Hot Reads: Florida's future schedules, nine SEC games, Jarran Reed

Al Messerschmidt

Another edition of Hot Reads catches you up on what's been happening in Florida football over the last two weeks.

When, in the course of Internet events, things get so hectic as to require a single post about Florida football that stands in for what could've been several posts split up, that post shall be called Hot Reads.

Florida's future schedules: Yes to Florida State and LSU, no to Miami

Florida's long-term football future is tied to what the SEC is going to do, much like the futures of every other SEC school, and Florida's positioning in the SEC gives it the best house on the best block. And that future appears to include Florida State and LSU, much as the past has — but no Miami, much to the dismay of some.

Jeremy Foley himself voiced Florida's commitment to the Florida State series at last week's SEC meetings in Destin, Florida, according to The Gainesville Sun's Robbie Andreu:

"I don't think it's either-or," Foley said. "But certainly for the University of Florida's perspective, that's the challenge. You play eight, nine games in this league and you throw Florida State on there, and that's a huge task. And then everybody expects you to get to Atlanta and expects you to get in the final four, so that's the challenge.

"But schedules evolve. Certainly, the Florida State game is very important to us. I don't see that changing. That's part of the conversation: Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech, I don't see those games changing. I can't speak for them; that's one guy's opinion.

"But that's part of the conversation. I don't think it's either-or, if we go to nine, those games are going by the wayside. I think it's more if you go to nine, those schools are going to play that game."

To me, that boils down to this: If Florida is forced to go to nine SEC games, an annual series with Florida State will not be a casualty of that; it's every other non-conference game of note that Florida won't play.

Translation: Farewell, Miami.

"You never say never. But that's not high on the agenda right now," Foley said. "You've got too many other issues. For me to sit here and say we'll do that right now down the road, there's too many unknowns with scheduling right now.

"If you're at nine conference games, plus Florida State, I'd probably tell you it's really unlikely. But there has been no discussion between us and the University of Miami. Again, I have great respect for the Miami total athletic program, but that's just something that is not high on the list right now."

It just doesn't make sense for Florida, which clings to its seven home games like Gollum to the One Ring, to sacrifice one of those home games to play Miami, or any other team, in a home-and-home — and in a year with a nine-game SEC schedule and a road game against Florida State, Florida would likely need both other non-conference games to be at home to get to that magic number. (This is sort of sad, and will make this series of posts about possible non-conference foes bittersweet, but money trumps all in college athletics.)

Fortunately for fans of one of Florida's best traditions, Florida sounds very much committed to keeping LSU as its permanent SEC West rival. Foley came out in support of it last week, while Will Muschamp's "I enjoy the rivalry" has been intepreted by Andreu as him shifting toward Les Miles' anti-UF-LSU position and by the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson as continued support. I tend to agree with Thompson, because Muschamp was for the series in the spring of 2012, even after LSU destroyed Florida in 2011, and I think Florida's going to get its way, at least in the near term: The SEC voted to keep its 6-1-1 scheduling in place through 2014 last week.

Nine-game SEC schedules on the horizon

The long-term, though, will almost definitely include nine SEC games, something that Muschamp admitted out loud last week:

"Personally, I think we’ll end up moving to nine (conference) games eventually," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "My personal opinion (is) you create an SEC Network, at the end of the day, it’s going to be driven by the dollar, and having those games is going to be important, and having enough quality games on television promoting a nine-game SEC regular season, in my opinion, will eventually happen."

Muschamp's acknowledging the fact that few others seem to have so far: The SEC Network needs inventory, and good games are that inventory. Of the 112 games the 14 SEC teams will play this fall, 55 are against non-SEC teams, and while some of those are showdowns like Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Clemson, Tennessee-Oregon, and LSU-TCU, some of them are Missouri-Indiana, Alabama-Georgia State, and Florida-Georgia Southern. Replacing some of the cupcake non-conference games will allow the SEC Network to never have dead weight on the air — and, as SEC teams will share the profits of these games with other SEC teams, the rising tide could lift all boats within the conference, to a degree.

This move will, I think, exacerbate some of the financial problems that smaller schools face, as there will be fewer guarantee games to be had with the richest programs in the country, but it might not come right away because of the SEC's interest in preserving another revenue pipeline: Bowl eligibility. A nine-game SEC schedule means that a team will have to go at least 3-6 in conference to get to a bowl, and for programs like, say, Kentucky — which has four SEC wins in the last three years — that could make bowls almost impossible to reach. That's part of why only Nick Saban is in favor of a nine-game schedule right now: His Alabama team is so good and so deep that only a catastrophic season could knock it out of bowl contention, and does not have to have that fear in mind.

The rest of the SEC will eventually come around to Saban's view, whether it happens because everyone else gives in to inevitability or the numbers demand it. And nine games will work for the SEC. But it will work for the teams on top far more than the teams nowhere near it.

Jarran Reed won't attend Florida in fall

— It flew under the radar when it happened over Memorial Day weekend, but the quiet reports that JUCO signee Jarran Reed wasn't able to get in at Florida for the fall is worth touching on. Reed, a defensive tackle, didn't technically fail to qualify for Florida so much as he failed to qualify to play at a four-year school, as he is still a number of credits short of his associates degree — a requirement for any player transferring from a junior college to a four-year school.

But that's less because Reed didn't apply himself at East Mississippi Community College than because he didn't apply himself in high school: Reed had a chance to get that associates degree in just three semesters, and almost did; his inability to qualify for a four-year school out of high school is what landed him in a position to even attempt the improbable leap to a bigger school after one year at a JUCO.

Reed has been released from his National Letter of Intent, and reopened his recruitment, and while Reed seems to consider Florida his favorite, and Florida will probably pursue him again, the Gators will have competition for him from Alabama and Ole Miss, at least. Reed's also a slightly less appealing prospect than he was in the spring, as he'll only have two seasons of collegiate eligibility remaining, instead of three.

Reed was expected to have a chance to contribute on the defensive line in the fall, stepping in at one of Florida's greatest positions of need, and losing him means that Florida's defensive tackle rotation is Dominique Easley, Damien Jacobs, Leon Orr, Bear Cummings, Caleb Brantley, and Jay-nard Bostwick. If no Reed just means more snaps for Brantley, it might work out, but Florida would definitely like to have more than four non-freshman defensive tackles available, so this does create some depth concerns.

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