Alan Dell

Commentary | Mulling oversome grist for the gridiron

Be glad the BCS doesn’t run high school football: The Bowl Championship Series doesn’t allow Cinderellas. It throws away the glass slippers and puts them under lock and key. The guys in three-piece suits who run the BCS would’ve kept Palmetto a secret, and that would be a travesty. You could take the entire town of Palmetto, put it in some corner of Miami, and no one would notice. But this Friday, the folks who make the long trek from Dade County with favored Miami Norland will see that small-town kids have big heart. This is “Hoosiers II” in cleats.

The St. Pete Bowl got it wrong: Those who operate this less glamorous bowl blew it taking FIU over Western Kentucky. Doesn’t anyone there do their homework? Willie Taggart and his Hilltoppers are one of the country’s feel-good stories in turning a winless program into a 7-5 team in less than two years. Taggart is a Manatee High legend, and his assistant, Ray Woodie, holds similar status at Palmetto. They have six players from Manatee County and one each from Sarasota and Charlotte counties and the nation’s No. 2 rusher in Bobby Rainey. WKU finished its season 7-1 with its only loss to top-ranked LSU. You think that might have boosted attendance! Oh did we forget, they beat FIU and finished second in the Sun Belt Conference. FIU did not beat a team in its conference with a winning record.

The football gods got it right: The evil empire of the high school football in the state has been banished to the sidelines courtesy of Palm Beach Dwyer. It might temporarily take some emotion out of Manatee, which figured to play Aquinas, but the Canes will get it back. St. Thomas generates so much animosity with its football program. Nearly everyone who has ever put on a pair of shoulder pads wants to beat the Raiders to show you can win with neighborhood kids and don’t need senior transfers who appear out of nowhere when most needed.

Is the fight to keep Skip Holtz worth the effort?: There is a chasm growing between those who want to keep USF football coach Skip Holtz and those who don’t. Holtz does have a long resume, which everyone should read before taking sides. He lost at least five games in each of his five years as East Carolina’s head coach and was 5-7 in each of his two years prior as South Carolina’s offensive coordinator. His record against teams that ended the season above .500 is 8-17, according to coachesbythenumbers.com. What this means is that he is a decent coach who will get you an 8-5 record in a good year. Is this debate worth losing friends and family over?

Gator Bowl a stroke of genius: Got to give credit where credit it is do. No other bowl matching 6-6 teams will create so much conversation and interest than Florida vs Ohio State. Outside of the BCS title game and maybe the Fiesta Bowl with Oklahoma State and Stanford this is going to be the most talked about bowl with former Florida head coach Urban Meyer taking over at Ohio State when it ends. What’s the over-under on how many times Florida fans will be asked if they hate Urban?

No mystery to Bucs’ woes: You don’t need a doctorate to figure out what is wrong the Bucs. Simply put, they can’t tackle. Going into last week’s Carolina game, Tampa led the league in attempted tackles missed with a soaring 15.4 percent rate, according to Pro Football Focus. They did show a slight improvement against Carolina with “only” 12 missed tackles after averaging 14 per outing over the previous three games. Despite all the rave about his return, Tanard Jackson is the most culpable Buc, coming up short on nearly half of his tackles by missing an astonishing 44 percent.

Not too far behind is Quincy Black, who is missing on 25.5 percent of his attempts. The three worst tackling teams in the league are the Bucs, Eagles and Carolina. The best is San Francisco. The worst tackling secondary in the league is arguably the Eagles, led by high-priced trade acquisition Nnamdi Asomugha, who has allowed 27.3 percent of runners to escape his grasp. Six of the Bucs missed tackles against Carolina came trying to bring down Jonathan Stewart.

Saban takes one for the team: Alabama head football coach Nick Saban is taking heat for voting Oklahoma State fourth in the BCS rankings thus giving his Crimson Tide a better shot at qualifying for the BCS title game. But Saban is OK with it. He went to the Katherine Harris school of how get the most out of your vote.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be contacted at 745-2112.

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