a starting tackle and tight end. Losing Grier midseason was a killer, but even with him the offense struggled other than in the openers and against Ole Miss. But give Mac and these coaches time to get the players they need and then watch out. I don't know if we can win the East again next year, but when our main competition is a team we've beaten for over a decade and a bunch of other teams with new coaching staffs I wouldn't rule it out. Tennessee, being Tennessee, is likely to fuck up a preseason top 10 ranking. It is what they do. I say keep your expectations under control for 2016 while the offense gets its confidence back and watch out for the Mighty Gators from 2017 and beyond.

Before I hang it up for good, I want to say a few thank you's. Thank you to Rob, my roommate from years ago who built the online platform and dutifully tweeted and refreshed the look of the page for all these years. Rob, I presume all of those ad royalties covered the cost of the domain name so don't send me a bill after all these years.

Thank you to all of you who regularly commented on my posts online. I've done a piss poor job of responding to each of you but know that people like Summerborn and all the rest of you who routinely comment are all sincerely appreciated.

Thank you to all of you who read The Report and at least lied about missing it when I was a few days late in posting. This has been an absolute blast for me, and in spite of not knowing anything about what I was talking about, it was sure fun talking about it with you.

Thank you to Mrs. Report, Timmy and Percy for allowing me to get away on those Sundays to put out this ridiculous Report. May the latter two never, ever read a single word I wrote.

Most importantly, thank you to all those kids who have put their sweat and blood into playing for our Gators through the years only to be subject to "expert" criticism from assholes like me whose biggest worry is how to smuggle booze into the stadium to watch them win or lose while never having to worry about a 300 pound opposing player coming to knock me out. Not to get too deep on you here, but Gator Football is a major part of living in Gainesville and a time where we can look forward to catching up with friends we wouldn't see otherwise. Winning is great, but those few Saturdays each Fall are to be cherished either way.

So with that, I'll call it a Report. I hope to run into you some day in God's Country or on the road with our Gators.  Thank you all again for reading all these years.

Go Gators!


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Week 12: Night Game With the Semis

Greetings, Gators. I hope this finds you well and looking forward to a great Thanksgiving with your families followed by a rare treat: A night game with the Semis to close out the home schedule. Before discussing the scare against FAU and that impending showdown with the Noles, however, I want to announce that I've decided that this is the final season of The Report. Let's face it, I've been mailing it in for the last few seasons and I don't look forward to writing every week like I used to. I always said that as soon as this became more of an obligation than something I looked forward to, I'd hang it up. Truth is, had Boom not been a total disaster I would have concluded earlier, but this season with Coach Mac has been a great one and it seems like a good time to ride into the sunset. Besides, both of my daughters can read now, so I ought to shut this down before they find out that their Dad blogs about college football and drops the F bomb on occasion for the world to read.

All that being said, this past Saturday was almost a fucking disaster. FAU is a 2 win FBS team and doesn't have the talent to win in Gainesville, and yet we entered overtime at a distinct disadvantage because we have no kicker. Sure enough, we had another PAT blocked and it could have cost us a lot of the good momentum that Mac has built this year. Losing to FSU or Bama is one thing, losing to FAU sets you back. Thankfully, like we've done so many times this year, we managed to pull it out by playing outstanding defense, punting well, and squeezing out just enough points to carry the day. 10-1 against our schedule is nothing to sneeze at, no matter how gross we look on offense most of the time. I'm looking forward to see what Mac can do offensively once he finally gets a line and a QB on campus to run his scheme.

While we were struggling with the Owls, our other SEC Eastern brethren had similar issues. Mizzou is awful. South Carolina lost to The Citadel, and Georgia had to go to OT to beat Georgia Southern (something we'd have killed for a few years back). More significantly, Ohio State lost their season opener against an actual opponent and Urban's locker room splintered as a result. He's an amazing recruiter, but the knock on Meyer is that he gives preferential treatment to his stars, so much so that he loses control of them. The fact that his star tailback and former starting QB both announced they were going pro with their biggest rivalry game and post season still on the horizon tells you everything you need to know. LSU also failed to show up again for the third week in a row. If you'd have told me back in October that Les Miles would be on the verge of getting fired I would have thought you were mistaking him for Mark Richt, but there's enough noise coming out of Baton Rouge to make me think it might actually happen. I'd tell LSU the same thing I'd say to Georgia- Be careful. Tennessee fired a guy that won 9-10 games every year and they're still pointing to "next year" up in Rockytop and haven't sniffed Atlanta since Fulmer got the axe. The rumor I hear most often is that Jimbo would be the go to choice for LSU, but I think you'd have to be crazy to make a lateral move like that and pick up a significantly harder schedule. Note to Jimbo- If you can avoid playing Alabama every year, do it.

