It’s been a tough last few weeks off the field for Gators coach Dan Mullen and his program. However, credit the coach, who’s going into his second season, that he’s not hiding from the problems or controversies.
On Wednesday night, Mullen made an appearance in front of hundreds of loyal Gator fans and alumni in Tampa to fire up West Central Florida for the upcoming season. Prior to taking the stage to give some thoughts and some Q&A, Mullen spoke with our colleague Olivia Stacey, and the other media assembled, and addressed problems with player discipline, arrests transfers and more:
We heard from Dan Mullen for the first time on the incidents that have unfolded over the last week and a half. Here's what he said on Jalon Jones playing in Florida's spring game and the team's knowledge of Jones' sexual assault accusations at the time. @SpecSports360 @BN9 pic.twitter.com/11bkM4SvIz
— Olivia Stacey (@Olivia_Stacey) May 16, 2019
Mullens defending of his handling of incoming freshman quarterback Jalon Jones’ situation is being particularly scrutinized. This as, the former Virginia High School star is accused of having sexually battered two different women in his dorm room in the same night in early April. Although Gainesville police have not charged Jones, he already entered the transfer portal to leave the Florida program and left Mullen to answer for it all.
Clearly, Mullen has had a run a problems with existing players and with potential recruits. That also includes the Gators, along with everybody else, being beaten to the punch by Clemson getting a verbal commitment from Lakeland stud senior running back Damarkcus Bowman to spurn the Gators and come to the defending National Champion Tigers. Bowman is regarded as the #2 running back in the entire country and also picked Clemson over Georgia, Alabama, LSU and Miami among others. He rushed for an astounding 2,466 yards and 36 touchdowns last season for the Dreadnaughts.
It particularly was a stunning blow for Mullen and a Florida program, which has traditionally had a pipeline from Lakeland to Gainesville for great players.
Then, Mullen had to deal with arguably the best player in his 2019 recruiting class, DB Chris Steele from California, also electing to transfer before ever playing a game in Gainesville. Steele was apparently unhappy with Mullen’s handling of his request to no longer be roommates with Jalon Jones, as far back as January. Steele was also present in their dorm on the night of the two incidents, involving Jones and the two females, and told investigators he helped break up one of the incidents.
Steele enrolled at Oregon earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Mullen will be in Orlando Thursday night to speak with Gator fans and alumni in Central Florida and another few hundred are expected to be in attendance. Part of the choosing of that specific date and holding it at Camping World Stadium is that’s where the Gators will play the Miami Hurricanes, 100 days from now on August 24th, in the first huge game of the entire college football season.
A season, that Mullen can’t wait to start soon enough, to have games take the place of off-field controversy for his program.
Gators to Orange Bowl leads Florida schools-bowl games
The bowl lineup is set. Six teams from the state of Florida will play in bowl games in the 2019-2020 bowl season. All six games will be played in 2019 None of the bowls will be in January of 2020.
The two big storylines to emerge from the bowl games involving Sunshine State schools are as follows:
First, Florida got a bad matchup in the “New Year’s Six.”
The Gators always knew they would get an NY6 ticket; the question was: their destination and opponent? Memphis, in the Cotton Bowl would have been a tougher game for Gator fans to attend, but it would have been a lot more interesting.
This game, in the Orange Bowl against Virginia is a lot closer to home, but it comes against a four-loss Virginia Cavaliers team which did not win its conference and lost its conference title game by 45 points (62-17 to Clemson).
This is the kind of bowl game which is more of a burden than an opportunity It’s all gravy for Virginia, which is making a rare appearance in a New Year’s Six game. This is the biggest bowl stage for UVA since the 1991 Sugar Bowl against Tennessee.
This is a huge deal for the Hoos, who will be playing with house money and a lot to prove after getting kicked in the teeth by Clemson on national television.
For Florida, however, the Orange Bowl is a game the Gators MUST win. If they don’t, it’s a heaping platter of humiliation served fresh, just before the new year arrives. The Gators would trudge into a miserable offseason if they lose to Virginia. It’s all pressure, low upside, for UF, in marked contrast to last year’s game against Michigan, which boosted spirits in the offseason and spring ball.
The second main story of the Florida-based bowl schools: Florida Atlantic got the best game.
The Owls were rewarded for their Conference USA Championship, even though coach Lane Kiffin left for Ole Miss, and was given a date with the 10-2 SMU Mustangs in the Boca Raton Bowl. The game will be on ABC on a Saturday afternoon. (The full schedule is listed below.) That is a great showcase for the FAU program, and the Owls won’t have to travel, either. What a great arrangement!
