Randy Shannon has one of the more compelling personal stories that you’ll find in college football.
He grew up in a tough Miami neighborhood of Liberty City where drug use and crime were a way of life. He had two brothers and a sister who died of AIDs. His father was murdered. Another brother went to prison.
He overcame it all to play on a national championship team at Miami (1987) and eventually became the head coach of the Hurricanes (2007-2010).
So don’t think for a minute that Shannon, now 51, was overwhelmed when he was tapped on Sunday to serve as Florida’s interim head football coach. Shannon replaces Jim McElwain, who brought Shannon to Miami as a linebackers coach and eventually moved him to the Gators’ defensive coordinator.
Now he has to steer this struggling Florida team (3-4, 3-3 SEC) through its final four games with Missouri, South Carolina, UAB, and Florida State.
“This is a tough situation but we have to help these men be the best that they can be,” said Shannon when we talked earlier this week.”
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Shannon’s head coaching experience at Miami did not end well, but the lessons learned helped him hit the ground running when he got the news on Sunday.
“Once you’ve been through something once (being a head coach) it is easier the next time,” said Shannon. “Our job is to get this team ready to play Missouri.”
SABAN ON LSU: “PROBABLY THE BEST TEAM WE’VE FACED”
No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) is a gaudy 21 ½ point favorite on Saturday to beat No. 19 LSU (6-2, 3-1) in Tuscaloosa. Both are ranked for the 12th consecutive meeting but this is the widest gap between the two since Nick Saban became Alabama’s head coach (2007).
The Tigers have beaten Florida (17-16), Auburn (27-23), and Ole Miss (40-24) since an inexplicable 24-21 loss against Troy Sept. 30.
“Some teams need a wakeup call and it looks like LSU got theirs when they lost to Troy,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told me recently. “The toughest thing for our entire conference is LSU losing to Troy. They are playing a lot better.”
Watch this stat: LSU’s great running back, Leonard Fournette, ran over everybody in his three years in Baton Rouge. But Fournette could never get on track against Alabama as he was held to under 50 yards rushing in all three meetings. What does LSU’s current great running back, Darrius Guice, do against the nation’s No. 1 defense against the run?
MUSCHAMP GOES HOME
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was a walk-on player who rose to become a defensive team captain at Georgia (1991-1994). He’s been a coach for 22 years, including four years as the head coach at Florida (2011-2014). Despite his two decades as a coach this will be only the third time that he has been back to Sanford Stadium, as his Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2) face No. 1 Georgia (8-0, 5-0).
“Yep, my other two trips back didn’t work out so well,” he said.
In 2004 he was Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at LSU when the Tigers were dismantled by Georgia 45-16.
“(Quarterback) David Greene just took us apart,” said Muschamp when we talked earlier this week. “Coach Dooley (Vince, former UGA head coach) told me it was the best he had seen Georgia play in a while. Great. They saved it for us.”
In 2007 Muschamp was Tommy Tuberville’s defensive coordinator when Auburn was hammered by Georgia 45-20.
Saturday Muschamp will make his first visit to Sanford Stadium as a head coach. He said this could be the best Georgia team he’s seen as an opposing coach. Muschamp is 1-4 against his alma mater as a head coach.
“I know a bunch of these guys, particularly on defense. This is a pretty salty bunch,” he said.
Georgia can clinch the SEC East with a win over South Carolina combined with a Kentucky loss to Ole Miss.
SWINNEY: “WE ARE RIGHT WHERE WE WANT TO BE”
Clemson (7-1, 5-1 ACC), the defending national champions, were No. 4 in the first CFP rankings that were released Tuesday night.
Coach Dabo Swinney is not concerned as his Tigers go to N.C. State (6-2, 4-0) on Saturday. A win Saturday all but guarantees that Clemson will go back to the ACC championship game.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Swinney told reporters this week. “It’s November and we’re moving into the next phase of our journey. If we want it, we can go get it.”
After the Wolfpack, who missed a chip shot field goal that would have beaten Clemson last season, the Tigers play their last conference game against struggling Florida State (2-5, 2-4), followed by non-conference games against The Citadel, and South Carolina (6-2). Win all those and a date with Virginia Tech or Miami in the ACC championship game, and Clemson will get a chance to defend its title.
**--No.10 Miami (7-0, 5-0) will play its toughest opponent to date when the Hurricanes host No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1, 5-1) at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday. Mark Richt’s team has found a way to win the close ones against Florida State (24-20), Georgia Tech (25-24), Syracuse (27-19), and North Carolina (24-19).
Unbelievably, some fans are complaining that Miami has not dominated enough.
“At the end, if you win, that’s the bottom line,” Richt told reporters this week.
But with the Hokies and Notre Dame coming to town the next two weeks, we’re about to find out if Miami is for real.
A Miami win over Virginia Tech combined with a Virginia loss to Georgia Tech would give the Hurricanes the ACC Coastal division championship.
**--Auburn (6-2, 4-1 SEC) has to win at Texas A&M (5-3 3-2) if it wants to stay in the hunt in the SEC West. The Tigers, ranked No. 14 in the CFP poll, have had a week off and over the past four seasons Coach Gus Malzahn is 6-1 when he has had more than week to prepare.
If Auburn can win in College Station the Tigers can look ahead to their final two SEC games against No. 2 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama. Both are at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
**--Kentucky (6-2, 3-2), yes Kentucky, is still mathematically alive in the SEC East. If the Wildcats, who beat Tennessee for only the second time in 33 years last week, can win at Ole Miss (3-5, 1-4) this Saturday and at Vanderbilt (3-5, 0-5) next Saturday, they will take a conference record of 5-2 into their trip to Georgia on Nov. 18. If that happens and if Georgia loses to either South Carolina or Auburn, then the Georgia-Kentucky game in Athens will be for the SEC East championship.
**--Tennessee (3-5, 0-5) hosts Southern Mississippi (5-3) and Butch Jones is still the Volunteers’ head coach. The Volunteers have four games left and three of them (Southern Miss, Missouri, Vanderbilt) look winnable. LSU on Nov. 18 in Knoxville does not look winnable. So that means Tennessee still has a reasonable shot of finishing 6-6 and going to a bowl game. Even though athletics director John Currie has not publicly pulled the trigger, there is no doubt that Tennessee is looking for a new head