Toward the end of my run at Kyle on Football, as I was making arrangements for my move to SportsBlogs Nation, I was looking forward to becoming the first S.E.C. weblogger on the masthead, joining Michigan's Schembechler Hall, Ohio State's Around the Oval, Texas's Burnt Orange Nation, and U.C.L.A.'s Bruins Nation.
Alas, it was not to be . . . some Gator fan flying under the handle Swamp Ball beat me to the punch by a little under three weeks: the Florida blog debuted on February 2 and Dawg Sports officially set up shop on February 22.
Bill Murray wasn't the only one who had a bad day on February 2.
Naturally, upon the basis of its collegiate affiliation and its timing, I was fully prepared to hate Swamp Ball. Unfortunately, the fellow who runs it---David is his name, by the way---is a good guy who runs a quality weblog, so it was no use trying to dislike him. Consequently, inspired by the Georgia Sports Blog's series of spring team previews, David and I decided to swamp---er, swap---interview questions.
My responses to his questions appear at Swamp Ball. His responses to my questions appear below. The pictures and captions are mine, but the answers are David's:
The big news coming out of Gator training camp this spring is Urban Meyer's dissatisfaction with Florida's running backs. He has even gone so far as to threaten to put Chris Leak in an empty backfield if no one steps up to claim the starting role at tailback. While, obviously, this is just a "tough love" motivational ploy on Coach Meyer's part, it speaks to his annoyance with the lack of production from his supremely talented team. Will Coach Meyer's frustration fuel a Florida renaissance as his spread option attack begins to click in his second year, as it did at his previous coaching stops, or will his intensity become his undoing as he shatters the confidence of his players and proves too rigid to accept the fact that his gimmicky offensive scheme simply will not work against top-tier teams?
Maybe not so much the future of the program.
Let's say you could arrange a straight-up player-for-player trade of any Gator for his counterpart on an opposing squad Florida will face next fall. (By "his counterpart," I mean not only a guy at his position, but also a guy at the same place on the depth chart. No fair trading your third-stringer for another team's starter.) What U.F. player would you trade, what opposing player would you take, and why?
Now let's say I have the same option of trading the Bulldog who worries me the most for the Gator I most wish we had signed. If you had the ability to declare a Florida team member your "franchise player" to protect him from a trade, which player would you choose and why?
University of Utah alumni include the inventors of Gore-Tex, the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, the Marriott hotel chain, and the video game "Pong," but it remains to be seen whether it is "the cradle of coaches," as well.
Which will happen first: Urban Meyer being hired away by the N.F.L. or Urban Meyer getting the boot for failing to meet Gator fans' lofty expectations---or is Coach Meyer in Gainesville for the long haul?
Every couple or three years, there is talk of moving the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party out of Jacksonville and arranging a home and home series between the two schools. Clearly, the trend is away from neutral site games, for financial and other reasons. Alabama and Auburn no longer play at Legion Field. Georgia and Auburn no longer play in Columbus. Texas fans, at least, are questioning the continued wisdom of keeping the Red River Shootout in Dallas. Personally, I like keeping Georgia's annual showdown with Florida in the Gateway City, where we have an established tradition of playing, a unique game day atmosphere, and a site that allows Bulldog fans from South Georgia to attend what amounts to a "home" game (in much the same way that the Arkansas games played in Little Rock serve a particular geographic segment of the Razorbacks' fan base). What's your take on it? Do you want to see the Georgia-Florida game remain in Jacksonville or would you like to see the Bulldogs and the Gators alternate contests between Athens and Gainesville? Now that you've told me what you want to see happen, what do you believe will happen?
P.J. O'Rourke said it best: "Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut."
Steve Spurrier's return to the S.E.C. East shook up the division, to say the least. The Ol' Ball Coach's Gamecocks came within two points of upsetting Georgia in Athens in their first conference game under the Evil Genius and South Carolina managed to beat both Florida and Tennessee. It was clear well in advance of the Gators' trip to Columbia that Steve Spurrier was inside Urban Meyer's head and some of that carried over into basketball season, during which the Palmetto State Poultry defeated the superior Sunshine State Saurians twice. How many of those demons were exorcised in the S.E.C. roundball tourney, when the Big Lizards exacted their revenge on the Big Chickens? Have Darth Visor's Gamecocks turned the corner to respectability, making it a four-team race in the Eastern Division year in and year out, or is Urban Legend going to knock the East Coast U.S.C. down a peg in Gainesville next November 11? How much grumbling will there be in Gatorland if Florida once again goes 9-3 and wins a January bowl game but loses to South Carolina?
I'm not looking to have any property destroyed tonight or anything, but winning more than once every eight years would be nice.
My gratitude goes out to David for his willingness to take part in this exchange as spring practice gets underway in Athens and in Gainesville, offering the first inklings of another football season in the rugged S.E.C. East.
I don't know who'll come out on top next fall, but two things are certain: 2006 ought to be a good year for Southeastern Conference football and you can read all about it at Swamp Ball and at Dawg Sports.