The Back Nine: Impressive bounce back for Gators

93
1213
The Gators celebrate their win Saturday over No. 5 LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

The Back Nine comes at you after an exhaustive week that required a low-key Sunday just to get the sweat out of your clothes and your voices back. At least that’s the way it was at my house.

10. So everyone had a blast Saturday, right? And the really optimistic of you believes Atlanta is back in the mix, don’t you? It’s funny how everything is different around here even though, well, it isn’t if you are only looking at the numbers. Florida brought in an offensive coach and the Gators are 10th in the league in total offense. Feleipe Franks has a quarterback whisperer now and he is ranked 10th in the league in passing efficiency. But it still feels different. And I think I can put my finger on why. Florida’s offense may still be pedestrian (for example, 12th in the conference in third-down conversions), but the Gators are taking advantage of their scoring opportunities. Their red zone offense is fourth in the conference. Wait, that’s not it. It’s because the coach of the team has brought you all under the tent and was the head cheerleader Saturday. OK, maybe that is part of it. Or there is this — you feel like you have a coaching advantage that hasn’t been there for a long time. Maybe I’m over-analyzing this, but I think there is just a different vibe around Florida football and a lot of it is because fans feel like things are going in the right direction. This team still has a long way to go, but to think about how far it has come since the Kentucky game is pretty darn impressive. Because that team that Florida had in the second week of the season doesn’t win that game Saturday.

11. Mullen still wasn’t big on praising his offensive line even after I threw this stat at him that a reader sent me — LSU had recorded a sack in 42 straight games going back to 2014. The Tigers had zero Saturday, but pressure on Feleipe Franks did cause the interception he threw and cost the Gators a couple of potential big plays. “They were solid,” Mullen said. He pointed out that the big stat was negative plays where LSU had 11 to Florida’s two. Still … “There were some results that could have been better. I have pretty high standards.” A year ago, Franks was sacked five times by LSU.

12. You can call it a trap game or a breather or whatever you want. But Dan Mullen knows this week at Vanderbilt is just as important as the last three the Gators won even if it’s not going to have anywhere near the same atmosphere. The last three games were extremely loud. This game will not be. Heck, if it’s like two years ago, Florida will have more fans in the stands. This Saturday is when you really find out about the mental toughness of this team. Certainly, this team has shown mental toughness this season. But it’s not something you can ever turn off and hope to win. This is the SEC, even if Vandy doesn’t always feel like an SEC environment. You have to bring it every game.

13. The classic part of this match-up is that Florida leads the league in pass defense and Vanderbilt has one of the league’s best passing attacks with Kyle Shurmur at the controls. You could say that Vandy is a balanced offense with 194 pass attempts and 200 rushes. But Vandy is 13th in rushing offense and seventh in passing offense. All of these numbers really don’t mean a whole lot. This one does mater — the high in Nashville on Saturday will be 66 degrees. That’s football weather.

14. Two numbers that jumped out at me this weekend — Tua Tagovailoa’s passing efficiency ranking and Jordan Cronkrite’s rushing yards. Tagovailoa, as Pat Forde of Yahoo points out, has a shot at breaking Baker Mayfield’s record set last year. Tua’s rating right now is 258.40, which is ridiculous. And he hasn’t thrown a fourth-quarter pass all season. Cronkrite ran for exactly as many yards Saturday against UMass (302) as he did in two seasons with the Gators before transferring. Cronkrite is now third in the nation in rushing yards per game. Sometimes, you just have to find the right place. And as we head into the meat of the season, it feels like the Heisman Trophy race isn’t much of a race. But strange things happen down the stretch. (One other former Gator doing well — Treon Harris is second on the Tennessee State team in receiving).

15. Maybe we shouldn’t question what the biggest rivalry game is anymore. I always thought it was the Iron Bowl, but for Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops to get fired after his defense gave up 48 points in a loss to Texas puts a new twist on things. So there was that on Monday and then there was this — are we going to see the perfect storm this year that will eventually lead to an eight-team playoff? Because if Notre Dame gets in and two teams from one conference get in like they did last year and that means three of the Power Five conferences don’t have a dog in the biggest hunt of college football, well, that’s not going to sit well.

16. There have been weeks when I have struggled with my AP ballot, but I felt pretty good about this one. Then it came out and it turns out I nailed Florida’s spot in the poll at 14. But I wasn’t as SEC-centric at the bottom of the poll as some of my colleagues. Eight SEC teams seems like a little much. One thing I did struggle with was putting Florida ahead of Kentucky because Kentucky beat Florida in The Swamp. I decided Florida had the better win, beating No. 5, and also beating another ranked team in Mississippi State on the road. But you could argue either way. There are some teams that are difficult to figure because of the competition and USF is definitely one of those teams. Charlie Strong’s team has two Power Five wins, but they are over Georgia Tech and Illinois. I ranked them 24th and now I think that might have been a mistake. So I don’t feel that good about my ballot. By the way, with double podcasts, Facebook Live, blogs, multiple radio appearances and columns I tend to forget where and if I mentioned something I find interesting. So if you have heard or read this, ignore it. But I don’t see a win on UCLA’s upcoming schedule. Seriously, the Bruins could bagel the season.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to the great Jay Bilas, who made me laugh with this one — “Tom Rinaldi, boarding a flight this morning, greeted the flight attendant with, “Good morning! What are your hopes and dreams?” She began weeping uncontrollably. Flight delayed.” Tom is the king of the tearjerkers, but he is a great journalist and a super guy.

