The Back Nine: A 2019 must? Secure The Swamp

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UF cheerleaders fire up the crowd at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

The Back Nine comes at you after the final regular-season weekend of college football and, as usual, it did not disappoint. Unless you were a Michigan fan or an FSU fan or an Auburn fan, etc.

10. We all know the stories about how Dan Mullen changed the culture at Florida this season, but there is one thing he did kind of backward. Aren’t you supposed to secure your home-field advantage and then learn how to win on the road? That’s what his mentor Urban Meyer did in his first season at Florida going 6-0 at home and losing three times on the road. But Florida at home was only 5-2 with three cupcake wins and 4-0 in true road games. In fact, Florida was one of only seven of 130 FBS schools to go undefeated in true road games. The others were the obvious ones — Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCF — and one surprising one in Northwestern, which had four home losses but reached the Big Ten title game by going 5-0 on the road. Florida’s schedule on the road didn’t hurt in that it only played one team in the SEC that finished with a winning record (Miss. State). But winning on the road is still not easy and this Gator team should be commended for it. Now about that taking back The Swamp thing.

11. I have seen a lot of graphics comparing Florida’s offense to last year’s, which is incredibly misleading. Last year’s team only had one gimmee game and even that was against a pretty good UAB team. And the head coach was fired in the middle of the season. A better comparison would be to Jim McElwain’s first Florida team. It’s just as impressive when we are talking offensive improvement according to national rankings:

                 2015     2018

Scoring      100th     31st

Total off.    112th     48th

Rushing      113th    26th

Passing       86th      78th

Per play      102nd    35th

Remember back in September when Mullen was talking about wanting to see his team get better as the season went on? The Gators had their dip in the middle of the season, but here are their last 10 quarters: 125 points, 1,479 yards, 7.4 yards per play.

12. Most projections have Florida playing in the Fiesta or the Peach in New Year Six bowls, but there is no way of knowing because we still have one more potentially crazy weekend of college football to go. What if Northwestern beats Ohio State? Or Pitt beats Clemson? Stranger things have happened. If those things do happen, it would take away slots in the major bowl games. The bottom line is that Florida could end up in the Fiesta or the Peach, but nothing is guaranteed. If it’s the Peach, I don’t think they would match the Gators up with UCF because the Knights were there last year and the committee tries to avoid that. So basically, I spent all morning on the phone and I have no idea where the Gators are going. And neither does anybody else.

13. So what if Georgia beats Alabama on a field goal? Is Alabama still in? That would mean three Power Five conferences would be out. If Oklahoma beats Texas and Ohio State beats Northwestern, which one makes the playoff? You know Meyer is going to try to score as many points as possible to impress the committee. Could it all wash out so that Florida plays Ohio State in the Peach Bowl? Or that UCF loses with its backup quarterback and falls all the way to the Gasparilla Bowl? The highest ranked Group of Five team gets a New Year’s Six bid, but it has to be a conference champ. Boise State vs. Florida in the Fiesta? While I’m asking questions, I’ll offer this one courtesy of the SEC Network’s Peter Burns — does Urban Meyer have to claim Jim Harbaugh on his tax returns?

14. One of the best things about a noon game Saturday was that we made it home for some high drama Saturday night and every second of the fourth quarter and seven overtimes of LSU-Texas A&M. College football overtimes that won’t quit might be my favorite thing in all of sports, but I do get the concerns about players being on the field for too many plays. I will say this — games like that are rare. But I was curious so I looked it up and found this info on the Pittsburgh-Cleveland OT game at the start of the season and the one Saturday night:

• NFL game — 125 plays in regulation, 29 in overtime.

• College game — 141 plays in regulation, 56 in overtime.

That’s a lot of time to be on the field. But it makes for great entertainment. One thing I truly believe and have for some time is that overtime stats should not count on your season stats. A defense should not have its stats skewed because it gave up 74 points in a game. But that’s me.

15. So I guess there is a run on coaches in their 60s, huh? Mack Brown to North Carolina is the second one in two weeks open to debate. Is Jim Tressel working on updating his resume? I guess Herm Edwards started the trend last year for older coaches and we’ll see how this one works out. It’s like ESPN is a halfway house for coaches who get fired until they can find new jobs. This year’s casualties will probably just step right into the studios. It does feel like it is going to be another wild hiring season. There is even talk about Derek Mason to Colorado. I feel bad for Larry Fedora because he’s truly a good guy. But that’s the business.

16. As we were leaving Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night, I wondered this out loud — have two college teams ever played two games in the same year against each other on neutral fields in the same state 21 miles apart? This is a big tease because I tried to find the answer and gave up. Texas and Oklahoma will have played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and Jerry World in Arlington after Saturday. I think that’s kinda cool, to quote a former coach.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Connor O’Gara, the columnist from Saturday Down South — “For the ‘SEC bias’ crowd, consider this:

The SEC is now 8-3 vs. Power 5 teams in non-conference play.

The 3 losses?

•Vandy at Notre Dame (by 5)

•Tennessee vs. West Virginia

•Texas A&M vs. Clemson (by 2)

No bias. Just results.”

