The Back Nine: UF offense climbing stat chart

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks again teamed up with receiver Freddie Swain for a big score Saturday against Tennessee, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

The Back Nine comes at you refreshed from a 12-hour sleep after one hour the night before. We’ll see how that works out.

10. The obvious storyline this week is going to be about Dan Mullen’s return to Starkville. (One symptom of sleep deprivation is stating the obvious). The interesting part of it is that Mullen is taking his team to play a hugely important game against a monster he created. That has to do with the players on the team, but also the environment. Mullen pushed hard to get the fans behind the program and everyone tells me it’s a lot tougher place to play than it was the last time Florida was there in 2009. One reason is the Great Cowbell Compromise of 2010. The league already had a ban on artificial noisemakers that was not enforced until 2010. Then, there was a movement to put some teeth into the rule with financial penalties. Mississippi State President Mark Keenum and the late SEC commissioner Mike Slive worked on a compromise that would allow the clanging only at certain times. “It was up to Dan and I to convince the fans to only do it at certain times,” said Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, who was then at MSU. “They were not very cooperative at first. We got a few warnings from the league office.” The theme for the cowbells is to ring responsibly. Like not when the other team is at the line of scrimmage. Also, Stricklin told me that the loudest place at the stadium is the open-air press box. Oh, goodie.

11. There will be so-called experts out there who will point to Florida’s latest national ranking in total offense (93rd) and see more of the same and make some clever remarks about the Gator offense. And while it is an offense that is still a work in progress and has only played against one really good defense, there are some stats that need to be pointed out. Florida is actually 29th in the country in yards per play. Exploda-Gators, huh? UF is averaging 6.67 yards a play this season. The problem is getting more plays. Florida is dead last in the country among teams who have played four games in offensive plays this season. This can happen when you get a lot of short fields and big special teams plays. “I have no problem if we continue on this path,” Mullen said. By the way, Florida’s standing right now in total offense is better than USC, Stanford, LSU and Louisville, not to mention the teams coached by Chip Kelly and Scott Frost.

12. One thing that I know came across on TV was how lit the crowd was at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. It was an incredible environment with only a few empty seats. Those fans have been through a lot, but I give them credit for the support they showed and can’t really blame the ones who left after Florida got up big in the fourth quarter. Florida caught some heat on Twitter for only selling 2,600 tickets, but that’s just the way it is in college football these days. Didn’t anybody read my story this summer? Don’t answer that. Fans don’t want to pay $100 to sit on the top row of a stadium and fork over the travel money when they can watch at home and see multiple games in HD. We did see what is becoming a trend in college football which is small pep bands on the road to allow some of the better seats to be sold to boosters.

13. It hasn’t gone real well for new coaches in the NFL (7-14, but how about that Tennessee win Sunday over Jacksonville?) and it’s been even worse in college football. There are 18 new head coaches and they are 4-23 in games against Power Five teams. Mullen has one of those wins and one of those losses, but I think Gator fans are pretty happy with the direction of the program. Not so much in some other places. Disgruntled fans are popping up all over the place questioning the new hires after the fact. And while I am the guy who preaches patience, I will say this — if coaches don’t like fans jumping up and down a few games into their careers, take a pay cut. When these guys are making such over-the-top salaries, the lunatic fringe comes with the territory.

14. Nick Saban wants the media to write stories to point out the flaws of his team. He cracks me up. Nick, the only easy part about filling out my Associated Press ballot every Sunday morning is who to put at No. 1. Voting for the last five teams is like doing trigonometry homework. I mean, Virginia Tech suffered one of the worst losses in the history of college football. So I dumped the Hokies. What do you do with unbeaten teams with no real quality wins? Or teams with a couple of losses who have played really good teams? That’s why we get paid the big bucks. Wait, there’s no money? Rats. All I know is that Duke, Kentucky and Syracuse are making me wonder if hoops season came early. Anyhow, it still feels like Alabama and Georgia should just cancel the rest of their seasons and play in Atlanta for seeding purposes only.

15. So officially, Tiger Woods is back. Wasn’t he already back? Dude was in contention in majors, was spiking TV ratings and drawing ridiculous galleries. That’s kinda “back” isn’t it? He was all anyone could talk about who followed golf and was bringing in the casual fans the way he used to. All this before he won the Tour Championship. The crowds Sunday at East Lake were ridiculous. Only one guy can do that. And the comeback he made from four back surgeries is amazing. Just don’t try to tell anyone that golf was a bigger deal than the NFL on Sunday. The King still had better numbers easily. But next year’s Masters? We may see the all-time golf record for ratings on Sunday if Tiger is right there.