18. Jonny Lang was great Friday night. The company was terrific. The back porch talk when I got home was strong. The tailgate was awesome. But by the time I got home Saturday night, everyone was ready for bed. It’s cool. You all wore yourself out. Here’s a playlist for you:

• “Rings” by Pinegrove.

• “New Birth in New England” by Phosphorescent.

• The Lumineers new version of Tom Petty’s “Walls”.

• “Woman” by Cat Power.

• And for an old one — “Color Him Father” by The Winstons.

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

93 COMMENTS

  1. Anyone notice yet? Franks is a great wide receiver. Not quarterback? I mean 10th in the league in Offence? 12th on 3rd down conversions. If we had a Quarterback that could read the field? Not throw it out of bounds. Just saying!!!!!!!!!!
    He is getting better!!!!!????
    Maybe.
    Anyone see him throw it from the 11 into the LSU players hands.
    Kaleo is still playing, Way down we go.

    • Way down we go is hopeful? Are you sure you have the right name? Seriously, how can anyone not see that Franks is playing at a much higher level than last year is hard for me to understand. Even more importantly, this offense is much better than some cherry-picked numbers would indicate. Also, the only team left on the Gators’ schedule that is tougher than either MSU or LSU is Georgia. How does that lead one to conclude that we are on the way down?

      • Franks is better. As 67 said, there is no way to not see that. But we keep having this conversation every week anyways. So here’s a bone for the “Anyone but Franks” crowd. Franks is better but I do understand that he has to be MUCH BETTER to start for the Gators in the long run. His current production is not good enough. I can guarantee you, if he does not get MUCH BETTER, he will not be the QB forever. Mullen is going with the QB that gives him the best chance to win in the long-run. Apparently that is Franks right now — and that makes sense since Franks has been in college for three years. Trask must be behind Franks and I guess that makes sense too since, even in high school, Trask could not start due to a mobile QB in front of him. Emory Jones must not be it either and that makes sense since true freshman and Mullen’s track record with true freshmen.

        So, Franks just has to be it right now because that’s the only choice. As soon as Franks stop being the best choice, Mullen will make the change. I promise you. In the meantime, you might get to see Jones in some blowouts up to 4 times this year.

      • Marcel. On that INT, the play was slow developing and well covered initially and LSU was getting pressure on Franks, too. That play clearly illustrates the development Franks still needs to make; which is making quicker reads, checking down quickly, and not fixating on his primary receiver (which he did with Moral Stephens on that INT). Jefferson actually also broke wide open on that play, but late. Scarlett, to Franks’ right and short, was uncovered and likely would have walked into the end zone if Franks has seen him and hit him quickly with a check down pass. Instead, he tried to forced a perfect pass into coverage while being pressure and hit. Simply a slow and bad decision with it being first and 10 at the 13. And he could see Mullen explaining probably all of that and more on the sideline after the INT.

        • Tampa, did you not read CDM’s explanation that Frank’s was trying to throw the ball away, or do you doubt the veracity of his assertion?

          • Btw, not questioning your analysis of the action during the play, just wondering about your assessment of Franks’ intent on the throw.

    • gatorhopeful. Franks made down-the-field throws to Hammond and Jefferson he could not have ever made last year, and passes only a few top SEC QBs can make. He just needs to do that more consistency with more accuracy on all his throws. If Franks continues to develop, I believe he will become one of the top QBs in the SEC during his junior and senior years on campus. He is a totally different QB vs. last year, and he shows some level of improvement every single game he plays now. And he shows confidence and on-field leadership now. He did not show either last year. And given time, no one in the league other than maybe Tua and Fromm throws a prettier and more catchable down the field ball. He just needs to continue to improve his mechanics and his ability to see more of the field and make quicker and better secondary option decisions, like seeing and checking down to a wide open Scarlett on the INT in the end zone. Easy pass vs. very difficult and forced pass. But maybe he has lost confidence in Scarlett since he has dropped several of Franks’ passes to him this year. But Franks already has a body and arm that NFL teams dream about. I for one have been convinced that Franks has a very bright future at QB or the Gators now. I did not feel that way or believe he could have that when preseason practice began. Thank you coach Mullen and coach Johnson. Coaching and leadership truly matters.

    • A Gator “hopefull” without a Gator degree. Or at least I am h-o-p-e-f-u-l of that, because h-o-p-e-f-u-l-l does not reflect well on my alma mater.

    • Yeah, my son did. He played Dback in college and saw 3 LSU players around the receiver. He screamed “Throw it away.” Franks didn’t hear. I know in the heat of battle it’s tough to make the quick, right decision. That’s what makes the great ones. Franks right now is only average at best.

  2. The Defense improvement is easy to figure out: They have decided to ATTACK and be men and are obviously listening and learning from a real coaching staff. The Offence is different. As you alluded to above, they have to be the most interesting situation in years, being just good enough at the opportune times to win. Hopefully, they will continue to improve, inch by inch, and not implode at the wrong moment. That Franks interception was spooky for me! Is he just good enough???

    • Mullen said yesterday he was trying to throw it away but did not get enough on it as he was getting hit since Fred Johnson missed his block. I know people love to hate Franks but watch the games a little closer and you might see some things contrary to what you want to see. Yes, Franks should have taken the sack but I’m guessing people would have been complaining that he did not throw it away.

