Muschamp touts SEC gauntlet
Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.
ORLANDO — For the first time in five years, Florida will play Florida State and Miami in the same season in 2013.
But even with the four-team College Football Playoff looming following the 2014 season, Muschamp doesn't see the Gators scheduling two BCS non-conference opponents in the future.
“Our strength of schedule in the Southeastern Conference is sufficient,” Muschamp said before a speaking engagement with the Central Florida Gator Club.
The game at Miami on Sept. 7 at Sun Life Stadium is the return of a home-and-home contract from 2008. In that game, the Gators beat Miami 26-3 en route to their second BCS championship in three seasons.
Both teams have changed coaches since, with Muschamp entering his third season after taking over for Urban Meyer. Miami coach Al Golden also is entering his third season, taking over for Randy Shannon.
“Miami, they've got 20 starters back from last season, very explosive offensively,” Muschamp said. “They've got some talented guys and Al has done a good job recruiting.”
Muschamp recalled growing up in Gainesville following the Florida-Miami rivalry in the 1980s. He was an usher in the stands when former Florida fullback James Jones made a one-handed catch in the north end zone to beat the Hurricanes 17-14 in 1982. The two teams played every season until discontinuing the yearly contract in 1987.
“That was always the lead-off game,” Muschamp said. “We used to play in Tampa. I remember the '84 season, we lost, tied, and then we won the rest of them. It goes back. It's a great rivalry.”
There is thought that strength of schedule will come into play when the selection committee picks the final four teams. Muschamp said that Florida's non-conference schedule is set for the “next three or four seasons” but could change if the SEC elects to expand from an eight-game schedule to a nine-game schedule.
Muschamp said he doesn't agree with a selection committee picking the final four teams for the College Football Playoff. He's concerned about personal biases coming into play, and would rather see a computer ranking format similar to the BCS.
“We've navigated ourselves through a lot of situations with that,” Muschamp said. “What's wrong with continuing to do that and take the top four.”
— Muschamp said he hadn't read an ESPNWestPalm.com article earlier in this week in which Palm Beach Dwyer High coach Jack Daniels expressed displeasure about how three of his former players — quarterback Jacoby Brissett, tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark — were treated. All three transferred. “I have not looked at the article, but I've talked to Jack in the last month,” Muschamp said. “We're alright.” In the article, Daniels said he felt that Brissett didn't get a fair shot in the starting quarterback competition with Jeff Driskel. Brissett left for North Carolina State last January. “That isn't my decision, (for someone) to transfer.” Muschamp said. “That's the young man's decision.”
— Muschamp said he thinks that offensive coordinator Brent Pease's one-year contract extension and raise was well-deserved. Pease earned a $100,000 pay increase from $490,000 to $590,000 next season and was extended one year to 2015. “He did an outstanding job,” Muschamp said. “You look at a situation where, here he is at Boise State, Kellen Moore threw for 3,000 yards, very difficult for any coach to walk into a situation and you are going into fall camp, basically saying OK, we're going to play really good defense and regardless of who the quarterback is, it's gonna be a first-year starter.” In Pease's first year, Florida's offense ranked 12th in the SEC overall and was 14th in passing offense. The Gators were third in rushing offense at 187.7 yards per game. “Part of being a really good coach is identifying who you are and understanding who you are, understanding what your football team can do rather than ask them to do something they can't do,” Muschamp said. “And that's something I saw Brent and our offensive staff do throughout the year is create ways for us to be productive. Was it always what we wanted, was it always what we saw ourselves who we wanted to be at times? No, but it was productive enough for us to win 11 football games. At the end of the day, I'm not a big stat guy, but I'm worried about one stat and that's winning. And that's where I think Brent did a really good job of doing what he had to do to win football games.”
— Muschamp spoke before about 400 fans at the Central Florida Gator Club gathering in downtown Orlando. Coming off an 11-2 second season at Florida, Muschamp received a loud ovation when introduced. He preached a positive message while going up and down the depth chart on offense and defense before taking questions. One fan in attendance asked about penalties (Florida averaged an SEC-high 68.8 penalty yards in 2012), and Muschamp pointed out the 1996 and 2008 Gator national title teams also led the SEC in penalty yardage. “What I don't like are undisciplined penalties,” Muschamp said. “That's being addressed in other ways ... but I'd also rather have a guy play on the edge than lay up. If you recall my first year (7-6 in 2011), we didn't get many penalties. Like Alexander Bell, we had to reach out and touch someone.”
— Muschamp was asked about Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' recent comments in which he said the SEC was overrated. “I'd be saying the same thing if I was in the Big 12,” Muschamp said. “I said it for three years (when Muschamp was defensive coordinator at Texas from 2007-10).” Asked to compare football in the SEC and Big 12, Muschamp grinned, “next question,” he said.