SPURRIER RETURNS TO SEC
Disgruntled Florida fans are directing their wrath at athletic director Jeremy Foley, who is taking the brunt of the blame for not luring ex- coach Steve Spurrier (above) back to Gainesville. Making matters worse is that Spurrier will take over SEC East rival South Carolina. "I haven't been overwhelmed by negative e-mails," Foley says, acknowledging that he has received some, "but that sentiment is out there." Maybe some of those missives should go to school president Bernie Machen; rumor has it that Spurrier pulled his name out of the running because Machen wants to consider Utah coach Urban Meyer, and Spurrier didn't feel he should have to compete for his old office. If Spurrier did feel snubbed, Florida fans' misery could be just beginning: It may not be long before the Ol' Ball Coach is running up the score on the Gators at the Swamp.
LONG TIME COMING
Earlier in the season many critics, including this one, suggested that Miami should give up on inconsistent senior Brock Berlin and begin playing one of its younger quarterbacks. But coach Larry Coker didn't make the switch, and Berlin (right) has rewarded him with the finest season of the QB's career. After throwing for 361 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 52--7 win over Wake Forest on Saturday, Berlin has 21 TD passes and only four interceptions this year, and he hasn't been picked off in his last 153 attempts, a remarkable turnaround in light of the 17 picks he threw last season. Offensive coordinator Dan Werner has helped Berlin break his habit of locking in on his primary receiver, but the biggest reason for Berlin's comeback may be his resiliency. "He's a tough kid," says Werner. "People outside the program may have lost faith in him, but he didn't lose faith in himself."
THE BELLE OF THE BALL
Representatives of a few smaller bowls may secretly be hoping that their conference tie-ins fall through, because there's an independent team they would love to invite: Navy. The Midshipmen, who could finish 9--2, are the poor-man's Notre Dame--an unaffiliated school with a national following that would sell tickets and attract a large TV audience. "Navy is like the cute girl sitting in the corner that everybody's courting," says Las Vegas Bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy. If USC and California go to BCS bowls as expected, the Pac-10, for instance, won't have enough teams with the required six wins to fulfill commitments to the Las Vegas, Emerald and Silicon Valley bowls. That would leave those games with an open slot, and any one would be happy to have fullback Kyle Eckel (above) and Navy drop anchor there.