      • This is on target. And don’t forget that the play just before this, Franks dropped a dime on his receiver on a very long completion. The receiver was pretty well covered, it appeared to me, and Franks put it right where it needed to be to let him catch it in stride. The major problem on the next play was a blown assignment in the offensive line.

        • Yeah how quickly people forget that play right before. Seems like most fans just want to focus on the few mistakes he makes and forget about all the good plays he has. Franks will never be accepted by a good portion of this fan base no matter what he does. He’s 5-1 so far this season and people are still nit picking. Sad!

        • gator67. And likely why Brett Heggie played most of the rest of the game at right guard and performed extremely well. I bet Heggie starts at RG vs. Vandy. Johnson needs to be the backup for both guards from now on. He is just inconsistent and commits too many motion penalties. Heggie graded out a Champion with no penalties.

  3. The offensive numbers you cited are not very impressive, but they definitely don’t tell the whole story. How about the fact that the Gators put together two long drives against LSU when they needed to, once to take a 14-10 lead and once to take the lead at the end? I personally can’t imagine last year’s team doing that. Or how about the fact that the Gators outrushed LSU for the game? Or how about offensive efficiency ratings? Last year, the Gators ended up at 105 on this scale. This year they are currently at 40. The Gators also seem to play, on the offensive side, with a mental toughness and confidence that they have lacked for a long time. In other words, there are some numbers and empirical observations (if somewhat subjective) to support the idea that there is what you describe as a different vibe.

    • 67…I’ve pointed out that same thing. At this juncture, if you compare Franks against the rest of league, he comes up short, however, if you compare him against his alternate self of last year, then he has made tremendous strides. In addition, we have a coaching staff that just “gets it” and is doing their best to bring him along. Everyone needs to get on the Frank’s bandwagon, cause he is Mullen’s man and I certainly wouldn’t interject a differing opinion than CDM’s on this issue. For me at this point, I was happy to see the offense sustain two 75-yard drives for scores that happened after LSU had taken leads. This definitely wouldn’t have happened under the old regime. Plus CDM has pulled out a couple of trick plays that have made it fun to watch Gator football again (wins also help bring the fun back too). It is that much more satisfying to see these trick plays against LSU, as Miles was the coach in this series that was always using trick plays to beat the Gators. We have now come full circle, LSU has a stodgy coach, and we have the fun, innovative coach in this series.

      • Glad to see Franks’ improvements this year. We can win games with him against Tenn, MSU and even LSU. However, his level of play cannot take us to win over Georgia. Hope I am wrong.

        • Lets get one thing clear, UGA is NOT Bama. They are beatable. They haven’t faced a defense as dominant as the Gators and Fromm has shown that he gets flustered and makes mistakes when he’s pressured. MSU and UGA are very similarly ranked defenses, so if the defense can shut their offense down, they could easily win that game.

        • Did we really think UGA was a W before the season though? Emphatically…no… but we now know that we can at least suit up and play with them. LSU vs UGA next week…how about lets see that first. UGA hasn’t face a typical FLA defense and bet your bottom dollar Kirby is paying attention and now knows we will be something to deal with with for the foreseeable future. We may lose, but it’s not an indictment on our team if we do and play hard.

          • Hell no, no one thought we’d beat MSU or LSU and many thought we’d lose to UT as well. I’ve watched several UGA games this season and they’re not wowing me at all, certainly not like Bama is. Who knows, maybe they’re playing down to their competition, but I doubt it. I don’t even think the game against LSU will show us much either. I never thought LSU was that good and thought they were overrated at #5. I posted several comments before the game alluding to that fact. Their defense is the 8th ranked defense in the SEC and 34th in the nation and they’re 80th in total offense. UGA should have no problem beating them, unless they play out of their minds using the Gator loss as motivation. I’m not guaranteeing a win against UGA, but I would never say we can’t beat them like MP did.

    • G67…right on…and Franks is a tough and durable qb. Just take a look at that sandwhich hit he took from three different directions. That kind of abuse would have knocked most qbs out of the game. He looked at little woozy at first, but he picked himself up and shook it off. They don’t record statistics on toughness, but if they did he would be ranked highly. That stuff inspires the whole team to fight hard. Frank’s has their respect.

      • You also have to consider the fact that that hit last year would’ve knocked him out of the game mentally for the rest of the game. He would’ve played scared and made stupid mistakes. This season he doesn’t let it affect him and he goes on to lead them on a 75 yard game winning drive. His stats may not be massively improving, but that aspect of his game certainly is.

    • My take on the vibe — we are far more competent and creative than we were before. Not perfect, or near it, but much more competent and creative. It’s fun to watch again.

  4. #15: Not if the play-offs are expanded and goes to conference champions, with the darlings of college football sports writers, Notre Dame, getting off their high horse and joining a conference (or not, I couldn’t care less but am tired of them being catered to). Of course, the set up then would probably be akin to taking the square root of Nick Saban’s birthday, dividing it by the circumference of the moon, and excluding any team exceeding the result of that by a factor of 12.3…………so maybe not after all.

    • Why should they get off their high horse when all they have to do is beat a team or two outside the top 10, win all the games they should easily win, and boom they’re in the playoffs. It’s like asking the political party that is in charge to redistrict the map in a way that goes against them. Never gonna happen.

  5. So from the Sunday comments section that was just…..wow,but now to the Tuesday comments section where, hopefully, it’ll be a bit calmer.

    Look, I’m not here to win friends or be part of a party. I’m not going to sit in a hippie pot circle around a fire and sing Kumbaya. That just isn’t me. Unfortunately, it IS most of Gator Nation. In my opinion, that’s a small part of why our football program is the way it is. I voice my opinion on this message board because Gator Boosters doesn’t give a rip about my opinion. They only care if the check clears the bank.

    Yes, I have been an ardent opponent of Dan Mullen. His record in no way shape or form supported him being a head coach at the University of Florida. I still stand by that as his permanent record from Mississippi State shows. A losing record in the SEC does not qualify you to take over the UF program. That said, last Saturday I celebrated and congratulated him on a victory over LSU. As was the Kentucky game, LSU as well, is only one game. I still think the only team they’ll lose to coming up is Georgia, but we’ll see. Each game is it’s own.

    I want this football program to be the best. Actually, I demand it! I demand the best from our administrators, our coaches, and our players. Florida has not gotten the leadership it deserves or that I demand in the last 16 years! Our facilities are shamefully inadequate and the decisions by administrators are highly questionable and have cost us dearly in $$$. This is a new time and new administration, but the work needed is LONG overdue. I thought most of our issues in football were coaching related. Quite frankly, it looks as though we’ve had no problem getting defensive talent to Gainesville. Offensively though, we’ve struggled mightily.

    To get the talent we need at Florida is going to take a lot more than coaching. It’s going to take money for facilities, time in recruiting, and a commitment from the University to get the athletes needed into school. This is the part of the issue at UF that has the everything school moniker. Well, I have some news for you. You need to dump the everything school. There has to be an alpha male. There has to be a big dog. And, that big dog has to eat first from the bowl. If you don’t let the big dog eat, he won’t be the alpha male anymore. Consequently, he’ll start to starve and weaken. (see the metaphor?) Football is the big dog at Florida. The Football Program’s needs have to come first.

    With respect: keep politics and religion out of the comments. That’s beneath all of you (I hope). If you don’t like what I have to say, or what I believe about the Football Program, so be it. You have your thoughts and I have mine. Go Gators!

    • You are entitled to your opinion, however I disagree with most of your points. I think the emphasis on facilities is overblown. You only have to go back to the Spurrier years where the HBC had stated that he would win without the facilities, which he did. I believe that it’s alumni and administration and not the players that put more emphasis on facilities, so don’t complain about the UAA cashing your check. And your point regarding CDM’s resume to coach the Gators reminds me of Spurrier’s. Did the HBC’s resume coaching Duke qualify him for the Gator head job, probably not. Granted he did win a conference championship at Duke, but the ACC was a joke in that era. CDM had the misfortune to coach a program whose claim to fame was Jackie Sherrill who was celebrated as the winningest coach at MSU (by 6 games over CDM), with a coaching record of 75-75-2 and played in the west where Bama has been nothing less than a juggernaut and helped shape CDM’s record at MSU. CDM reminds me of Spurrier from his time at UF as it seems he believes that while you need players and you need facilities, it’s coaching that really makes the difference. And that’s my opinion.

      • Gatorguy with you 100%. Facilities are nice and flashy but no replacement for training, coaching and conditioning. Recruiting Young impressionable players is easier if the “flash’ is there. Sad that so many are that shallow but true to a large degree more and more these days. But the facilities comes down to marketing which a good coach with a winning program can sell to a degree. Then comes selling them on the program which a good coach can also do. This will work and continue to work as long as the product is in the top 20%. Recruiting will also improve as the record improves. Yes flashy facilities will draw but talent in coaching will make something of them. Quality staff and coaches produce.

    • The facilities didn’t seem to hurt Urban Meyer’s recruiting and they were far worse than they are now. Muschamp was bringing in top 5 classes as well in the beginning. I agree the facilities need more upgrading, but a successful head coach with a good product on the field for a premier program in the country, should have no problem recruiting with subpar facilities. Hell the Canes don’t even have their own stadium and are recruiting just fine. The lack of facilities isn’t what caused recruiting to plummet, it’s the poor product on the field plain and simple. The standalone football facility is the only thing remaining. Everything else they’ve already done is state of the art and on par with most other big time programs. If Mullen continues showing recruits a good product on the field, he’s going to shoot up the recruiting rankings.

    • Grumpy. Agree with your comments about the facilities lagging behind, but I believe that upgrades in the football and basketball facilities have been made or are under way, with more to come. Yes, football is the alpha dog in our program, but that is also the case in every other power 5 program, with the notable exceptions of Kentucky and Duke. That does not mean it should command every dollar. We have a top level baseball program with a recent NC in it’s pocket, but it’s stadium has been shamefully neglected for a long time. It too is now being corrected with a brand new facility under way. We also have a women’s softball program that is among the very best in the nation with 2 NC’s to their credit, and their stadium is also being updated. Recent NC’s in gymnastics, track & field and other sports should be a source of pride for all Gators. I am sure others might agree with you on the “football only” focus, but many of us enjoy seeing the UF athletic programs succeed across the board. I read your posts on this site often, and respect your passion and opinions, so don’t stop expressing them just because people will see things differently. That one of the things that makes it fun for all of us to get on this site instead of watching Steven A. Smith rant on everything on ESPN. Thanks for posting.

