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Gator Fans Not Snapping Up Bowl Tickets

The folks in Jacksonville surely expected a better fan response when they matched Urban Meyer’s old school against Urban Meyer’s new school in the Gator Bowl.  Unfortunately for the selection committee, like Meyer, it seems many UF fans won’t be in the stadium for the game.

The Gainesville Sun reports that Florida has sold just 8,000 of its allotted 15,000 tickets to the January 2nd bowl game. 

For all the talk of “best fans in the world” — and every SEC school claims that — the reality is that the majority of fans won’t spend, attend, or travel unless their school is winning.  That’s true all across the league.

And at Florida, 6-6 is not considered winning.

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SEC Headlines – 11/30/11 PM Edition

1.  Looking for a reason not to trust ESPN and/or Urban Meyer?  Here ya go.

2.  “A source close” to Alabama’s Kirby Smart says the defensive coordinator has not interviewed with Ole Miss yet.

3.  LSU’s Jordan Jefferson continues to improve.

4.  Trent Johnson’s basketball team rallied for a much-needed one-point win over Houston last night.

5.  The Ole Miss basketball team will head to Hawaii for a December basketball tournament next year.

6.  This writer says it’s nearly a sure thing that Florida will land in the Gator Bowl.

7.  Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell should be ready to go against LSU Saturday night.

8.  John Calipari wants the NBA to make players spend two years in college, “but that ain’t happening.”

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Reports Finally Confirm Meyer To OSU; Might He Coach In Bowl Vs UF?

ESPN — Urban Meyer’s employer for the last few months — is reporting today that the ex-Florida coach has indeed been hired as head coach at Ohio State.  Forget the talk of family and health, Meyer is heading back to the sideline and he’s going to do so at a program that’s about to be bombed by the NCAA.  (OSU has already sacrificed 5 scholarships over the next three years as a self-induced, “please don’t hit us anymore” penalty.  It’s likely the NCAA will take away several more scholarships.)

We finally went with the “done deal” view on Meyer-to-OSU when The Columbus Dispatch reported the matter closed last week.  The reason: Yours truly once worked for The Dispatch Broadcast Group and having lived in Columbus, I know there are three mega-boosters of the Buckeye program: the Wexners, the McConnells, and the Wolfes.  The Wolfes own The Columbus Dispatch.  If the Dispatch reported Meyer was all but hired by OSU, then you can bet the paper’s source was one of three folks in Columbus who knew for sure.  Thus, we bought that paper’s story immediately.

Meyer had denied a deal with OSU for more than a week.  But anyone familiar with coaching searches knew that the coach’s claims that no deal was in place and that he hadn’t interviewed were likely a matter of semantics only.  Is a lunch an interview or just a lunch?  Depends on the person telling the story.

At 6-6 following a loss to Michigan, OSU is expected to fall no lower than the Gator Bowl in the Big Ten’s bowl pecking order this holiday season.  Guess who’s expected to land in the Gator Bowl from the SEC’s side of things?  Yep, Florida.

WKMG-TV in Orlando reported last week that Meyer was planning to take UF’s current linebacker coach DJ Durkin and strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marrotti to Columbus with him in new roles.  So the love in Gainesville for Meyer already might be dimming just a bit.  If the ex-Gator coach takes over OSU and coaches against Florida in a bowl game, you can bet Meyer’s popularity in the Sunshine State will take another hit.

Will Muschamp — the man who led Florida to a 6-6 record with Meyer’s leftovers this year — said, “It’s good for college football” that the ex-coach is dropping the “ex.”  “If it’s what Urban wants, I’m happy for him.”

And if Meyer and OSU whip Muschamp and Florida in the Gator Bowl, just how happy do you think he and Gator Nation will be?

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SEC Headlines 11/27/2011 Part Three

1. Alabama wants a rematch with LSU.

2. Gene Wojciechowski: Alabama-LSU “became 99.9 percent official Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium.”

