Saturday November 14th, 2009

As a resident of the Sunshine State, I've gotten to hear a lot of people complain about Florida's offense this season. For that, I blame Steve Spurrier.

I don't mean to pile on the South Carolina coach, whose team fell to the Gators, 24-14, on Saturday. It's actually a compliment to the Head Ball Coach, who set such a standard of dominance in his 12 seasons at Florida that Gators fans can't be happy unless their team wins every game 55-14.

Obviously, this season's Gators aren't going to beat any decent opponent by such a margin. Against an above-average defense, Florida's offense has no real downfield threat, and it doesn't protect quarterback Tim Tebow very well. The Gators run plenty of lateral plays for speedsters Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, but those two tend to get swallowed by faster defenses.

Fortunately for Florida, the Gators have a defense many NFL teams would envy. Florida is two or even three deep with players who could start for almost any BCS-conference team at every position, and if the offense can hit 20 points, the Gators are probably standing in front of their band singing the fight song.

If you're reading this and nodding, Alabama fans, don't be so shocked. You two basically are the same team, except that your offense revolves around a dominant tailback playing tailback (Mark Ingram) instead of a dominant fullback playing quarterback (Tebow). The key difference is that Bear Bryant conditioned Alabama fans to appreciate hard-nosed football. They may grouse a little when the margin of victory dips below 21, but they can see the beauty in a hard-fought 24-15 win like the one Alabama claimed last week against LSU.

Florida fans were trained to expect Spurrier-esque blowouts, which is why they can't appreciate the fact that the Gators just ran through the SEC regular-season schedule undefeated for the first time since 1996. It's why they also probably won't appreciate when Florida completes its first perfect regular season since 1995. And it's why they may kick themselves on Dec. 5 for not enjoying the ride if Alabama -- which right now is playing like a slightly better version of Florida -- wins a matchup that could go either way.

The SEC officiating crew that was suspended for three weeks -- after some jaw-droppingly awful calls in the LSU-Georgia and Arkansas-Florida games -- returned to work Saturday at the Kentucky-Vanderbilt game in Nashville.

I'd say the game -- a 24-13 Kentucky win -- went off without a hitch, but I didn't watch it. I'm guessing you didn't either. Because it was Kentucky and Vanderbilt. In mid-November. Which probably is exactly where this crew belonged after those calls.

CBS College Sports sideline reporter Lauren Shehadi brings us this tasty nugget concerning TCU's new Nike Pro Combat uniforms. The Horned Frogs have red stripes on their helmets because actual horned frogs -- which actually are lizards -- squirt blood from their eyes when threatened.

So they've got that going for them.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy tied former Georgia quarterback David Greene on Saturday for the FBS record for wins by a starting quarterback. Texas whipped Baylor, 47-14, and McCoy ran his record as a starter to 42-7. If Texas beats Kansas next week, McCoy will stand alone in the record book.

No matter how many more games McCoy wins, he still won't inspire a play-by-play call as awesome as the Larry Munson soliloquy a certain Greene pass produced.

Georgia safety Baccarri Rambo suffered a concussion in a violent collision with Auburn's Mario Fannin, but Rambo has movement in all of his extremities, Georgia's sports information department reported late Saturday.

Rambo's hit on Fannin to break up a Chris Todd pass on the goal line late in the fourth quarter knocked Rambo unconscious, and it may have saved Georgia's 31-24 win. After a long delay as Rambo was loaded onto a stretcher, Auburn failed on its next two downs.

The Bulldogs needed this win, but it was costly. Besides Rambo's injury, Georgia also lost star receiver A.J. Green to a sprained left shoulder in the first half. Green spent the second half with a sling on his arm.

Congratulations to June Jones and Southern Methodist. With a 35-31 win against UTEP on Saturday, the Mustangs became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2006. While it hasn't been too long since SMU was eligible to be selected for a bowl, the last time SMU actually went bowling was a quarter-century ago. The Mustangs beat Notre Dame in the Aloha Bowl on Dec. 28, 1984. A little more than two years later, the NCAA handed down the death penalty.

The Mustangs should make a bowl game this year, but just making a bowl isn't the only accomplishment still on the table. Houston's loss at Central Florida gave SMU sole possession of first place in the Conference USA West Division. If the Mustangs can beat Marhsall and Tulane, they would play in the conference title game.

Congratulations also to Iowa State, which beat Colorado on Saturday to run its record to 6-5 and qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2005. Other teams that qualified to go bowling Saturday include: UCF, Michigan State and Missouri.

Excuse ACC officials if you see them wearing Clemson orange next week. It's not that they want to be partisan, but if Clemson beats Virginia next week, the Tigers will win the ACC Atlantic Division. That might guarantee a sellout of the ACC title game in Tampa, which appeared to have been played in front of friends and family only last year when Virginia Tech beat Boston College at Raymond James Stadium.