      • Totally agree…and totally don’t get the “we should have gotten better” analysis without naming a realistic better option….key word being realistic. I get that we never should have fallen off, but we did, so even the biggest and most successful of blue blood programs historically (USC, Texas, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama) has periods of decline. It happens…and when you are in the midst of those lean years, it is unrealistic to think that anyone would bow down and come to “said” school. These are the Gator fans that SOS talked about who byched about 10-2 seasons. Many know where we are currently and are elated that we have come so far in one season after a 4 win campaign. Expressing that isn’t drinking kool-aid…it’s understanding that we have a ways to go…but a TOP 5 W over an SEC heavyweight is a milestone.

    • I appreciate your point of view, but the thing that keeps me a Football Booster is that my dollars go to more than just the football team. If you don’t well-up with pride when other UF teams take the field during commercial breaks to be recognized over and over and over and over again as SEC and National Champions, you might want to check your pulse 😉

      Football IS the big dog on campus and everyone knows it. You needn’t rub every other sports’ noses in it. If you push too hard, you may get what you ask for, but in the form of a different sport than you’re hoping.

    • Foley always had a small ball mindset. He really should have been AD at a small women’s college where his obsession with badminton and competitive dancing would have made more sense. I have sometimes wondered if maybe he was on the FSU payroll, being paid to hire weird freaks to destroy the football program while also ignoring facilities issues. It’s hard for me to believe anyone who had actually met Zook would think he was competent to lead a major college football program, but maybe Foley just wasn’t as bright as I thought he was.

      In any case, I am glad he and his loserly ways are gone and we have an AD now who understands the reality of the situation.

      • Jawer…those accusations can’t be easily ignored. Ron Zook is no “weird freak”, whatever you may think about his head-coaching abilities. And I doubt you would say that to his face if YOU ever met him. If you took a look at all the talented players he recruited to UF before and during his years as HC, maybe you’d have a little less urge to spout derogatory name calling. Or maybe not, considering your insulting comments about Foley under whose leadership the Gator athletic program achieved national prominence. Some of the the trash comments (“weird freaks”) that get posted here about previous coaches, AD, even players, sound like troll’s trying to make UF fans look bad. If not, sure doesn’t sound like true fans.

    • Grumpy kinda long post for my taste, afraid I can only agree with you on two things. I too want this Gator program to be the best and I would also like to keep the political and religious talk out of here.
      As far as the rest we can agree to disagree. You need to take Mullen’s record at MSU in perspective, he was playing in the best division of the best conference with a program that had been a perennial doormat in a God forsaken place where no sane kid wants to go play at. AND YET, he was very competitive every year and even had his team ranked #1 in the nation for quite a spell. How can you find anything wrong with him so far this season? He has been God sent.
      I know I mentioned God twice in my post, hope the anti religion folks don’t get too wound up.

  6. Back to beating my favorite drum. The playoffs should be for conference winners, period. There, I fixed it. Now UCF gets to find out if they really are National Champions or not. All the “little guys” get a taste. And the “big guys” better be ready to play or suffer the fate of big favorites in March Madness who become answers to trivia questions. And Notre Dame? Yep, get your entitled ass into a conference.

    • Seems simple enough.

      Seems logical.

      Let’s see….. must win your conference first….

      Nah, it makes too much sense. The NCAA would never go for it.

      • Rog. The playoff selection committee evaluates which four teams, regardless of conference record and titles, are the four best teams at the end of the season. They want to the four best teams with the best records (with consideration given to the type of Power teams played) at the time to play for the national title. And that is why Bama and Georgia both got in last year and another conference champion that was not as good as those two teams did not get in. A champion of a weak conference should not trump a second place conference finisher if that second place finisher’s conference and schedule is deemed far more superior than the conference champions’ conference and schedule. Makes perfect sense to me. To do the conference champion route, you would need to expand the playoffs to 8 or more games as to allowed top tier non-conference winning teams to get in as well. I doubt that is ever going to happen.

        • And therein lies the problem: “the playoff selection committee evaluates…”, which means the selection of teams is subjective. True playoff teams are not selected; they earn their playoff spots by objective criteria. Until that happens, what we have here is a tournament, not a playoff. Selecting the “best” team is always subjective. One could make a case that Georgia was actually the “best” team last season, because both UGA and Bama lost to Auburn, but UGA also beat Auburn, and should’ve beaten Bama, only losing on a more or less fluke play in overtime. Does anyone really think the NY Giants were better than the Patriots in either of their Super Bowl seasons? If your concern is figuring out who the “best” team is, we only need go back to the days of the polls crowning the national champion. If you want to crown a champion, have a true playoff with true playoff teams and a true championship game, then, don’t worry about who was the best, just celebrate the winner of the championship game. To do that, Tampa, you are correct that the playoff would have to be expanded to more than eight teams, or the FBS would need to be reduced and realigned to 96 or 112 teams in eight conferences. Like you said, that’s probably not happening.

        • Tampa, I get that. For sure. And if the stated objective is to have the best four college teams in a playoff, then I get that too. As for lengthening the season/post season by expanding the playoffs, I’m not for that. As a fan I’d love it. But the demands on these “student athletes” is already unbelievable. I personally know a few D1 athletes and I can tell you that the demands on their time from their sport would shock many of us. They couldn’t hold a part time job if they wanted to.