3. Chris DuFresne: “There remains a chance voters will rise up again and prevent LSU-Alabama II.”

4. Looks like the Chik-Fil-A or Gator Bowl for Auburn.

5. South Carolina likely headed to the Outback or Cotton Bowl.

6. Liberty or Music City Bowl likely for Mississippi State. Ditto for Vanderbilt.

7. Bowl projections from the Orlando Sentinel.

8. Kentucky 87 – Portland 63.  Lowest turnover total for the Wildcats since 1993.

9. USC 63  - USC 60.  Gamecocks fall to Southern Cal.

10. Arkansas 86 – Grambling  44. Freshmen score 53 of the Razorbacks total.

Extras

11. Former Les Miles assistant Larry Porter reportedly out at Memphis.  

12. Washington State coach rumored to be out - Mike Leach could be the target.

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Penn State Still A Gator Bowl Possibility For SEC Teams

Monday morning, we mentioned the fact that SEC fans should be praying their teams don’t get paired up with scandal-plagued Penn State in a bowl game this holiday season.  We also noted that it was doubtful any bowl game would want to invite controversy into its community and for that reason, the SEC — which has three higher-placed bowl tie-ins with the Big Ten — might get lucky on the PSU front.

But…

There’s still a possibility the Nittany Lions might be forced upon the Gator Bowl which is one of the SEC’s bowl partners.  According to Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com, if Penn State wins the Leaders Division of the Big Ten — man, that’s a stupid name — they’ll go to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game and will as a result be guaranteed of dropping no further than the Gator Bowl.

Penn State lost to Nebraska on Saturday and it’s quite possible that the two-loss team will struggle from here on out, buried under the weight of scandal and a mid-season coaching change.

The Nittany Lions are currently leading their division by one game over Wisconsin with the Badgers and Ohio State still remaining on their schedule.  So SEC fans might want to root for OSU and ‘Sconi when they host Penn State the next two Saturdays… or else some league school could get stuck in this year’s Controversy Bowl.

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SEC Headlines – 8/29/11 Part Three

1.  This writer expects Kentucky to grab a Gator Bowl bid with a 6-6 record in 2011.

2.  Here’s a terrific primer on Joker Phillips’ second UK football team.

3.  Carolina freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney — the most-hyped rookie in the SEC this fall — is staying humble.

4.  Stephen Garcia is asking Cock fans to take him back “one more time.”

5.  New strength coach Ron McKeefery — the Vols’ fifth since the start of the 2008 season — has tried to instill a sense of pride in Tennessee players.

6.  Freshman safety Pat Martin is leaving the UT program in what Derek Dooley calls a “mutual decision.”

7.  In the end, Vanderbilt’s hopes hinge on an improved offense.

8.  James Franklin named his starters today and quarterback Larry Smith will once again get the nod.  (He’s now had three head coaches give him starts at VU.)

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MSU Fans Feel Good About The Future

Fresh off a 9-win season and a Gator Bowl whoopin’ of Michigan, Mississippi State fans are feeling pretty good about the state of their football program.  Oh, and winning two straight Egg Bowls hasn’t hurt either.

But it’s not just fans who feel good about MSU’s future.  With record-setting ticket sales, a healthy bounce in fundraising, a $25 million football facility in the works, and a possible stadium expansion coming soon, AD Scott Stricklin is walking a little taller, too:


“It’s gratifying to see kind of this belief that, if you took away some of the glass ceilings that are out there, and some of the preconceptions about what a place is or isn’t, and you say, ‘What if we think we could do anything, what could happen?’  It’s pretty neat to see pretty cool things happen.”


Not bad for one the SEC’s traditional bottom-dwellers.  The Bulldogs’ resurgence proves that with the right coach, upward mobility is possible in the SEC.

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Mullen: “We Owe You A Championship”

Dan Mullen isn’t worrying about lowering the bar when it comes to expectations at Mississippi State.  Speaking this morning to a Bulldog booster group in Columbus, Mississippi, Mullen praised the fans for their support and said: “We owe you a championship.  The people of Mississippi deserve that.”

