TAMPA — It's the biggest football game in USF history.
It's two days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. The 9-1 Bulls against the 10-0 Knights. It's USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost. It's the best these two programs have ever been at the same time.
Forget that unsightly disturbance in Gainesville on Saturday.
USF-UCF is the game.
If this is ever going to be a true rivalry, it starts Friday....
ST. PETERSBURG — It isn't easy avoiding The Jameis Winston mess.
But it's worth a try. If only to see some thin shafts of light.
It's worth considering that the 2017 Bucs, their death certificate already signed, have shown signs of life. Okay, near life. They've won two in a row, including their first road win. They're 4-6, not 2-8.
It's a long way from Hard Knocks and preseason glory. But there are shafts of light....
TAMPA — Why should we believe this man?
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is being investigated by the NFL concerning an allegation of him groping a female Uber driver in Scottsdale, Ariz., in March 2016.
Winston denied the allegations Friday in a statement:
"The story falsely accuses me of making inappropriate contact with this driver," Winston said. "I believe the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her. The accusation is false, and given the nature of the allegation and increased awareness and consideration of these types of matters, I am addressing this false report immediately. … While I am certain I did not make any inappropriate contact, I don't want to engage in a battle with the driver, and I regret if my demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way."...
11/14/17 The Heater
CLEARWATER — It would have been a great day for a baseball game.
The Spectrum Field grounds crew did its job. The basepaths were watered down with a hose. The baselines were drawn in chalk. The batter's box was laid out. Home plate was cleaned. First, second and third base were made shiny and white.
But it also set up a hundred folding chairs between home plate and the pitcher's mound where Roy Halladay once worked, and worked, for the Philadelphia Phillies....
MIAMI — It was '80s night at Hard Rock Stadium — Miami against Notre Dame. The packed stands emitted electricity. There were scores of former Hurricanes at the yard, including Bucs Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, determined to see that the U was back.
It looked back to me.
Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who grew up in Miami, put it best.
"To me, the natural order has been restored," Diaz said....
Miami meets Notre Dame tonight. It's the third-ranked Irish against the undefeated, seventh-ranked Hurricanes. Just like the old days. The game matters again. What a stage.
But it will never be that stage.
What were the old days like?
Bernard Clark, who played for Leto High and was a star linebacker for Miami in the late '80s, recalled the instantly classic 1988 game in South Bend, a 31-30 Irish victory....
ST. PETERSBURG — It was a dream come true for the Marine.
"Meeting Coach Bowden was one of the true highlights of my life," Michael Jernigan said.
Great day for the coaching legend, too.
"He lifted me up," Bobby Bowden said. "Boy, he did. I couldn't hardly believe his outlook."
Saturday is Veterans Day. It's as good a time as any to talk about Michael Jernigan recently meeting the former Florida State coach at Bowden's home in Tallahassee....
Can we get some grown-ups here?
Jameis Winston's finger-licking bad pregame speech in New Orleans — "That's a W. Let's eat one!" — clearly left teammates baffled, judging by their reaction, or lack of it. Did they even know what he was saying? Did any of us?
Winston has run out of material or breath or both.
It might be too late to tell him to just shut up and play, seeing as he'll sit out the next couple of games because of his bad shoulder. But I don't think I can watch him forcing faux leadership. Granted, if the Bucs were 6-2, not 2-6, it wouldn't seem as silly....
He has been back with the Bucs for three games, but he still doesn't have a wood-carved nameplate over his locker. Nick Folk's name is still over a stall.
"I'm just happy to have a locker," Patrick Murray said.
He has been the answer to a prayer. And this is a man who prays. A lot.
Remember when the kicking game was the Bucs' cross to bear? Three games into his second stint in Tampa Bay, the 26-year-old Murray has settled in perfectly, 3-for-3 on field goals — one from 50 yards....
Here's your man, Florida.
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente.
He checks all the boxes. A winner. An upward career path. Young and energetic enough to steer Florida out of its misery and into the future. With offense.
It's a close call between Fuente and UCF's Scott Frost, but I'm going with Fuente. It all lines up, provided Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin can lure Fuente away from Tech. Fuente is worth going for it....
11/01/17 The Heater
He took the mound at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night with no tomorrow in sight. It was Game 7 of the World Series for the Astros against the Dodgers. Tampa's Lance McCullers got the start for Houston.
It was a stage unlike almost any other: starting pitcher in a World Series Game 7. It was a stage all its own. McCullers, 24, was on it, armed with a curveball that befuddles hitters and a drive that he partially got from his father, Lance Sr., a former big-league reliever whose career was cut short by shoulder problems....
All I want to is that if Florida doesn’t get Chip Kelly, do they settle for Greg Schiano?
How badly does Florida want offense?
Chip Kelly might be the test case.
I wouldn’t do it.
There is no doubt that Kelly would bring some fireworks to the Gators’ attack if he was hired as Florida’s next head coach.
Even after two failed attempts in the NFL, it’s easy to remember Kelly’s “blur” offense was something to behold in college football. It changed the game is what it did....
Welcome to the show, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin. He's about to make the biggest hire of his life. He just oversaw the biggest firing of his life, the ousting of Jim McElwain and his unwatchable football.
Florida has jumped in the pool early. I'd hate to think it did so without knowing exactly who it wanted.
I'd be looking for offense, I'd be looking for vision. I'd be looking for someone with head coaching experience. I'd be looking for the next big thing in the profession, someone young, or someone old who is beyond good....
JACKSONVILLE — Why was that man smiling as he walked off the field?
And why wait?
End the Jim McElwain error at Florida.
The Florida-Georgia game, "The World's Largest Outdoor He Offered No Additional Details," offered up a 42-7 human sacrifice Saturday. The blowout, and McElwain's bizarre, self-inflicted week leading up to it, should seal the deal for Florida's interim head coach....
Warren Sapp is not coming back to the NFL. He doesn’t think Simeon Rice is, either. But the Bucs Hall of Fame tackle, who with Rice helped underwrite one of the great defenses in NFL history with a menacing pass rush, can’t stomach what he’s seeing.
“I’m a little lost right now,” Sapp said. “This is hard to watch.”
He’s talking about the current Bucs pass rush, which is nonexistent. It goes beyond the fact that the Bucs have a league-low seven sacks. To Sapp, it goes to what he thinks should be the heart of the defense: Bucs perennial Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy....