The Back Nine comes at you after 12 hours of sleep again. I can’t think these sleep patterns are good for me, but it’s good to have an off week to take care of things around the house. Tell me my wife didn’t hear that.
10. This piece of history may not do a whole lot for you, but bear with me. Because as we flew home from Nashville, I wondered out loud if Florida had ever won at Knoxville, Starkville and Nashville in the same season. So I looked it up. And it turns out this was a first. So Dan Mullen has that going for him. There are two points here — 1. You really find out how mentally tough your football team is on the road. Florida won in front of two big and loud crowds and one tiny crowd. They came from behind in two of the games. Well done. 2. One reason I thought Florida would have a shot at a good season this year was the schedule, because the Gators only had to go on the road three times in conference play and two of them were to teams that weren’t expected to be very good. That part has panned out.
11. So for the first few weeks of the season the narrative was about how the Kentucky loss was looking better and better. Now, the LSU win is looking better after the Tigers thumped Georgia. We all left that LSU game feeling like Florida had beaten a really good team. And even the win at Tennessee is looking better after what happened Saturday on the Plains (Gus Malzahn buyout donations, please form a line to the left). Look, those of us who thought this team might be headed for a miserable season after the Kentucky game were wrong. We all get that. What I think we didn’t take into account was that it was only the second game for these players and this coaching staff. There was still a learning curve on both sides.
12. I’m not saying the SEC East has caught the West, but so far the two divisions are even at four wins each at this point in the season. I’m sure Alabama will change that Saturday against Tennessee, but the silly ESPN Football Power Index only gave the East four wins TOTAL in the 14 games for the whole season. There is no doubt that the divisions are getting closer, especially in the middle. South Carolina’s close loss to Texas A&M and Mississippi State’s 0-2 record against the East are evidence of that. I think the East gets at least two more wins and 6-8 would be an improvement.
13. One thing that seems evident watching this Gator football team play is that they are better coached than they have been for a long time. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be mistakes and there were plenty on Saturday. Dan Mullen addressed them after Saturday’s game. “There’s a fine line our guys gotta learn between going hard and going over the top, and I’ll continue to coach that,” he said. “But I’d much rather say, ‘woah’ than ‘sic ’em’. So, we’ll continue to work and coach that.” It is definitely a problem that Florida is currently 116th in the country in penalties, but it beats being 116th in offense.
14. Maybe the Gators could take a clinic from Bill Belichick. The Patriots had zero penalties in their epic win over Kansas City on Sunday night. They also had zero punts. Some will tell you that the game was more evidence that the rules are turning the NFL into flag football. But I like offense so I’m good with it. Going back to penalties, a lack of them does not guarantee winning football. The only two teams from the SEC in the top 20 nationally for fewest penalties are Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
15. I can’t explain why former Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell hasn’t gotten a chance to be an offensive coordinator at an FBS school. All I know is that his Valdosta State team, which is in Div. II, is averaging 54.7 points a game and has scored 52 touchdowns in seven games. Oh, and the Blazers are 7-0. And since the Gators have an off week, maybe we should all go to Valdosta on Saturday to show some support (they play North Greenville at 3 p.m.) for one of the best guys I know. “We’ve had a good year so far with a lot of young kids playing,” Bell told The Back Nine. “When I got here three years ago, they told me the Gulf South Conference was the SEC of Div. II. So I knew we had to recruit more speed.” He also recruited Rogan Wells, a 6-foot-3 quarterback who can run the ball. Wells is the grandson of former Florida coach Doug Dickey. Bell’s quarterback coach and passing game coordinator is his son Cade. “He calls the plays. First time I’ve ever done that,” Bell said.
16. I am actually tempted to go to that game. Instead, I’m going to spend this Saturday with my Dad instead of sitting in a press box. But one thing that irks me is that college football once again is surrendering to a pro sport. Because of the baseball playoffs (I assume, and you know what happens when we assume), the Saturday night football schedule is a dud. There are only five Power 5 games that start after 7:30 p.m. (Although GameDay will be at Washington State — which plays Oregon at 7:30 p.m. — for the first time ever. What’s up, Wazzu? It’s 6 a.m. and it’s time for Kirk, Rece and the juice.) Eh, we’ll make the best of it. It’s not a great schedule Saturday and I think it should be a law that Robbie and I get to pick the games on the off weeks. By the way, a programming note — podcast Tuesday at Gatorsports.com, but no pre-cast or Facebook Live with no opponent.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Michael Bonnette, the sports information director at LSU — “Been saving this all week in hopes of being able to use it. Former @LSUfootball assistant coaches who come back to Tiger Stadium as opposing head coaches are now 0-10. Smart 0-1, Dooley 0-3, Muschamp 0-2, D.Dickey 0-2, Peveto 0-1, Mack Brown 0-1.” That’s Derek Dooley, not Pat. My record is much better.
18. So that’s it, after three of four weekends on the road. We’re done with flying for another football season. Amazingly, we went 12 for 12 as far as no flights delays even with some tight connections and 6 for 6 on bags. I think I may have jinxed us. Try this playlist:
• “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Grace Potter.
• “Ring Tang Ring Toon” by Mountain Men.
• “Mansion Door” by Shakey Graves.
• “Beyond” by Leon Bridges.
• And for an old one, “Never Be The Same” by perhaps the greatest two-album wonder of all time Christopher Cross.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.