The Back Nine comes at you with another busy week ahead and the first road trip of the year looming. By my count, this will be my 17th trip to Knoxville to cover a Florida-UT sporting event. I should have voting rights.
10. So I was watching a little bit of SEC Nation before the carnage began Saturday and here is what Gator legend Tim Tebow said to his former team on the show — “I was at practice last week. You’re not good. You may be talented, but you’re not good.” And he is right. Florida’s roster is not up there with the better teams in college football, but it’s not as bad as the Gators have played so far this season. Three games in, Dan Mullen should have a better idea of which of his players love football and which ones love being football players. There’s a difference. And the ones who love playing the game are the ones who should be playing. It does feel like more and more guys are starting to understand what is expected of them. It’s a pretty simple game. You throw the ball, you run the ball, you catch the ball. And your coach wants to hear pads popping in practice. “We’ve gotta get a little Jekyll and Hyde,” Mullen said. “Actually, they understand the Incredible Hulk a little more. Around campus we should be Dr. Banner. When we go out to practice and we cross that line, we need to flip a little switch and be the Incredible Hulk.”
11. Of course, Mullen’s former boss used to take these rivalry games very seriously, going as far as to put the Tennessee logo on urinal cakes used during the week of the Vols game. “You don’t have to go overboard,” Mullen said Monday. “I do all kinds of different things. But we haven’t gone that far. We have a lot of rivalries. If you have one set rival you can go a little further with it, like not saying the name of the school. I have no problem saying Tennessee. With a couple of rivalries, if you do too much it can lose its sting.” I don’t think this team needs any real motivation other than it’s the first road game and it’s a conference game and they know that in the last three games Tennessee has missed a field goal to lose (2015), hammered UF in the second half (2016) and watched the Heave to Cleve to lose last year.
12. Mullen again repeated the information about Saturday’s game being the hottest ever at The Swamp. But the great former wideout and color commentator Lee McGriff pointed out Monday and on the broadcast that it might have been the highest temperature recorded, but nobody played hotter games than the teams that played on artificial turf. It might have been hotter in the stands Saturday, but the game is played on the field and those nasty artificial turf games were brutal for the players. “It was 96? We played some 1 p.m. games on the turf that were 196,” McGriff said. “You’d go into your stance and you’d want them to hurry up and snap the ball so your hand wouldn’t burn.” As it was then and is now, the press box is not a bad place to be on days like that.
13. There is not a more top-heavy league than the Big Ten right now, which may have the best team in Ohio State and a couple of other contenders in Penn State and Iowa, but also is coming off a weekend in which seven conference teams lost to unranked teams for the first time. Ever. Three of those teams were double-digit favorites at home. And Northwestern paid $1.2 million to Akron and Nebraska $1.15 million to Troy and then lost. All of the craziness of Saturday sure made a jumbled mess of my Associated Press ballot. I took about two hours to fill it out and even then I hate what I did with the bottom 10 teams. Can I have a do-over?
14. Two of the coolest things I saw Saturday happened in Fayetteville, Ark. First was the trick play on the punt return by North Texas player Keegan Brewer, which I’m sure you have all seen by now. He acted like it was a fair catch without signalling for it and then took off while the Arkansas players started walking away. The result was a 90-yard touchdown. North Texas had actually been practicing the play throughout camp. It was risky and took a lot of guts because Brewer could have been blasted by the Arkansas player. The second thing was senior receiver Jared Cornelius getting all over the team’s fans in the post-game presser for booing quarterback Cole Kelley at halftime. “When is that right? How is that right?” Cornelius said. Of course, there were a few boos in Gainesville on Saturday, too. Look, you pay for a ticket and you have a right to convey your displeasure. But how does that help anything?
15. This thought kept popping into my head while I was watching Jacksonville play New England on Sunday — “Jacksonville is better.” I know it’s the second week of the season, but we can’t forget that the Jags were in control of last year’s playoff game before Tom Brady took over (and there was a questionable call that still haunts Jax fans, but that was last year). This is a fan base that was ridiculed for lack of attendance and there was a lot of talk about them moving. It looked like a pretty healthy franchise Sunday. “I thought it was actually better than The Swamp,” said former Gator star Dante Fowler. “I honestly thought I’d never see another place like The Swamp. Just to see all the people having fun, dancing around, having a good time and winning. Perfect Sunday.” The key for the Jags was getting the right people in place — owner, general manager, Tom Coughlin, etc. — and those smart people have put together a powerful team. Gosh, even Blake Bortles — who looked like he might be sent packing last preseason — seems to have found his mojo.
16. It doesn’t get much better for recliner potatoes like me in the upcoming weeks with the Tour Championship (and my man Billy Horschel — who is in ninth place — has a shot at winning the FedEx Cup again although he needs to win at East Lake and get some help), then the Ryder Cup, playoff baseball around the corner and my Braves with a good shot at making it, college football and the NFL. What a time to be alive.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the great Brett McMurphy of The Stadium with this great stat — “Kansas now has more wins this season vs. FBS opponents than Florida State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Arizona & UCLA combined.” Great googly moogly.
18. These late nights of watching football are messing with my sleep patterns so you would think I’d just not stay up for those late games on Saturday night. Not a chance. Here’s a playlist to help me take a nap:
• “Watching Over” by Greta Van Fleet.
• “All That We Get” by First Aid Kit.
• “All My Friends” by The Revivalists.
• “Wish You Well” by Emma Louise.
• And for an old one, “Hard Headed Woman” by Cat Stevens.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.