16. Lost in the Tiger story on Sunday was another strong performance by UF grad Billy Horschel. He finished second, which means he has finished tied for third, tied for third and second in the last three tournaments he has played. I agreed with captain Jim Furyk’s picks for the Ryder Cup, but Horschel is playing so well right now he may regret not taking the Gator. Then again, I am a little biased because Billy is such a good dude and the only Tour player’s phone number I have.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Patriots Insider Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston — “Linebacker speed was the biggest offseason need the Patriots had. It’s the biggest need still. Meanwhile, time was invested trying to trade an All-Pro tight end with a team-friendly contract.” The revelation this week that the Pats tried to trade Rob Gronkowski plus the real-or-imagined rift between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick can’t be helping things in Foxboro. Pats haters must be in heaven.

18. While our first road trip of the season went really well, we did have one flight from Charlotte to Knoxville where leg room was optional. Luckily, I had this playlist:

• “Guiding Light” by Mumford and Sons.

• “Falling” by Mansionair.

• “Gainesville” which is the new/old song by Tom Petty and should be played in the stadium before home games now that it has been released as a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song.

• “Once in a Million” by Hudson Taylor.

• And for an old one, because I stumbled on a Partridge Family episode with a special guest wearing one of those awful early-1970s neck chokers, “Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman.

(P.S.) I went this whole column without mentioning the Braves clinching the division with a sweep of the Phillies. My euphoria if I wrote about it would be very unprofessional. So I will steer clear of any mentions about the Braves winning the NL East. Just so you know. But the Braves did win the division this weekend.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

26 COMMENTS

  1. I went to Neyland, once. The stands up in the visitors section are *steeply* raked to pack in more bodies. Tried to go for a drink at halftime. It took me 20 minutes to get 30 feet into the tunnel, realize I was wasting my time and walk back in traffic just as thick. Insane. If that place ever has a crisis and needs to be evacuated quickly, people are going to die.

    • When I went two years ago I was in that very section up high during the Gator game. Left at half due to treacherous heat danger, grown adults who were not drunk passing out all over beat red from heat and sliding down people five rows below before coming to a halt in a crumpled mass. The place looked like a mash unit, the entire outer walkways were primarily responsible seniors or near senior adults on stretchers with emt personnel attending them lining the walkways 100’s as I left game Heat was absolutely dangerous enhanced by the steep enclosed bowl of that hell hole. Was initially surprised there was never any press or reporting on what had happened.

  2. Bama and Georgia just playing for seeding? Please stop. I know it’s a losing cause, but I will never back away from the idea that the (4) “playoff teams” should be for Conference winners ONLY (if expanded to 8 teams, that’s different). How much did Alabama benefit from NOT having to go to war in the SEC Championship game? We’ll never know. But we do know that if they think/know “they’re in”, then skipping that extra game, that extra chance to get guys hurt, is a huge strategic advantage. So tanking the Iron Bowl anybody? Yuck. You play to win the games. ESPECIALLY in the SEC!

    • I think he meant they are both going to the playoffs and the SEC winner will have the higher seed. Now for my turn at outrage.

      Both UGA and Alabama still have to play Auburn and LSU. Not to mention, Kentucky MAY just be competitive against UGA. Do y’all really think Alabama and UGA are going 5-0 in those games? I’d say the odds are against it.

      • Bama looks unbeatable. UGA on the other hand, even though they’ve dominated the weak teams they’ve played, they look much more vulnerable. The moment they play a decent defense that can get pressure on Fromm, I think you’re going to see them struggle. I don’t expect them to go undefeated at all.

      • Let’s play “what if”. What if you have a round robin where Bama beats LSU which already beat Auburn. Maybe Bama shows up in the SEC Championship game and loses to UGA who loses to Auburn but still wins the East. Who goes to the playoff then? Being an SEC guy, I’m all about putting them ALL in (screw the PAC12, Big10, Big12). But is that really right? And if it’s predetermined that both Bama and UGA are in the playoff, why not just have a gentleman’s agreement to not play the game (risk injury) and just flip a coin for SEC Champ? Anybody satisfied w/ that? Not me. All this is eliminated if conference winners only get in. Play your way in. This has the virtue of preserving the BEST regular season in ANY sport. College Football Rules! Go Gators.

    • Mark — why would it have to be different if the playoffs are expanded to 8 teams? That is to say, why not keep it conference champs between the Power 5 and the (selected) Group of 5? You don’t win your conference but you still think you’re the best? Tough beans, play harder next year.