Turning to our friends from Tallahassee, they did what Florida was supposed to do against an outmatched FBS opponent and rolled through Chattanooga on Saturday. The Everett Golson experiment appears officially over and I've been impressed with Sean Maguire's arm. I think they're a far more formidable offense than they were with Golson. That said, if you're playing FSU you'd better first worry about #4. Dalvin Cook is an incredible talent and singlehandedly won games for FSU when they couldn't do anything through the air. Their O line isn't as good as last year, but Cook is so explosive that he doesn't need much. I'm not as overwhelmed with their defense as I've been in the past, but they are fast, talented and have good size up front. Typical FSU D. The biggest mismatch Saturday will be in the kicking game. Their FG kicker is a future NFL star, ours is likely never going to kick for points after this season.

In terms of good news, you'll recall that if Florida had any offense at all last year we turned Jameis over multiple times and probably could have pulled the upset against a Noles squad that was superior to this year's version. FSU has lost to a lousy Georgia Tech team, albeit on a fluke blocked FG, and a good Clemson team. They've beaten two Division 1 teams with winning records.  I think we have the better defense and, like it or not, Treon and the offense played their best game against the best team (LSU) we've faced since Grier was suspended. Plus, we get them at home and I predict the Swamp will be rocking after a long day of tailgating. 

I think one stat will tell the tale on Saturday- Turnovers. If we are positive on turnovers we'll win. If we turn it over and make it hard on our defense we'll lose. I'm assuming that the D will be close to full strength come Saturday night, and barring turnovers I think we hold them to scoring similar to their games against Clemson (they scored 13) and BC (they scored 14). Sean Maguire is an upgrade for their passing game, but this is the best secondary he's faced in his life and they don't have a legit weapon at wideout or tight end like they've had in the past. I don't know how in the hell we'll score more than 14, but I don't know how in the hell we've won 10 games with this offense, so I'm just going to trust that it will work out somehow. It has been a crazy season, but the breaks have gone our way and I don't think that stops in the biggest home game of the year. I think Florida wins 20-16 and Coach Mac goes perfect at home in year 1.

I'm traveling next week a good bit for work so I'm going to go ahead and give you my prediction for the SEC Championship game as well. Prediction 1- We're playing Bama. There's no way they slip up to Auburn. None.  Prediction 2- Our defense will keep us in it for the first half, but there's nothing we'll be able to do with our O line against their defensive front. I just hope Treon survives. Come the fourth quarter our D will have fought their hearts out but tackling Derrick Henry when the game is no longer in doubt becomes extremely difficult. Bama 30-Florida 13.

I'll give you a few picks this week and then talk to you once the bowls are announced-

Auburn v. Alabama- See above. This ends badly for Boom and the Tigers. Bama 35-Tigers 9.

Michigan v. Ohio State- This is going to be fascinating. I don't love Big Blue's talent level this year but Urban's got his work cut out for him getting this team to believe again and you know that Harbaugh has been looking forward to this one all year. That said, Urban's lost one regular season game in the Big 10 in four years. He's not losing two in a row. Buckeyes 24-Big Blue 18.

Nebraska v. Iowa- This is a great game for Friday. Nebraska is coming off a bye and Iowa now has the pressure of being the lone undefeated team in the Big 10. I think the world of Kirk Ferentz, but I have a feeling that if Ohio State can't run the table, then neither can the Hawkeyes. Big Red 28-Hawks 23.

Stanford v. Notre Dame- Stanford gets more love in spite of having two losses than any team in the country. I think Notre Dame is the better side, but if you haven't figured it out by now I'm rooting for complete chaos for the playoff committee. Cardinal 27-Domers 24.

