Tampa Bay Sports Day

BEAIRD: SEC Showdown in Atlanta; ‘Noles to Orange?

Sports Day college football columnist Brent Beaird previews SEC championship game and other news.

FLORIDA VS. ALABAMA IN THE SEC TITLE GAME: Gator offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has to be more creative in play calling after its typical scripted plays. Florida has to improve on third down after going 0 of 12 on third down Saturday against the Seminoles.

The Gators do not need to give up on the run with Jordan Scarlet too quickly. They need to take advantage of the Tide secondary which is lacking depth. They can test Marlon Humphrey, who has a tweaked hamstring, when he is in the game.

How good is the Tide defense? Alabama didn’t allow a touchdown in the month of November. Alabama is the only FBS team to hold every opponent under 150 yards rushing in 2016

On defense, the Gators need to try to get a stalemate at the line of scrimmage. They must be aware that Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts can be turnover prone. He has averaged nearly two turnovers per game in the last month. Florida secondary must cover Ardarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley, two of the Tide’s best playmakers.

Alabama is a deeper and more talented team than Florida. That doesn’t mean the Gators can’t be in the game for several quarters as they were last year with less talented players. Alabama wins comfortably in the end as they move on to the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

MORE GATOR NOTES: If Florida were to lose this weekend against Alabama, they might land in either the Outback Bowl in Tampa or the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville against a Big Ten opponent.

Also be aware that Florida is trying to get in the sweepstakes for Baylor blue-chip QB Jarrett Stidham and former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire.

Could coach Jim McElwain be going to Oregon? I don’t think so because this is likely being directed by his agent Jimmy Sexton who did the same for Jimbo Fisher.

FLORIDA STATE: Florida State senior defensive end Demarcus Walker was voted the 2016 ACC Defensive Player of the year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA) early Wednesday afternoon.

Walker, a Jacksonville native, returned to Florida State for his senior year and put together a campaign that included 15 sacks, which is tied with Harold Landry of Boston College for most in the country. The number is also the third most in Seminole history.

He also led the ‘Noles in tackles (64), sacks (15), tackles for loss (17.5), fumbles forced (3) and fumble recoveries (2).

Walker deserves to be first team All-American this season.

FRANCOIS FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: In an equally deserving move, Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois has been voted the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA).

Francois ended the regular season with 3,128 yards passing – the fourth-highest total ever by an ACC freshman – and 18 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 373 attempts. He has completed close to 61 percent of his passes while rushing for an additional 189 yards and four touchdowns.

JOHNSON IS JACOB RECIPIENT: The awards just keep coming….Florida State junior offensive lineman Roderick Johnson was voted the ACC Jacob Blocking Trophy recipient for second straight year, the school said in a release Sunday afternoon.

The award goes the player considered by ACC head coaches and defensive coordinators to be the conference’s best blocker. It’s the fourth year in a FSU player has won the award.

NOLES MAYBE IN ORANGE BOWL: FSU might earn a berth in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The College Football Playoff committee rankings released Tuesday evening have FSU (9-3) at No. 12 and ranked a spot higher than ACC Atlantic Division rival Louisville (9-3) which sits 13th. The Seminoles were 14th last week while Louisville was 11th.

Should FSU continue to stay above Louisville in next week’s final rankings, it could see the Seminoles reach a New Year’s six bowl game

BREWSTER RUMORS: Nole assistant coach Tim Brewster has been mentioned as going to Texas with his close friend Tom Herman. At this point, it is just a rumor.

MIAMI: Cane junior quarterback Brad Kaaya passed Ken Dorsey to become the leader at the school. He passed for 396 yards in the 40-21 victory over Duke at Hard Rock Stadium to boost his three-year career total to 9,686 yards.

OL MUCH IMPROVED: Coach Mark Richt said this week that the offensive line may have been the most improved unit on the team by the end of the season.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz did a terrific job this season. His defense was bolstered by three freshmen linebackers and a freshman cornerback.

UCF:  Knight linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year. Griffin is No. 2 in the conference and No. 10 in the NCAA in tackles for-loss with an average of 1.6 per game. Griffin, who also was named to the All-AAC first team defense, averaged more than seven tackles per game, broke up six passes, recovered two fumbles, forced two fumbles and registered an interception.

USF: USF is now nationally ranked for the first time since 2011. The Bulls’ 48-31 win over UCF on Saturday allowed the team to move to No. 24 in the AP Poll and No. 23 in the Amway Coaches Poll. Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers finished the regular season setting several offensive records including most total touchdowns (37), rushing touchdowns (15), total offense (3,976 yards), and rushing yards (1,425 yards).

Brent Beaird has been a sportswriter and broadcaster since the early 1990s. He writes for Gator Bait magazine, the Clay Sun edition of the Florida Times Union and Inside The Game Magazine. Brent, who is a Heisman Trophy voter, is a part of the 1010XL sports radio team in Jacksonville. He is also a college football analyst for First Coast News and does a regular feature on Wednesday night on the ABC broadcast. Brent lives in Orange Park, Florida.