ABBREVIATED EDITION FROM FORT LAUDERDALE
(1) Two years ago, the Gators were a broken team with a 4-7 record and needing a head coach. For awhile, it seemed as if UF athletic director Scott Stricklin was headed for another Tennessee coaching search after Chip Kelly (apparently) and Scott Frost (perhaps) said no, but was the interest in Kelly and Frost a smokescreen all along? Did Stricklin appease the masses by appearing to go after Kelly and Frost when all along the man he wanted was Dan Mullen? Had Stricklin made Mullen his very visible target from day one, the screaming would have been heard all the way to Bora Bora from Gator fans convinced the AD had lost his ever loving mind. I’m of the opinion that Mullen was THE MAN all along and Stricklin simply played the perception game before formally offering and landing his guy. The perception was Kelly and Frost didn’t want to be Gators. The perception was, is and will be that Mullen has the job he wants and will be a Gator for a long, long time. After two seasons, 21 wins and two New Year’s Six bowl games, there is no question Mullen has the Gators on track to win championships. It’s not a question of if he will do it, simply a matter of when.
(2) The clock never struck midnight for the Cinderella Story that is Kyle Trask. He started the season the same place he’s started every season since he was a sophomore in high school, on the sideline carrying a clipboard and wondering what a football game looks like when viewed through the ear hole of a helmet. He finished the season with an 8-2 record as a starter with a save thrown in at Kentucky. He threw for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns in ten games and change. A year ago, Feleipe Franks threw for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games. For more perspective consider this: In his senior season in 2009, Tim Tebow threw for 2,895 yards and 21 touchdowns. What makes this season even more remarkable for Trask is the fact he stepped in when Franks went down and seamlessly took over as the team leader. He didn’t do it with bravado and he ruffled no feathers, but he rather quickly earned the respect of his teammates. You want to know why the Gators finished 11-1? That’s a pretty good reason right there.
(3) There are no happy campers in StarkVegas this morning. Not only did Mississippi State get hosed by Louisville, but the Bulldogs finished with a 6-7 record. It’s not lost on Bulldog fans that HBC Joe Moorhead told everyone after the Egg Bowl “You’ll have to drag my Yankee ass out of here.” It’s rumored a tractorcade is forming at the Starkvegas city limits to do just that. Moorhead is an absolutely rotten fit at MSU and in the SEC, not to mention the fact folks are about to be convinced he can’t coach a lick.
(4) Florida State (6-6) is playing Arizona State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl today, named after Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, a sugar bomb waiting to explode in your veins to spike your A1C to unfathomable levels. Besides, the Frosted Flakes go soggy in milk in a hurry. That actually sounds like Florida State’s 2019 football season. It went soggy quickly. The good news for Seminole fans is today is the final day of 2019 and the curtain closes on a rotten season. Tomorrow they can collectively say “Out with the old and in with the new.” They seem to think Mike Norvell will have them in a New Year’s Six bowl before you know it. I don’t think they realize just how much damage Willie Taggart did to the program.
(5) Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses, who had to sit the 2019 season after an ACL tear, has chosen to return for his senior season rather than take the NFL money and run. Moses would have been one of the best, if not the best linebacker in college football had he been healthy in 2019. Bet the farm that he’ll make every preseason All-America team when the first magazines hit the news stands in May. Consider this also: Moses and Tua Tagovailoa are best buds. With Moses returning, will Tua decide to come back as well? There is an awful lot of speculation today that this will be the case.
(6) Baylor coach Matt Rhule declined to interview with the Cleveland Browns. The New York Giants are ready to talk to him, as well, but will Rhule be ready to talk to the Giants? My guess is he’s happy being a college football coach. I could see him maybe leaving Baylor for another college job somewhere but I don’t see him going to the pros.
(7) Here’s my last prediction of 2019: Jake Fromm will declare for the NFL right after Georgia loses to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. Fromm regressed this season with James Coley as his offensive coordinator and he can’t take the chance that Kirby Smart will bring in the right guy to coach him up next year. It’s the perfect time for Fromm to go. He’s being projected in the lower third of the first round of the NFL Draft, which means he will get drafted by teams that (a) win game and (b) make the playoffs, which seriously beats the alternative of being stuck someplace like Detroit for the next few years. I could see Bill Bellichik drafting him and then grooming him to take over when Tom Brady retires, perhaps in another year or two. Give Fromm a couple of years learning the ropes from Brady and he would be set for a nice NFL career.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER Kentucky (7-5) 24, Virginia Tech (8-4) 21: Kentucky will play defense with its offense, which is to say the Mildcats will line up in their single wing and dare you to get them off the field. Everybody knows Lynn Bowden Jr. is going to run the football but nobody seems to be able to stop him. He will make his final game as a collegiate quarterback (he’ll play wideout in the NFL) memorable. It’s the last game VaTech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will coach (he’s retiring) so the Hokies will be motivated, but they will need more than motivation to stop Kentucky from running the ball and winning the Belk Bowl. By the way, this will be the last Belk Bowl. Belk has pulled the plug on its sponsorship. Fear not, however. Some sucker will sponsor a game in Charlotte next year so ESPN can fill four hours of holiday programming.
PARTING SHOT: A friend of mine spent the last two days listening to his Buckeye neighbor blame the zebras for Ohio State’s loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Yesterday he took a platter from the Publix Deli to his neighbor’s house. The neighbor said thank you and then asked, “Why the cheese platter?” My friend said, “To go with your whine.”