          But my lament is that if you play at one of the 120 or so FBS schools outside of the usual top twenty or so programs, you have almost no chance from day one of winning a championship, other than your conference. So, maybe the solution lies in there somewhere by creating yet another level of college football so that EVERY team has a legitimate chance to win a championship. All that said, its not my biggest beef and not a hill I’d die on anytime soon.

          • Rog…Fair points. My only counter is what makes Power 5 guys different from any other student athlete? If I go to say, North Dakota Sate, I don’t have the same demands as a student athlete? All other divisions have legitimate playoffs. I guarantee that they aren’t thinking about the student athlete in that capacity. The issue is simply money and how can TV, conferences, etc still capitalize outside of the traditional Bowl setting.

    • TOTALLY agree Hoffman. In this current 4 man playoff…if you don’t win the conf, you should not get in. It’s subjective. Bama didn’t even win their division (for the second time) and Auburn was penalized for playing in the title game and losing. Now go to 8…and then each conf is repped, with one of the non power 5 teams, and 2 wild cards…

      • Smith. Auburn was not penalized. Bama was rewarded for being better most of the season and for clearly being a better team even though they lost to Auburn. And they proved it vs. Georgia. For example, do you think Kentucky would beat Florida again if they played? I don’t. And I do not believe, last year, Auburn would have beaten Bama again if they played again five more times. But under your desired system, Kentucky would be more qualified for the playoffs than Florida right now. And I think the committee goes more with the non-subjective when choosing the four playoff teams. They use tons of comparative data collected to make their decision as to which teams get into the playoffs. There is actually little subjective thought processing in that decision making by the committee. What was subjective was the polling system. Almost completely subjective and often illogical, like Auburn not getting to play for the NC when Campbell was the QB and Georgia not playing for the NC the year they played Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. It was clear then that both teams were likely one of the best teams in the country. Maybe both were the best teams at the time. Today, both of those teams would have made the playoffs. That is a good thing.

        • Tampa…TOTALLY disagree..and it’s subjective. There is no need for speculation or who you “think” would win…Kentucky beat us at home. If Kentucky wins the East and beat us on the field fair and square, and had to play an additional game against say Bama or the winner of the West and lost, it means they are the 2nd place team in the conference…PERIOD. That game is a REWARD for winning your division. This is not a scenario where the teams did not play and a decision on who was the best team had to be voted on. Auburn handled Alabama head to head in the last game of the season…it was not a game in question. Auburn was the more physical team that had just destroyed the East winner the week before. Their back, Kerryon Johnson, who was the MAIN cog in their wheel was hurt in that game and they limped into a rematch with Georgia. Alabama did not lose to Auburn early in the season. If anything, you could make the argument that Auburn was the best team in the conference based on the fact that they dominated both teams in the championship game. Now injuries do happen, and Georgia won the SEC title…but Auburn CLEARLY won the West division…the penalization comes from the fact they they were skipped for having the “audacity” to play an extra game for winning their division and lose despite just winning the PREVIOUS week 26-14. How anyone can say Auburn was not better than Bama last year is beyond me. Again…they played and the results are what they are.

          That may be your opinion, but it was not clear they were the best teams….that is subjective no matter how you slice it…and in this current system, a 3rd place team, that did not even win their conference, let alone their division, should not make the playoff. Make it 8 teams where each power 5 champ goes, with wildcards…and if they win…then so be it…but a bunch of guys who use “data” to say who they believe should get another chance despite blowing their opportunity like everyone else is not right.

          Your scenario with Auburn missing it with Cadillac and Brown had 3 undefeated teams that year so somebody had to be out…and would have griped as well. That’s apples and oranges for it’s a different format. A better comparison was 2000 when Miami beat FSU head to head and had the same record, but were left out of the title game when Oklahoma beat FSU (minus Snoop Minnis). Your analysis would say, “well we feel FSU was better so they deserve it” instead of what happened on the field. Many, including I, did feel they (Auburn) were better than Oklahoma and should have played USC. In this 4 game playoff, however, they all would likely have made it. Saying we felt isn’t categorically proof that they were better…it’s speculation.

          I hate Notre Dame with a passion, but would not mind if they ran the table so this thing can blow up.

    • Disagree since some conferences are very weak and a runner up in the SEC is usually a better team than most other conference winners. We should expand the playoffs to 8 games but not make it a requisite to include all conference winners rather have the 8 best teams. As an example UCF should have gone in last season if 8 teams were invited at the very least to have them play a real team and shut them up or have them shock us.

      • CO Jones…I agree on the 8 teams, but winning your conference means something in every other sport tournament scenario, so why would football be different? Say it’s a crazy year like 2007 when LSU won with 2 losses…where the SEC ate itself. In your scenario they may be left out when perhaps they beat up on each other . UCF deserved a shot…agreed…and handled Auburn pretty easily…and won the line of scrimmage. I don’t like this, “well we know they are better” stuff. Let them play it out on the field.

  7. This season feels a lot like Muschump’s second season where we went 11-2. Lots of turnovers especially at critical points in the game. The offense sputtered the whole season behind a sophomore qb. The defense made huge plays and spurred the team to several victories.

    A couple differences between Mullen and Muschump/McEloser are: (1) Mullen is more concerned about winning than losing, (2) Mullen believes in all 3 phases of the game(offense/defense/special teams) as opposed to Muschump who only believed in 2(defense/special teams) and McEloser who only believed in 1 maybe(defense). Not really sure he even believed in that as last year we pretty much played prevent defense all year. Muschamp/McEloser were always more concerned about losing so played conservative.

