Why Gus Malzahn needs to bench Nick Marshall against Arkansas

Nick Marshall is a gifted player, but he shouldn't see the field in Week 1 after being cited for marijuana possession.

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Nick Marshall’s status for the opening game of the season is up in the air. Last Friday, the Heisman candidate was pulled over in Reynolds, Georgia, for a possible window tint violation when police found less than an ounce of marijuana in his car. Head coach Gus Malzahn removed Marshall from the traveling party to SEC Media Days and replaced him with tight end C.J. Uzomah.

Marshall is the league’s best returning QB after leading his team to the SEC title and a berth in the national championship in 2013, and Malzahn must decide what to do with him against Arkansas in Week 1."Nick made a mistake and he’ll have to deal with the consequences," Malzahn said. "I’m not ready to say what those consequences are at this time, but he will deal with it.”

If Malzahn wants to send a low-cost statement to his team, then Marshall will sit against the Razorbacks, a team that will be breaking in a fourth defensive coordinator in the last four seasons (Robb Smith) and had one of the worst defenses in the SEC last season giving up 30.8 points per game. Last year, Johnny Manziel sat for the first half of Texas A&M’s first game against Rice, and all he did was sign some autographs.

I have two sons; I would much rather see them sign their name when they’re not supposed to than get caught with any amount of an illegal substance. I also am not naive enough to tell you that this will affect the locker room or Marshall’s status as a leader on a team that loses Greg Robinson and Tre Mason. Regardless of expectations for his second season, Malzahn has to do the right thing, which is sit his star QB for at least the first game.

Slive reinforces stance for Power 5 autonomy

Mike Slive is the Teddy Roosevelt of college football, but he doesn’t speak softly and carry a big stick; he carries a sledge hammer. The SEC commissioner continued to send a very clear message to the NCAA on Monday at the SEC Media Days: Change or you will cease to exist.

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With the O’Bannon trial this summer and the continued theme of NCAA governance issues in intercollegiate athletics, Slive remained steadfast in his message, which has been consistent for the past 3-4 years. The Power 5 conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12) want more autonomy with governance, but this by itself is not news. However, the alliance of the Power 5 conferences seems to be stronger than ever. Make no mistake about it: Change is coming, and the only question we should ask ourselves is how drastic will the changes be?

One statement from the commissioner revealed just how far these conferences, and their member institutions, are willing to go. “If we do not achieve a positive outcome under the existing big tent of Division I, we will need to consider the establishment of a venue with similar conferences and institutions where we can enact the desired changes in the best interests of our student‑athletes,” Slive said.

The “venue” Slive is referring to is what most refer to as “Division 4,” where a very new set of rules and regulations would be set up by the Power 5 conferences and their member institutions. This would be the most drastic of changes, and I don’t believe it will get that far.  What the NCAA Board of Governors will be voting on in August is as described here straight from the 82-page document.

Based on what Slive said Monday and what we will undoubtedly hear from the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and B1G in the following weeks, it would be catastrophic for the NCAA Board of Governors to vote against Power 5 autonomy, but don’t put it past them. They are still the NCAA. The SEC distributed a record $309.6 million to its member institutions last year, so it is pretty clear to me, and about everyone else outside of the NCAA, that the current model needs changing.

So what is the ideal outcome? The NCAA fumbles this vote so that we can move forward with a new entity that would resemble the NFL. Fans would get better matchups, players would realize their monetary value and institutions would flourish due to the financial windfall that would follow.

Florida will be back in SEC East title hunt in 2014

ON THE HOT SEAT

In the second year for Will Muschamp at Florida (2012), everything worked out. The defense gave up only 14.5 ppg, and the offense did just enough to help the Gators win 11 games and get to the Sugar Bowl. That game was a precursor to what we would see from the 2013 Gators, as No. 4 Florida lost to No. 22 Louisville 33-23 in New Orleans.

Last season, after Jeff Driskel went down with a knee injury the Gators limped along, losing their last seven games and putting Muschamp squarely on the hot seat entering 2014. Enter Kurt Roper as offensive coordinator, who spent the last six seasons at Duke helping David Cutcliffe build the Blue Devils into a ranked team and one of the best offenses in the country. Driskel is now healthy and that, along with quality recruiting, has Muschamp very excited and optimistic about the possibilities in 2014.

“This is the most complete team that I have had since coming to Florida,” Muschamp said Monday in Hoover, and he meant every word. Time will tell for the fourth-year man, and it will be an uphill battle as Florida has a very difficult SEC draw. Florida travels to Alabama in the first month of the season (Sep. 20), and they also get LSU from the West the next month in The Swamp (Oct. 11). November won’t be easy, as they host South Carolina (Nov. 15) and travel to defending national champ Florida State for the season finale (Nov. 29).

I believe that this team is talented and motivated to right the ship. Close losses and injury problems decimated them a year ago. Don’t be surprised to find Florida right back in the SEC East title hunt, as Driskel should have a big year in the new up-tempo Roper offense. UF had been to a bowl every year since 1990 before last season. The Gators should not be home for the holidays for a second straight year. If they are, Muschamp will be gone.