Any Given Saturday, Week 13: Will “Gator MusChomp” Isn’t The Only One With A Dream Deferred

    What happens to a dream deferred?

          Does it dry up

          like a raisin in the sun?

          Or fester like a sore—

          And then run?

          Does it stink like rotten meat?

          Or crust and sugar over—

          like a syrupy sweet?

          Maybe it just sags

          like a heavy load.

          Or does it explode?

    –Langston Hughes, Harlem

    College football’s inaugural playoff has resulted in an interesting side effect which only Langston Hughes could elocute. Sure more teams are vying for a potential national championship shot in November than ever before, but it will also leave more teams crestfallen than ever before.

    Okay, maybe I’m looking at this whole thing negatively, but try telling that to Ohio State, TCU, Baylor and even Ole Miss. During the BCS era they’d be trailing Florida State and either Oregon or Bama by enough points in their metric system to keep their fanbase from getting reasonable championship hopes.

    Forming a four-team playoff designed to squeeze five power conference champs including the stacked SEC and a Big 12 without a championship game was like Mary Todd Lincoln asking Abe if her Victorian-era bustle dress makes her look fat.

    It was a set up for failure. Simply put, we need more teams.

    One year into the playoff experiment, there isn’t enough room for each of the contenders. Instead of debating Nos. 2 and 3, the fourth, fifth, six, seventh and eighth teams in the nation are grappling with the prospect of missing out on the playoff despite nearly immaculate resumes.

    Ohio State’s JT Barrett has evolved from an amphibian in the pocket to full-blown Heisman-caliber signal caller quicker than we imagined putting Ohio State back into the picture. The Big 12’s lack of a title game means that Baylor or TCU will get locked out.

    Keeping these teams on a string even longer isn’t merciful. It’s torture.

    Hope is a dopamine cheat code during inauspicious times.

    As Emily Dickinson eloquently stated, "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul –and sings the tunes without the words –and never stops at all.”

    Or as Hughes put it more solemnly, 

    Hold fast to dreams 

    For if dreams die
    Life is a broken-winged bird
    That cannot fly.

    The college football playoff is the predator set to painfully pluck those feathers one by one and in a few weeks keep your eyes peeled for the hopes plummeting back to reality.



    Throw that box score out the door.  This ain’t your father’s Heisman list. Our equal opportunity Heisman list is headed for Ellis Island. Women, children and quarterbacks are usually first, but defensive players and offensive linemen are also welcome.

    Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) – He's responsible for more touchdowns this season than any other player besides JT Barrett  while throwing for two fewer touchdowns and Oregon is No. 2 in the country. But he can't rest on his laurels. Seven years ago, this week Dennis Dixon was the Heisman frontrunner while Florida's Tim Tebow tailed him from a distance.

    Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin) – There can only be one Highlander and one running back in these Heisman rankings. Gordon snatched that slot by rushing for 408 yards last month game while Ameer Abdullah could muster just 69 on 18 carries. 

    Gerod Holliman (S, Louisville) – Get ready for a big day from Holliman. He's facing Notre Dame's Everett Golson, the ultimate hit or miss quarterback. He misses against Holliman, who is one pick away from tying the single-season record, he'll be facedown on the canvas and benched by halftime.

    Dak Prescott (QB, Mississippi State) – All was not last weekend, but his Heisman candidacy is looking woozy after his three interception performance and awkward late game clock management cost Mississippi State the game.

    Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) –  A quiet day consisted of a single touchdown catch and eeling in a deep lob at the 1-yard-line. 


    The Gator Muschomp

    The coaching carousel has been spinning in orbit for nearly two months now. Kansas’ dismissal of Charlie Weis was the unofficial catalyst, but it was a tree falling in the forest.

    On Monday, Florida didn’t give Will Muschamp the boot. However, instead of having him squirm on the hot seat while his final season in Gainesville circles the drain, they paused the timer on his dead man’s switch with a layer of liquid nitrogen.