    Our last 4 coaches all had names that started with an “M”. Weird.

    • 6 the playoff is going to have to expand at some point. I also feel that if schools want to be independent they should be excluded from the playoffs. Either you’re part of the program or your not. Going to a playoff was the best thing to do to end some of the year end discord of who deserves to be 1 or 2. Another idea would be 8 team playoff top 2 from committe remaining 6 selected from conference champions selected by committee. Must be in a conference to play.

    • David Smith I agree that Coach Mullen is more about winning than losing. I know it sounds weird to say that about a football coach. But I do get the feeling that Muschump coached scared/afraid/not-to-lose instead of an all out drive to win – and win fearlessly if necessary. Steve Spurrier never coached not-to-lose.

      I see better offensive talent that WM’s 11-2 team. That team had a bludgeon for an offensive line but not-so-great skill position. And terrible schemes/play-calling. And lots and lots and lots and lots of penalties.

    • Nice analogy…also kind of reminds me on 2006 where our offense did not really light it up until the SEC title game and Natl title game. Not saying that we are headed that way, but kind of reminds me of that year.

      I believe his 2nd year the improvement will continue.

  8. The offense might not be much better number-wise this year, however, they are coming up with critical drives at the most important times. The response to LSU when they went up 20-14 was very impressive, but the drive at the end of the game that started at our own-4 was something this team would never do last year. In fact it is exactly why we lost to A&M and LSU last year. If they had gone 3-and-out, they would’ve handed LSU a game-winning field goal. Instead they drove 30 yards in 9 plays and burned over 4 minutes off the clock. LSU also burned timeouts. Special teams came out and boomed a punt and covered it well. LSU took over at their 12 with just over 2 minutes left. Our rested defense comes out on the field and a few plays later…interception, touchdown, 8-pnt lead.

    • Amen…that late drive used 6 plays…3 per each first down (all of them runs) to burn clock and then booted the punt over the returner’s head to pin them on the 12-yard line. With last year’s coaching staff, we lose that game.

      • To boost your point, I believe it was actually 9 plays: 3 for each first down plus the following three plays prior to punting on 4th down.

    • Orlando good assessment. Last year we had nothing when pinned deep in our own territory. Stat wise we might be in the bottom of the conference in some let areas, but we are playing like a cohesive group. If they can keep growing waiting and playing with that relentless effort those figures will get better. The guys that were here last year wouldn’t have known how to do what they are doing now with the new coaches. Now they are learning how to win.

    • BTW…our offensive line has gotten better from the beginning of this year…that definitely didn’t happen with last year’s coaching staff.

  9. I want to give some love to our DC Mr. Todd!!. He has figured out a way to use our speed on D. This group is very disruptive despite not being the largest / strongest group. I really like the way they go to the ball. Our DBs are maturing rapidly. Having the D give the O short fields, and to score plays with pick6s and safeties is simply a huge step above where this team was last year. Todd deserves some real praise.

  10. I’m so glad for Dan Mullen! Even after the Kentucky loss, it still felt like we had the right guy and were on the correct path, even if it took another season (that was before we knew UK was really good this year, of course). His happy warrior vibe is infectious and makes being a fan fun again. We may lose another few games this year (Georgia and one more we shouldn’t lose) but the turn around is night and day.

  11. Pat, I think the difference from last year and this year is simple. You are correct in that the offensive stats don’t really paint much of a difference. But the reality is, from top to bottom it is evident even to us uneducated fans that much has changed. The stats are similar but the on field product is not. The play calling the past three years just made you want to run head first into your big screen TV, repeatedly, and then go out and mow the grass. Now….well, it speaks for itself.

    The difference from last year to this year. We now have hope. Make Gator Football Great Again.

    • I did spend a lot of my time screaming at my television. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have a coach who actually adjusts and when something isn’t working he actually tries something else. It almost drove insane the past couple years with Nussmeir just calling the same three plays over and over despite the fact that they NEVER WORKED!

  12. Go Gators! Defense wins championships and ours is playing at a very high level right now. Our offense is improving especially at protecting FF and run blocking. Damien Pierce is going to be special at RB. FF still has trouble reading the D but is improving and making throws that show his potential. CDM and his staff are doing a great job of preparing the team each week. The one thing I would like CDM to do is to stop our guys trash talking about other teams players before games. It reminds me of the old school FSU or Miami teams that were such trash talking A-holes. Not a good representation of the Gator standard. You just don’t get that stuff from well disciplined teams. Can’t say I thought we would be 5 – 1 now but I also can’t say I didn’t think we had the talent either. GO GATORS!

  13. ”…but I think there is just a different vibe around Florida football and a lot of it is because fans feel like things are going in the right direction.” _Dooley.
    That’s ‘IT’ in a nutshell, Pat. And I am so dang happy and proud to be a Gator right now. Although I always have been, win or lose. But this just ”feels different.” It feels like the ‘9 years’ of wandering around the SEC desert is FINALLY OVER! Thanks be to God!
    And the ‘Bama fans know, deep down in their ”crimson hearts” that their ride with Saban is on its last leg. Not much time left for the Tide to dominate, in my opinion. ”All good things come to an end.”
    But for Florida Football, they’re starting up again! GO GATORS! Sink the Commodores!