The league has a chance to have two teams in the College Football Playoff and a real chance to have LSU, the loser of Alabama-Georgia and Florida all playing in New Year’s Six bowl games. It’s the best conference and the best division in that conference was the East, which went 9-5 against the West. Sorry, but I’m not letting that go.

18. No excuses this week. There is no Florida football game so I had better be in the gym. And I’ll be listening to this playlist from my favorite CDs of the mid-1990s:

• “Battle of Who Could Care Less’ by Ben Folds Five.

• “Basket Case” by Green Day.

• “In Bloom” by Nirvana.

• “Where It’s At” by Beck.

• And for an oldie, “Bad To Me” by Billie J. Kramer.

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

45 COMMENTS

  1. Am I the only one who hates the overtime format? Mostly I hate that it takes too much of the “real game” out of it. A few years ago, the Gators got a turnover against Georgia in OT. They returned the ball to inside the 10 yard line. The reward? Start at the 25 – at the opposite end of the field. Huh? The team EARNED that sweet field position. If it had happened in the 1st or last minute of the game, it would have been a significant advantage for the team that made the play. I don’t even say this because it was the Gators. It’s just the format is such a gimmick and deviates wildly from the way the rest of the game is played. I can’t stand it.

    And OT stats should definitely not count. You want to show highlights for a Heisman candidate? Highlight away. But don’t pin those points on the D for a bogus, manufactured, almost guaranteed scoring situation. The whole game might have been a 17-17 affair with both defenses dominating. But setting up for a bunch of gimme scores can easily turn that into a 50 point day. Not fair to the D.

  2. CDM really improved the overall performance of our offense, now we have to improve the consistency of performance. Vanquishing the Circus School of the West was a big step forward, next on the list is the Penal Colony to the North which must be beaten, and beaten bad. And for coaches still on our payroll: Feel the HATE Muschamp! My only regret about Pat’s article is that if failed to point out how bad Michigan’s receivers were, and to pointedly blame Mr. BBQ Sauce for it, namely mac. The Future looks very bright, and as always it is Great To Be A FLORIDA GATOR!

  3. you know, i lost some money in the stock market, they had some odd thing happen that normally wouldn’t affect anything, but this guy at the federal reserve had some weird ideas that didn’t work, you know, sort of like those texas a & m referees. not my fault. i will tell my wife that shouldn’t count, or better yet the bank. guess i need to get one of those degrees Mr. 6 is talking about.
    Considering the heat until mid-october, we shouldn’t lose any games early at home, but i’m not that worried about the offense, maybe a little better pass protection, continued improvement at qb, they are going to be good enough to win. the defense really is the off-season concern for me this year, not that i dont like the coaches, i have my doubts about there being enough depth to adequately replace what is moving on. hopefully im wrong again. A good leader can make a lot of difference though, and mr. henderson might just be turning into that guy.

        • ludimeister they were all excited about monetarism when i was at uf, but it didn’t work so well. the fed went back around 1982 to loosely following gold, things got better, but that bernanke guy had to try some other weird ideas. they seem to follow gold again now. i dont see the fed going back to putting anything behind the currency, but i do see them trying to stabilize the dollar against gold.
          what does the price of gold have to do with gator football? Everything! when the price of gold spikes ridiculously, like 1979, or 2010 to 2014, things end up bad for the gators, and then they get a bunch of bad boys and get suspensions and penalties. when its stable we get heismans.
          and other good stuff. id add gold to the color scheme, but thats just me.

  4. Pat, terrific column. You mentioned something that I’ve thought about for years and that is the way the overtime games really skew a team’s defensive stats if it goes more than 2 OTs.

    My thoughts are that field goals count 1 point, a touchdown plus extra point counts 2 points and a touchdown with a 2-point conversion counts as 3 points.

    I don’t know if anybody with power in the NCAA’s would consider something like that, but I think they should do something to make the stats more accurate for the teams involved.

  5. 2019 needs to be the year that Florida not only takes back the Swamp, but goes to Atlanta. That’s the measuring stick to be used at Florida. Go to Atlanta, win in Atlanta. Be the perennial power in the SEC (yes unseat Alabama) and you will always be in position to win a National Championship. THAT should be Florida’s goal, year in and year out.

  6. We have the coaching staff in place now to get it done. This is what we’ve been missing all along, and I have a great feeling when looking towards the future of Gator football. CDM will get us there – the bag-over-the-head beatdown he put on the nolies last Saturday was a thing of beauty!

  7. Here is another must for 2019, START RECRUITING NORTH FLORIDA AGAIN ! when Urb left town, he took recruiting up this way with him. I live in the Jacksonville area and for more years than I care to count now, every 4 and 5 star recruit from this area other than CC and Tyler Jordan has signed with either OSU, Clemson or Bama. ( there have been a few that went to other schools like Tunsil to Ole Miss ) and there have been some really good ones including Heisman winner Derrick Henry from Yulee ( who grew up a Gator fan btw ). Last year we had two players is the rivals top 100 in our area and one signed with Urb, the other with Auburn. This is a down year but next year we have 3 players in the top 100 from N FL and all are undecided at this time ( 2 cb’s and an OT ) . Someone please send a memo to CDM that we have GOT to start getting these 5 star players from North Florida again and take our state back !