Dooley: Must-win Saturday for many teams in college football

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Florida coach Jim McElwain looks to avoid back-to-back losses at Florida Field. [Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

We all know Florida is in a must-win situation Saturday and by must-win I mean they MUST WIN or this season is going to be fuel for a dumpster fire.

The fan base is angry, the players are beat up and the coaching is being questioned like it was on the stand in a trial.

So where were you on the night of the fourth-down play?

How do you know Doug Nussmeier and were you with him on the date in question?

Sir, are you aware of a play called the “jet sweep”?

Things were so bad last Saturday that the Gators actually employed a trick play … and were called for intentional grounding.

But Florida isn’t alone when it comes to Must-Win Saturday. The college football landscape is littered with teams whose seasons are on the line on the second Saturday of October.

Take Oklahoma.

The Sooners laid a smelly egg last week in losing to Iowa State. It’s the kind of really, really bad loss that costs coaches their jobs (I’m looking at you Mike Stoops) and can ruin any hopes at a College Football Playoff.

Lincoln Riley’s team faces Texas in the annual Red River Shootout and Grease Fire and it’s a win-or-go-home game for Oklahoma. Another loss and the dreams of anything special are out the door and don’t let it hit you on the way out.

Miami is unbeaten and coming off a streak-breaker of a win over FSU in dramatic fashion. But if the Hurricanes can’t handle Georgia Tech’s odd offense, that win will soon be forgotten.

Because of a soft non-conference schedule, Miami can’t afford a loss of any kind if it wants to do the unthinkable and storm the CFP. And the ACC Coastal, which the school has never won, is still wide open. Maybe it’s not quite a must win, but it’s sure one that could disrupt the season if it doesn’t win.

FSU, well, we know the Seminoles have to win at Duke or their hopes of just getting to a bowl will be in serious jeopardy at 1-4 with Louisville, Clemson and Florida still on the schedule (I include the Gators reluctantly) and only an 11-game schedule because of Hurricane Irma.

Michigan is at Indiana and that would have seemed like a no-brainer a week ago. But after the loss to Michigan State, playing an early game with your quarterback out could be a tall task.

Auburn has moved back into contention in the SEC West, seems to have the offense figured out and has a couple of giant games on the horizon with Georgia and Alabama. But a loss at LSU would be a leg sweep for Gus Malzahn.

Then there is that LSU team, fresh off a stolen win in The Swamp. Lose your second straight game at home and the Ed Orgeron bandwagon will be missing a wheel again.

Think Tennessee is in a must-win situation? The Vols play host to South Carolina with Alabama up next. There is alleged dissension in the locker room and heat on Butch Jones, who is changing quarterbacks in a desperate move. Another loss could be devastating.

On a lesser scale, Mississippi State must beat lowly Brigham Young at home to keep its bowl hopes alive. I’m not sure 5-7 gets you in this year, guys.

Vanderbilt is in the same boat. The Commodores didn’t fare well in their three-game gauntlet of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. They went into that stretch leading the nation in defense and proceeded to allow 47.3 points per game in the three losses.

Vandy gets to play Ole Miss, which appears to have cashed in its chips. Must. Win.

That’s the way it is in college football. There’s no waiting around for games that feel crucial even this early in the season. Some are for high stakes, some just for steak dinners at bowl games.

Of course, around here, there is only one game that feels vital. The mighty Gators are going to pull on their much-debated uniforms and try to save a season. Again.

Give me an orange! Give me a cross between used-ashtray gray and army green!

Maybe the uniforms will make a difference. Remember this — what we think about them really doesn’t matter. The players love them and if it makes them play better than they can wear tunics for all we should care.

Just win, baby.

You must.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

23 COMMENTS

  1. You touch on this, Pat. College football has the greatest regular season of any sport – anywhere. Every game counts. Every game is a big game. That’s why I love it so.