    • GI agree that something feels right. They are getting their swag back. Chuckie doll went down Gator walk deservedly. I don’t mind a little yeah talk as long as its clean. I’d bet they don’t say much without approval or reprimand. I watched a team walk in that game loose and confident. My gut has had a good feeling for this since CDM was hired. Gators are gonna swamp the Dore’s.

  14. Pat, #16, I’m glad to see you struggle with your ballot, it shows that you don’t treat it flippantly. Over time, I have read about voters giving ballots to assistants to fill out, or reports that there are so many games and teams that the voter never actually sees playing (e.g., west coast teams). With only about 63 voters nationally, every vote needs to be thought out. I don’t care if it is perfect, at least it is not grossly wrong. Also, I like hearing your analysis of why a particular team fell here or there in the rankings in your opinion.

  15. Anybody hear anything about Dameon Pierce. I don’t see his name anywhere on stats or don’t recall him making any plays on special teams. Usually he’s good for a tackle or two. I don’t recall anything pre game and maybe I just missed it.

  16. Last year we ranked 109 in the nation in scoring offense.

    We are currently ranked 44 as a work in progress and that is after back to back games against highly touted defensive teams. That is dramatic improvement.

    As for Oklahoma firing Stoops, clearly spoiled Gator fans have taken over their program as it is a well known fact that only spoiled Gator fans expect competent coaching in big games against arch-rivals. All the other schools love losing to their rivals as a result of terrible coaching. Just ask the Gainesville Sun!

  17. Let’s not give stats more importance than what they deserve. Winning requires that you use your bullets at the right moment. So maybe we aren’t that bad on offense. BTW Mr Grier that is the model for QB vision everyone likes just threw 3 picks against Kansas. I am behind Franks…he is a good QB.

    All the jawing aside, I read the recruits comments after the game on CBS sports. Most were stunned at the atmosphere if the game the quality and noise of the fan base and all of the peripheral things as well as how well we played. There is not a long list of places that can compare and the word is getting out. So hopefully my enthusiasm is helping. Are there reasons to be grumpy…I guess but I’m too blinded by just having gator football back to be lost in how well the backup guard who is starting as the other guy heals etc. Just happy right now but we better get busy and focus on vandy…a win here would move their coach right up there in the progression and he is a very good coach that will have his team playing much better than they did against Georgia.

  18. If you are looking for reasons to be grumpy, just imagine the fans at UCLA and Nebraska, both winless with their very high profile NEW coaches (Kelly and Frost)! I actually think Nebraska will get it turned around at some point and be patient with Frost. He is their home town boy and a good coach. UCLA on the other hand must be wringing their hands with Kelly, whom they jumped at the chance to hire. Fortunately for them, they play in the weakest of the Power 5 conferences, for a school and a city where football is kind of en “eh”. Meanwhile Gator fans, we are fortunate to have an AD who knew that Dan Mullen was the best fit for UF, and we have the strongest head coach and coaching staff we’ve had in the last 7 years. Go Gators.

  19. The numbers show that we lack an offense that can dominate a good D. And yet…what we’ve seen is that the offense is cagey enough to get what it needs. If it needs points, it can squeak them out. If it needs to flip the field, it’ll get the yards. If it needs to run click and rest the defense, it shall be done. Even against Vandy, I don’t anticipate our offense being able to blow their D off the field. But there is enough talent, flexibility, and smarts to do the only thing that matters: win.

    And having an aggressive and energetic defense, along with a couple of solid kickers, sure makes things easier!

  20. I have to go to the esoteric world of late game clock management to find things to be unhappy about with Mullen. He has completely won me over as not only being the best coach available when we hired him but also a true difference maker for the Gators. The mess he inherited was awful and he turned the Kentucky tragedy into an amazing teaching moment. All facets of the game are improving. He is getting the most out of Franks and I have come to really respect Franks for his amazing toughness.

    While I only have hopes for the Georgia game, we had no hopes in 14, 15, or 16 and still won. We are 5-1 and I am one happy Gator. Thanks Coach Mullen.

    • GS he did inherit a mess but it wasn’t so much the talent as lack of coaching and conditioning. These guys had skills even if the way they were recruited piecemeal. Raw maybe but talented. Mullen and co have taken that talent and turned it into a functioning team. Not ideal as there are positional mismatches for his ideal offense but no one gets 100% of what they want. What makes this fun and good is he can adapt to what he has and make it work, admit when he’s wrong and fix it. There are Rao games ahead if the players lose focus. But we are good enough to win every contest ahead. I don’t think we will but we can.

  21. I’ll probably catch some grief for this, but reading that Treon Harris isn’t even an FCS level QB should give us a better appreciation for the challenge Mac and the Gators faced after Will Grier was suspended. I’m not saying Mac didn’t deserve to be fired, just that he had a hard row to hoe with the talent he had to work with at QB.

    • I appreciate your point. It’s always easier to just toss the last coach under the bus. Coach Mac did well with what he had until the bus backed over him a couple of times.

  22. Hey Pat – the Lumineers cover of Walls made up for every shi**y song recommendation you ever made! Thanks for this one.

  23. Just to note: The pre-season experts had Florida winning just 4 games, possibly 5 this season. None of them saw a winning season (247 Sports, Vegas Insider, USAToday, CBSSports, etc.). This team is ahead of schedule. I did see one 6-6 prediction and an invitation to the Poulan Weedeater Bowl in Shreveport.
    PS: That 302 yards Cronkrite ran was against UMass, the 128th worst rushing defense in Div. I. 129th is UConn.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here