TCU v. Baylor- TCU gave the Sooners all they wanted on Saturday night while Baylor handled OSU in Stillwater. This is another great Friday game but I like Baylor to outscore the Frogs and stay in the hunt for the playoffs. Bears 42-Frogs 33.

Oklahoma State v. Oklahoma- OSU won in Norman last year in overtime. I like them to get off the mat and find a way to give Stoops an 0-2 record in major rivalry games this year. Cowboys 38-Sooners 35.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I hope to see many of you in God's Country come Saturday for what promises to be an extremely fun way to end the regular season. I'll be back talking to you one more time after the dust settles in Hotlanta.

Go Gators!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week 11: Bring on the Hooters

Hello, Gators. Just a quick Report this week on account of our opponent frankly not being very interesting. It was a great win Saturday in Columbia, cementing a perfect record in the East and finding just enough offense to keep things from getting too interesting.  It seemed to me that the plan on offense was to keep Treon in the pocket and try and create some positive plays against a lousy defense to build his confidence. He made some nice throws but positively lucked out on that one floater that Cronkrite stole away from the DB and turned into a TD pass. It goes without saying that we should expect different results against FSU and Bama if he throws another duck like that. His other awful throw of the day was the pick in the endzone at the end of the first half. You just can't kill scoring opportunities that way.  That being said, I thought the offense was better Saturday and the defensive front absolutely dominated SC all day. Hell, we even made a field goal. All in all, a great day on the road.

This weekend we have the 2-8 Florida Atlantic Owls visiting The Swamp. The only FAU game I watched was their first half against Miami where they actually looked ok but eventually lost 44-20. They need another win in their last 2 games to match their 3 win total from last year. They'd better plan on getting it at Old Dominion the following week. I expect we'll look sloppy for another nooner with two huge games looming on the horizon, but we're not losing to FAU. Hopefully we get to see a bunch of younger guys getting reps so the vets can take this one easy.  Gators 35-Owls 6.

In other news, the Big 12 is imploding, Missouri's AD may have the hardest hire in college football with all the turmoil going on in the other Columbia, and Ohio State is playing their first ranked opponent of the season. In week 11.

Our game won't be a great one, but there are a few of interest-

Ole Miss v. LSU- LSU Has lost two in a row and is positively reeling. Ole Miss had a bye week finally and I'm sure needed it after that miraculous loss to Arky. Neither team has a realistic shot at Atlanta or the playoff any longer (Bama is not losing the Iron Bowl. I take back all the nice things I said about Auburn last week), so it will be interesting to see if either team comes out with some fire. I like LSU's roster better and the Rebel defense has proven to be a great solution to struggling offenses this season. Tigah Bait 35-Hoddy Toddy 24.

Mizzou v. Tennessee- Word is that Missouri's defense is threatening to sit out the game unless Josh Dobbs grows eyebrows by kickoff. I think Mizzou shot their wad with the win for Pinkel against BYU, though if Tennessee gets up 14 or more you can't rule out them blowing it late. Vols 27-Tigers 17 (I apologize if any of the above was perceived as micro-aggressive in any way by my friends in Mizzou. I assure you that the phrase "shot their wad" by no means is a reference to a poop swastika).

Ohio State v. Michigan State- MSU, when healthy, was a stout test on paper for the Buckeyes. The problem is that they're banged up all over the place, notably their secondary and starting QB. Urban may be a lot of things, but he is also a tremendous big game coach. I think the Buckeyes finally have an opponent that will interest them which is bad news for Sparty. OSU 42-MSU 17.

Oklahoma v. TCU- This is tough to pick without knowing if Trevone Boykin can go. The Frogs hammered OU last year, 42-9. As Baylor just discovered, OU is better this year. Boomer Sooner 42-TCU 28.

Oklahoma State v. Baylor- I'm convinced that there's no way that Okie State runs the table. I'm taking the Bears to come back strong after a loss. BU 45-OSU 33.

Enjoy your weekend, Gators. It may only be FAU, but it is one of 2 remaining home games, the weather should be incredible, and it will be our first time obtaining our 10th win since 2012. Certainly worth savoring.

Go Gators!