  2. If we (Tennessee) lose to South Carolina Saturday, I will be surprised if Jones is not let go by Sunday or Monday at the latest. If the rumors of Shy Tuttle and Nigel Warrior fighting a few weeks ago, and recently Darrell Taylor and Trey Smith fighting are true, that should send red flags that something is deeply wrong. When four of your best players are fighting in mid-season, then there is some serious dissention and frustration within the team. If Jones is let go, I hope that we name Larry Scott as the interim HC. He did a great job with Miami as their interim HC and would be able to calm the waters and I think the players would rally around him. I’m not saying that will translate into a long winning streak, but would hopefully bring some positive mojo to a team that desperately needs some.

  3. Well Tennessee fan, at least it would get you to the front of the line on the Chip Kelly sweepstakes. Looks like we will have at least one more year of our current sorry state of affairs before going looking.

    • I think the current head coach at UCF will be more in demand than Chip Kelly. Kelly left Oregon with a lot of concerns about how he ran that program. Frost has UCF 5-0 in just his second year and runs a high energy, up tempo and explosive offense. And they are playing defense as well.

      • I agree with Rick on this, but I think that Frost will be scooped up by Nebraska quicker than the rest of the college football world can blink. I suspect Nebraska is his dream job, and Nebraska must be champing at the bit to get him.

  4. Uniforms do not make teams play better. I’d say the only exception would be a team who cares so little about what they are playing for that the simple appearance of a uniform starts to rival the thrill of actually playing the game………………..

  5. Come on Pat! You and all the sunshine Gators here are worrying about incidentals like offensive game planning, yards-per-carry, and 3rd down stop percentages.

    The real issue is how Mac’s Mumbo-Jumbo 3 BBQ sauce is selling! What’s the update? How many units are projected to sell in The Swamp this Saturday?

  6. I wrote ”JUST WIN, BABY!” an entire week BEFORE the L.S.U. game, and on this great new, interactive website, too. But many of the Gator fans, coaches, and even players thought they’d handle L.S.U. (’cause of the Troy game). Sadly, now it’s… ”JUST WIN, BABY!”, or else it’s over for any S.E.C. East Champs hope. Now Dooley’s writing a week too late (in my opinion), but U.F.’s -still- not completely out of the S.E.C. East race. However, the Gators are a long way off from being a ‘Bama, an Auburn, and or even a Georgia. I hate to admit the truth about Florida Football, but that is straight-up… TRUTH! Go Gators! ”It’s wake up time…” ~Tom Petty song verse.

  7. I see a dumpster fire. We have 3 or 4 potential loses and to think we will see a significant change in this offense is absurd. I’m looking at a 5/6 record this year, pretty cool right? Dooley will list injuries, youth, suspensions but won’t dare say to coaches, this is year 3 of crap offense and you were sent here to fix it. If Nuss is retained, I’ll follow UCF football and root for Gator basketball and baseball. Most Gator fans are patient to an extent, but to see year after year putrid offense without it getting fixed then more people will flee. I’m all in favor of keeping Mac provided he jettisons Nuss and Shannon. Yes, Shannon has a young inexperienced team but you cannot play vanilla D in the SEC. Bend but don’t break won’t cut it in the SEC. With losses to LSU, and probable losses to T A&M, and UGA, will Dooley begin to ask tough questions or insist Mac gets more specific than ahh shucks or you win some you lose some.

    • Basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, track, gymnastics, tennis and golf. Damn good programs. Makes for a great spring. Just nothing to watch in the fall. Whoever thought the worst part of the year would be fall.

  8. Michigan was a “must win”, and we got embarrassed. LSU was a “must win”, and we got embarrassed.

    Btw, the Troy team that beat LSU on their Homecoming in Baton Rouge, lost to 1 – 4 South Alabama last night. Salt in the wound you say? Maybe it’s about damn time we threw some salt in the wound, considering these coaches basically backed a dump truck of salt up to UF’s wound of 7 years of crappy, incompetent offense and dumped it all out.