Most of the other Florida schools can’t be too happy about one or more aspects of their bowl schedule. Florida International is happy to go to any bowl, so Arkansas State in the Camellia is perfectly fine. The other Florida schools, though, have reason to complain.
UCF got dumped with Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl, a pre-Christmas game played in Tampa on a Monday afternoon. UCF won’t get to test itself against an SEC team or any Power Five conference team this year. UCF wasn’t 6-6 or 7-5; it was 9-3. This is a letdown for Josh Heupel’s team.
Miami gets the dreaded Shreveport location, symbolic of the most out-of-the-way, off-the-radar bowl possible. Worse, Miami plays Louisiana Tech, which will have a big crowd for the Independence Bowl.
Florida State did get a relatively decent opponent, Arizona State, but the Seminoles and their fans will have to travel all the way to El Paso for the Sun Bowl. That’s a rough holiday commute for anyone who wants to make it
Florida Atlantic: vs. SMU, Boca Raton Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 21 on ABC, 3:30 Eastern
Florida International: vs. Arkansas, Camellia Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 21 on ESPN, 5:30 Eastern
UCF: vs. Marshall, Gasparilla Bowl – Monday, Dec. 23 on ESPN, 2:30 Eastern
Miami: vs. Louisiana Tech, Independence Bowl – Thursday, Dec. 26 on ESPN, 4 Eastern
Florida: vs. Virginia, Orange Bowl – Monday, Dec. 30 on ESPN, 8 Eastern
Florida State: vs. Arizona State, Sun Bowl – Tuesday, Dec. 31 on CBS, 2:15 Eastern
Gators strong finish Saturday keeps them atop our rankings
The college football regular season came to an end last week. For some, it was great, and for others, it was horrible. The Gators and UCF rolled to victories over their rivals. FIU continued their winning ways, while their rival FAU clinched the C-USA East and will be hosting the title game.
The Noles got beat down, while their other rival Miami fell flat on their face for the second week in a row. In the NFL, the Bucs were on their way too embarrassing the Jaguars before a QB change softened the blow, while the Dolphins pulled one of the stunners of the NFL season.
With all of these games to unpack, this is how the top 5 looks heading in conference championship week and week 14 of the NFL:
Florida Gators- The Gators have been the most consistent team in the state, both college, and pro. Their only two losses are against the two teams playing for the SEC Championship Game (LSU and Georgia), and both of those teams can still make the playoff.
Florida had their way with Florida State all night Saturday. Taking advantage of missed tackles and a shaky secondary, Kyle Trask threw three touchdown passes. Florida State couldn’t do anything on offense aside from the opening drive, and a long Cam Akers second-half run. The 10-2 Gators will now wait to see where they are sent for a bowl game. They have an outside shot at a “New Year’s Six” game, but even if they fail to gain entry, an 11-win season is still a great one.
FAU Owls- It was simple for FAU: win, and you’re in. They answered the call by beating Southern Miss in the season finale, and now they are C-USA East champions. QB Chris Robinson connected with tight end Harrison Bryant for all three of his touchdowns passes in the 34-17 win. The Owl defense forced five turnovers on the way to the victory.
Next, the Owls will host West champ, UAB Saturday afternoon to decide who will win the Conference outright.
UCF Knights- The Knights ended their regular season by rolling over USF and ending the Charlie Strong era. Dillon Gabriel had 270 yards passing and two touchdowns, and WR Gabe Davis went over 100 yards again, catching both touchdowns. The Knights won’t be heading to the AAC title game or a New Years’ Six bowl game. A 10th win in the bowl, though, is still a good season for the Knights.
A consolation prize for them would be to draw either FSU or Miami in a bowl game for a shot at an in-state power five schools.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- For the second week in a row, the Bucs came away victorious and both road wins were highlighted by excellent defense. They were able to knock Nick Foles out of the game at halftime for poor performance. Foles had just 93 yards passing, an interception and two fumbles.
On offense, the Bucs didn’t have to do much, as Jameis Winston had no touchdowns and no interceptions. Peyton Barber was the running back who was hot, scoring twice one from 15 yards and the other a goal-line touch. The Bucs will look to make it three wins in a row and a home win this week against the Colts.
Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins, yes, the Dolphins, are in our rankings, as they pulled off one of the upsets of the season, defeating the Eagles 37-31.
Devante Parker had an explosive 159 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick had 365 yards and three touchdowns.
The craziest play, however, came on fourth and goal when punter Matt Haack rolled left and shuffle passed the ball past three eagle defenders to kicker Jason Sanders.
The win puts the Dolphins at three wins, and they have three more winnable games coming up. Once looking like the sure-fire choice for the first pick, the Dolphins are sliding down the draft board towards the 3-6 range.