      • Sometimes two of the best teams in football are in the same conference and they have to play each other during the season. If their records are 13-0 and 12-1 it doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t have the possibility of a rematch. UF had a similar situation in 1996. I know it was before the actual playoffs but the FBS was trying to match to two best teams up to play for the Nat Cham. We lost a close game to FSU in the regular season because our team was hobbled with the flu (not because we didn’t play as hard as we should have). Circumstances fell into place and the bowls determined that we would play FSU again for the Nat Cham. UF demolished FSU 52-20 with a healthy team that represented who we really were.

        • Well, I can’t argue with that and besides, you exposed the hypocrite in me when bringing up a scenario that benefited my beloved Gators! But I would still submit, polls and rankings being what they are, you win your conference — you go to the playoffs. Notre Dame? Join a freakin’ conference if you want to have a chance.

      • Gator-6, I’m completely with you on the Conference winners only scenario. I advocate for this all day. Have the Power 5 conferences and cobble together 3 more D1-A conference winners and go at it. Btw, – Notre Dame – get your ass into the Big 10 where you belong. Maryland, get your ass back to the ACC where YOU belong. If this scenario is applied last year, UCF would have the chance to win the NC instead of just anointing itself. Last year’s NC “winner” Bama misses out? Wah! Wah! Cry me a river. Win your damn conference. Instead, Bama got a bye. Meanwhile, Auburn, by “virtue” of winning the Iron Bowl played themselves OUT of the playoff by losing the SEC Championship game. 1996 was different era. But if you apply the same criteria, SEC Champ Gators STILL make it by being SEC Champ. Now that game in Tally IS only for seeding. No hypocrisy needed.

  3. Florida is currently ranked 26th in scoring offense, which is not too shabby. Would love more plays and time of possession, but in the meantime I’ll glad accept points. I’m pretty sure they have something to do with how you win games.

    Side note: Troy Aikman on Cowboy’s during last game: ” They have no tight end presence at all.” Looks like suck miser is weaving his magic for the Cowboys, laughing at how dumb yet another team was to hire his incompetent self.

  4. Great win, Gators!! All of the ‘experts’ picked UT to win but as usual you showed em! I’m baffled as to why no one has broached this subject but isn’t Gene Chisik of the SEC network a Florida grad? Didn’t he play under Charley Pell? He’s Just as much Gator as Doering yet no one on the show ever acknowledges the fact that he played football and got a degree from UF. Seems to me that he’s ashamed and would rather be known as the former coach at Auburn. If anyone knows why he’s never acknowledged it please please let me know.

  5. Is the reason why UF did not sell its ticket allotment because the secondary market is cheaper? It seemed like there was a good number of Gator fans scattered throughout the stadium (i.e., in non-UF allotted areas).

  6. OK. Thanks for the info fellow posters but whenever they do commentary he’s always ALWAYS introduced as ‘former Auburn Head Coach’….never ‘former Gator Alum’ or ‘former Gator linebacker’.

  7. I’m surprised no one had a detailed comparison of Grier and Franks after a common opponent which was the vols. On the field Grier is better. Maybe the two years made some difference. The suspension has cost Grier NFL money…and it cost the Gators as well. In Frank’s defense he has not let his program down in any way and the difference is narrowing.
    Voting Grier for the heisman is like voting for Barry bonds for Hof…do you really know how much difference the peds made? Sure the final results were impressive. If you can count them as real.
    In addition we may not need Frank’s to be a heisman guy. We certainly didn’t against Tennessee whereas WVU did need Grier to play lights out IMO. we need Frank’s to keep doing his thing, stay upright and on the fiels, reduce errors a little. But we can afford him to not see every play down field.i know the Kentucky blindness hurt but it wasn’t why we lost. Frank’s can work for this team

    • Additionally as we know from baseball roids can stay with you a while…. Chris Davis of Baltimore had a great run after getting caught. He even signed a nine digit contract….only to collapse once their effect wore off. So you just don’t know. I say give Mac a pass on moving that problem somewhere else and drop the what if champ had gotten another year argument. We are on solid ground now I say and let’s keep it that way.

    • do not think Grier will be losing out on NFL money at all. he will most likely be first QB drafted in next draft, first round. . also Mveal, his banned substance was not steroids, but some sort of energy drink supplement.

    • Slandering someone isnt a very nice thing to do. He took an over the counter product, not PEDS! It also shows the ignorance or lying by the accuser! It was no small deal at UF when it happened so theres no excuse and hard to believe it ignorance! Grier served UF well and I hope he gets the Heisman! He’s an exceptional talent!