    However, once Muschamp goes kaboom! Someone will have to pick up the pieces.

    Florida’s seemingly whittled down their list to offensive-minded tacticians with head coaching experience.

    Rich Rodriguez is perceived to be the most high-profile name attached to the Gators vacancy.  Unfortunately, baggage related to his rocky departure from West Virginia, the three catastrophic seasons he spent at Michigan and the accompanying ego nullify his magnificent offensive mind.

    If they want to get creative Georgia Southern’s Willie Fritz has the proven championship credentials on the FCS level at Sam Houston State and has FBS newcomer Georgia Southern on a path to take the Sun Belt during his rookie season I Statesboro. They beat Florida last season, but that was pre-Fritz.

    The most curious unorthodox candidates is Louisiana-Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth could be the man for their job. It would be a low-key hire for a high-profile gig, but Urban Meyer was only in his second season at Utah when Florida took a chance.

    Hudspeth shown the moxie to lead a program out of the doldrums before on a smaller scale. In his inaugural season Hudspeth improved LA-Lafayette from 3-9 to 9-4 and led them to their first bowl game in school history.

    Unfortunately, three consecutive 9-4 seasons without a signature Power 5 victory that have ended with New Orleans Bowl victories may not leave Foley salivating.

    Ironically, the nearest thing to a capstone moment occurred on the road against the 8-1 Florida Gators. After surrendering the game-tying touchdown in the final two minutes, LA-Lafayette went three-and-out. However, Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy blocked the punt and Jelani Jenkins returned the deflection to the end zone with just five seconds remaining.

    Prior to picking the Rajin’ Cajuns out of the incubator and teaching them to walk and run at the same time, Hudspeth was an assistant under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State.

    Mullen should be the frontrunner, but there is some personal animosity that may interfere with mutually beneficial return that would rival Gus Malzahn’s triumphant return to Auburn as the chief.

    Urban Meyer's top offensive assistant at Ohio State and Clemson's Kelly lack the head coaching experience Foley desires in a replacement. Kevin Sumlin fits the bill. His offense has a little Spurrier in it. But he has yet to prove whether he can ever field anything more than a turkey defense.

    One maestro who specializes in defense, but has shown the ability to field and recruit a potent offenses despite multiple staff changeovers is TCU’s Gary Patterson. However, with TCU at is peak, would he really leave after 12 seasons of building a Big 12 contender? Doubtful.

    Arizona State’s Todd Graham is another offensive guru, but he’s yet to win significantly and watching his Sun Devils allow UCLA to score 65 on their home turf should make Florida boosters queasy. A year earlier and Charlie Strong would have piloted his own small aircraft back to Gainesville. Steve Spurrier has seemed particularly aloof lately and after a disappointing season, he may want to pen a letter to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples explaining why he’s coming home.

    The degenerate gambler’s favorite is Mike Gundy, but a man this passionate about Oklahoma State football really leave his program at a time when they’ve hit a lull and would he create buzz when his stock is so low? There are too many obstacles involved to believe it’s even a plausibility.

    The sleeper is Colorado State’s Jim McElwain. His name may not sound as familiar to college football fans, but for Saban’s first four years in Tuscaloosa he was Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Doug Nussmeier and Lane Kiffin have larger profiles, but McElwain has the track record. In three seasons, he's hoisted 9-1 Colorado State into the top 25.

    Yet, McElwain’s name lacks buzz and even the Governor of Colorado is a little hazy on what exactly it is. However, if name recognition, buzz, deft recruiting skills and offensive-minded is what Foley’s in mind there’s only one candidate who fits all the criteria besides Bob Stoops, who’s married the Oklahoma job and constantly expresses his SEC derangement syndrome.

    After a successful season reshaping one of college football’s most conservative schemes in McElwain’s old post, the stage has been set for a familiar face to take the reins of another program.

    May the football gods have mercy on those poor souls.