Brandon Marcello of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that Mullen used a mountain-climbing analogy to describe his program’s journey:


“The view from Base Camp 1 is pretty nice.  The Gator Bowl trophy is right there,” Mullen said, motioning to his right where the Gator Bowl and Egg Bowl trophies were sitting on an adjacent table.  “If we’re satisfied with that and that’s all we want, then that’s fine, but I want to see that view at the top.  I want to get to the top of that college football world and see what that view is like.  That’s where the best views are, and that’s why it’s the hardest place to get to.

“That’s the challenge we have ahead of us, for all of us in this program.  We cannot slow down.”


Enthusiasm like that — coupled with back-to-back wins over Ole Miss — is why State fans are rallying around their football coach to the tune of record ticket sales.


On a total sidenote — I once met the nicest people in the world at a fall barbecue festival in Columbus, Mississippi.  Now maybe it was just because a photographer and I were doing a television story, but all those folks were so nice I think they’d have fit right in in Mayberry.

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MSU Already Thinking About Expanding Stadium To 80K

Dan Mullen has brought passion and energy to Starkville, Mississippi.  His football program is coming off a 9-4 season and a Gator Bowl romp over traditional power Michigan.  In just two years, Mississippi State’s new coach has the school pushing to expand Davis-Wade Stadium by 5,000 to 7,000 seats.

But he’s only been in town for two years.  It wasn’t so long ago that State was not the fan draw that it is today.  Not to rain on MSU’s parade, but what if Mullen leaves for a bigger stage after next season?  Will the next coach prosper?  Will he keep fans excited?

Despite the possibility of a sudden downturn — Bulldog fans can ask Georgia and Tennessee supporters how quickly things can change — AD Scott Stricklin is already looking toward a second possible expansion of State’s home stadium.

If phase one takes off in the next few years as expected, Scott Field will be surrounded by up to 62,000 fans (compared to the current 55,000).  But Stricklin has had his artists mock up what an 80,000-seat stadium would look like, too.

Now, if it seems like State’s AD has stars in his eyes, know that this second expansion project is targeted for “20-25 years” down the road, if it ever comes to be at all.

For now, however, the focus is on getting the first phase of expansion underway.  And that’s a good thing.  Because I don’t see any jet pack landing pads in the design for the 2031 stadium… and that will surely have to be fixed.

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SEC Bowl Game Headlines 1/1/2011

Liberty Bowl

1. Central Florida 10 – Georgia 6.  Bulldogs finish at 6-7, first losing record for Georgia since 1996.

2. David Ching: “This was an uninspired effort from everyone involved.”

3. Georgia kicker Blair Walsh: “Our attitude needs to change.”

4. A.J. Green will wait a few days before making a decision on the NFL.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl

5. Florida State 26 – South Carolina 17.  Steve Spurrier now 1-4 in bowl games at South Carolina.

6. Backup QB burns the Gamecocks.

7. Spurrier: “We didn’t give ourselves much of a chance to win the game.”

Outback Bowl

8. Last hurrah for Urban Meyer and Florida’ seniors.

9. A new life awaits Meyer while a new assistant coach is coming to Florida.  Will Muschamp is targeting Charlie Weis as the next offfensive coordinator for the Gators.

10.  Is this the last game in a Florida uniform for QB John Brantley?

Capital One Bowl

11. Sunshine State or a state of disappointment for the Tide?

12. SEC vs. the Big 10 in bowl games the last 10 years – 14-12 with four more this year, including three today.

13. Jon Solomon: “The pressure is on the Big Ten.”

14. Nick Saban on the two conferences: “If there’s any difference at all, it’s probably the passion of the fans.”

Gator Bowl

15. It’s Chris Relf’s time to shine.

16. Dan Mullen: You watch Denard Robinson and the first thing that does not come to mind is slow.”

17.  With Tate Forcier sent home, the options behind Robinson at QB for Michigan are slim.

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