Clemson really does belong in the SEC. The Tigers have a huge stadium, a great, quirky tradition (touching Howard's Rock and running down the hill) and a fan base that obsesses about everything with a Tiger paw on it. If the Tigers can clinch and then beat in-state rival South Carolina, the title game could provide an excellent Heisman showcase for back C.J. Spiller, who caught a touchdown pass, threw a touchdown pass and ran for a touchdown in Saturday's win against NC State. After all, the ACC game will be on opposite the Big 12 title game, and people are going to need something to watch after Texas goes up 21 in the first quarter.

It's a shame it took Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt too long to figure out Dexter McCluster is his best offensive weapon.

McCluster, the original Wild Rebel, set a school record Saturday with 282 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns in the Rebels' 42-17 win against Tennessee. (RECAP | BOX) In Ole Miss' past three SEC games, McCluster had 84 offensive touches and averaged 197 rushing yards. In the Rebels' first six games, McCluster touched the ball 54 times as a runner or receiver.

Had Nutt figured it out earlier, the Rebels might have beaten South Carolina (Nutt even admitted after that game he didn't feed McCluster enough) and might have stood a chance against Alabama, which only scored 22 on a day the Ole Miss defense stood tall in the red zone. It might not have helped against Auburn, which got a full dose of McCluster and won anyway.

Did we in the media overhype Ole Miss this season? Absolutely. Is Ole Miss truly mediocre? No way. The Rebels still have enough players from last year's hot-finishing team to be a top 25 outfit. Now that the Rebels have figured out the focal point of their offense should be McCluster and not quarterback Jevan Snead, we may see that as the season closes.

Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier isn't transferring. Forcier said after Saturday's 45-24 loss at Wisconsin that he and coach Rich Rodriguez got in a "a little bit of an argument," but quarterback and coach are OK -- aside from the obvious issue that the Wolverines have lost their last six games against FBS opponents.

Forcier told reporters he and Rodriguez had a misunderstanding over practice and a missed study hall. Forcier also said fellow freshman Denard Robinson took all the first-team reps at practice this week. "I actually expected him to start," Forcier told The Detroit Free Press, "but coach Rod threw me out there and I made the most of it."

Rodriguez suggested Forcier may have hit a freshman wall. "I've been on Tate pretty hard but it's not his effort, it's more of his concentration on getting better and doing the things he's supposed to do on and off the field," Rodriguez told reporters. "Typical freshman, he won't admit it, but at some point you hit a little bit of a wall, without an open date, academically and athletically, and it's a lot on your plate. We constantly monitor to make sure our guys stay up on it. But the freshmen generally are redshirted because they have the biggest adjustment."

It would be tough to blame Saturday's loss on Rodriguez's game of quarterback roulette this week. With 6:59 remaining in the third quarter, Forcier threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree that cut Wisconsin's lead to 28-24. For the rest of the day, Wisconsin marched down the field behind backs John Clay and Montee Ball. Michigan is thin and young and/or inexperienced on defense. That makes the Wolverines ill-equipped to handle a bruising running team like the Badgers.

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin gave Rodriguez a strong vote of confidence last week, and with Martin retiring in September 2010, that vote should stick. A program like Michigan does not change coaches with a lame-duck AD. So it appears Forcier and Rodriguez will remain together. For the Wolverines' sake, hopefully their relationship improves.

Welcome to major college football, EJ Manuel. Manuel, the Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback, played so well in his debut as the Seminoles' starter that he probably earned FSU an extra game in December.

The Seminoles desperately needed a win Saturday at Wake Forest to become bowl-eligible. With the Demon Deacons playing well and veteran FSU quarterback Christian Ponder out for the season, a win didn't seem likely. But Manuel threw for 221 yards and a touchdown and ran for 45 yards and a touchdown in the Seminoles' 41-28 win.

A loss would have forced FSU to win next week at home against Maryland (definitely doable) and Nov. 28 at Florida (next to impossible) to become bowl eligible. Now, the Seminoles need only beat the Terrapins, who are 2-8 and have lost their last five.

Manuel got a huge assist from tailback Jermaine Thomas (148 rushing yards), who topped the century mark for the third consecutive game. Even FSU's much-maligned defense chipped in, intercepting Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner twice.

Given how this season could have turned completely south after Ponder's injury, Manuel's debut provided a silver lining for the 'Noles.

Has any team had its heart broken more this season than Purdue? The Boilermakers probably should be bowling in coach Danny Hope's first year, but they can do no better than 5-7 after losing, 40-37, to Michigan State on Saturday on a 21-yard Brett Swenson field goal with 1:51 remaining.

In Week 2, Purdue lost by two to Oregon after failing to make a two-point conversion late. In Week 4, limping Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw a touchdown pass with 24.8 seconds remaining to beat Purdue, 24-21. In Week 5, Northwestern stuffed the Boilermakers on the goal line and won 27-21.

Saturday, Purdue dominated statistically and led the Spartans by 11 with 11:52 remaining, but the Boilermakers couldn't hold on. If there is a bright side to all this misery, at least Purdue players will have plenty to motivate them in the weight room during the offseason.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.