    The point I’m making is this… yeah, the funny little quips and comments are clever, but they’re not funny anymore, and haven’t been in years. Just because it’s a fan complaining doesn’t mean they’re completely oblivious about how the game of football works.

    Fans see it, the sports-writers see it, the t.v. talking heads see it, the odds makers see it, the former players see it too (and yeah, I know some current players and boostesr aren’t happy either)… this staff at UF is so far in over their heads it isn’t funny… and the RPIMARY problem at UF is Doug Nussmeier. I know a bad coach when I see one, and Nussmeier has ZERO business coaching at the college division I level.

    How this incompetent still had a job after the Michigan debacle just absolutely boggles the mind, and that my fellow Gators, lies directly on the shoulders of the head coach.

    ENOUGH of this mediocrity!

    We come out as poorly coached this weekend as we’ve been all season, UF will get it’s doors blown off by A&M.

  9. Kudos to you. I’m already marking time for basketball season. I think some hard questions should also be asked (either now or immediately after the season ) of Scott Stricklin. I believe you will find him hiding under his desk.

  10. McElwain will likely get and probably deserves to get at least one more year to turn this thing around (the offense). Hopefully, he will be able to sign a top five class, hire a new and innovative OC to run his offense, and will continue to develop the young defense. The talent is there and it seems to be still coming as well. But, my lord, how long is it going to take before McElwain sees that Nussmeier is not the answer as the OC? And when are any of the reporters covering McElwain’s pressers ever going to ask him direct and serious questions about this offense, Nussmeier, and not accept silly coach speak and misdirection as answers?

    • You’re probably right, Rick, no matter how this season turns out. Mac will be here through the 2018 season. And accordingly, so will Nuss. So let’s say, however, that this season’s recruiting is indeed a top-5 class (which I think might be possible if we win out or at least wind up 8-3, otherwise not likely if we tank starting this Saturday). When do those recruiting results potentially show up on the field? Will they be felt in 2018 or 2019? Maybe somewhat next season, assuming top-5 is in fact a reality. More likely, to actually get out of this long term hole we’re in….2019. Will Mac and Nuss still be here by then?

  11. I keep having this recurring nightmare of Florida’s offense running the same predicable stuff over and over and over and over, and nobody can make it stop.

    • Same-Same out here. It’s pretty bad when you start having serial-nightmares starting on Monday night, and the game isn’t played until Saturday. I’ve been having them for about 4 weeks now.

  12. This lifelong fan isn’t ‘angry’…Pat, lighten up.
    and your “Must Win” storyline diluted as the article read on. yawn.

  13. Example of incompetence – running your most talented freshman (Toney) regularly into an 8 man front that knows he’s coming. No surprise here that he has a shoulder injury. Could have been a better way to use his young playmaking talents. Also, our offense should run or fake the jet sweep on every play.

  14. I wish that the term dumpster fire could be banned for its hyperbolic use. Missouri is a dumpster fire. Ole Miss is a dumpster fire. Tennessee has reported some signs of smoke. Not seeing any dumpster on fire in Gainesville. I hate to use a cliche like the power of positive thinking, but has anybody even given it a try? Maybe I’ve been around too long, but i remember a few years where this program truly was bad. Take your blood pressure pills and a deep breath, and move on.

  15. In Mac’s signature Year 3, the year we were going to “Kick the door down” according to him, we are now officially a train-wreck with a loss pending on Saturday, possibly a lopsided one in the Swamp, and a guaranteed blowout by UGA in Jax before moving into a November that has only one “sure” win. FSU with an awful team will bytch-slap us, again, in the Swamp. Mac has no idea how to coach this team and it’s clear now that he was hired under false assumptions. NOT a “Offensive guru” and certainly not a “QB Whisperer”. He hardly speaks to anybody on the sidelines and the players mostly don’t acknowledge him. End this nightmare and get this imposter and his incompetent OC out of town at the end of this horrific year.

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