The Back Nine: Stricklin not involved in Peach Bowl pairing

24
1834
Florida football coach Dan Mullen, right, and UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The Back Nine comes at you after a wonderful Saturday watching pigskin on the gridiron with my dad and then experiencing a crazy and newsworthy Sunday that included a former Florida coach getting another head coaching gig and a Gator nemesis getting fired.

10. The answer, Alex, is — who are Jim McElwain and Terry Bowden? McElwain is taking a circuitous route back to being a Power 5 head coach by taking the Central Michigan job. Bowden got fired at Akron. But these were, like the 14th and 15th biggest stories of the weekend. So, yes, I buried the lead again. We’ll start with the Florida-Michigan matchup which has not exactly taken the Gator Nation by storm, in part because UF has never beaten the Wolverines (0-4) and the taste of the miserable Citrus Bowl three years ago is still fresh. But anybody who thinks athletic director Scott Stricklin had anything to do with Florida not facing UCF because he is on the committee needs to go polish a pretend national title trophy. Anybody with any understanding of the process knows why it’s Florida-Michigan. Then again, some people believe the Earth is flat, there is an Easter Bunny and “Seinfeld” isn’t funny.

11. You have to figure that one coach who knows how to beat Michigan will be happy to help a coach trying to beat Michigan, right? Urban Meyer owns the Wolverines like you own your car after the last payment. He was, of course, Dan Mullen’s boss and advised him to take the Florida job. “Hey, Urbs, it’s Dan? Got any tips on how to beat the Wolverines?” “Yeah, Dan, have your quarterback throw for six touchdowns and block a kick for a score. That should do it.” The Back Nine asked Mullen on the Peach Bowl conference call Monday if he planned to give Meyer a call. “I’m sure I’ll touch base with him just to get a thought or two,” he said. “They obviously had a great plan of attacking them, were able to put a lot of points on the board, so that’s a game we’ll look at closely and see how they were able to do it. But I know that’s a big rivalry game, so those are hard to invest all the stock in because of all the emotion of those games.” If Ohio State had played all season like it did against Michigan, the Buckeyes would not be left out. After Ohio State hammered Michigan, it was like everybody forgot that the Bucks SHOULD have lost to Maryland the week before. Anyway, it’s all settled now and I’m ready for bowl season, which starts in less than two weeks and will be over before you know it.

12. It’s easy to bash Georgia coach Kirby Smart in retrospect over the fake punt call that probably cost his team the following:

• The game.

• The SEC Championship.

• A berth in the CFP.

• The league getting two teams in.

• A minimum of $550,000 in contract incentives.

Other than that, it was a great call. Look, Smart is an excellent coach and a high-level recruiter. But he might want to leave the fake-kick calls to someone else. A fake field goal against LSU changed the momentum of that game in the first quarter of Georgia’s other loss. It wasn’t just that the Bulldogs tried the fake punt Saturday, it was that it was obvious they were going to fake in when Justin Fields went into the game. But enough about that play. I can’t imagine what it has been like for a fan base to lead the best team in the country for 119 of 120 minutes in two games and lose them both.

13. Just a thought — maybe this is the year when Florida football ends streaks. The Gators ended their 31-game winning streak against Kentucky and a five-game losing streak against FSU and the Semi’s bowl streak in the process and now have a chance to end a four-game losing streak against Michigan. So there’s that. There also is this — despite that blowout loss to Ohio State, Michigan’s defense was pretty salty all season, allowing 13.5 points a game to anyone not wearing an Ohio State uni and still finishing second in the nation in pass defense. Michigan doesn’t take a lot of chances and that’s one reason it only turned the ball over 10 times all season.

14. But that’s the thing about bowl games. If it’s not one of the playoff games, you never know what a team’s mindset will be because these are still basically exhibition games. Which teams will show up and which will mail it in? Coaches will talk leading up to all of these games about how excited their players are to be there, but nobody knows for sure. Just remember that the bowls are for the players as a reward, for the communities that host them and for ESPN to have programming. Other than that, they’re just fun ball games. Enjoy. And remember, there aren’t too many bowl games. You just watch too many.

15. Usually, I’m the guy who argues with people who say the playoffs have diminished the other bowl games. But I think because there was a lot of less than dominant teams (15 teams in the final CFP rankings had at least three losses and Northwestern had five losses), there aren’t a lot of games that jump out at you as must-see TV. Fortunately, there are 10 games (plus the playoff) with SEC teams playing and that’s enough to get me fired up. I know a lot of you miss old FSU in the bowl season. Who are you supposed to root against? And here’s one for you. Gator fans have added LSU as a rival over the last few years for a number of reasons. Do you root for the Tigers in the Fiesta because of the SEC connection or for plucky UCF and revel in the Bayou misery?

16. Florida heads to Madison Square Garden, a place many of the older guys know quite well, to face West Virginia Tuesday night and needs a win in the worst way. The Gators also need senior Jalen Hudson to snap out of his funk. Hudson has come off the bench the last three games and scored all of eight points and made only three shots. His minutes have been reduced (13.3 in the three games) and the youngsters almost seem to be blowing past him. Is it attitude? Disappointment at having to return for his senior season? Maybe he got so much negative feedback from the NBA he has started to believe it. “I don’t know what to say,” Florida coach Mike White said Monday. “I know what he’s capable of. We’ve all seen it. He’s a great kid. He wants more minutes, he has to earn them. I think he’ll have some big games for us. I’m optimistic.” Maybe playing in the Garden will get him going. Certainly, Hudson and KeVaughn Allen shooting a combined 12-for-49 from 3 isn’t helping this team. But we also remember Allen going for 35 points against Wisconsin two years ago in the NCAAs at the arena. White told the story Monday about drawing up a play during a timeout and an assistant leaning over saying, “Coach, KeVaughn has hit eight shots in a row.” So White crossed out his play and said, “Let’s get it back in KeVaughn’s hands.” Of course, at the end, also into Chris Chiozza’s. But I digress.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Michael David Smith, the managing editor of Pro Football Talk — “The 10% of Heisman Trophy voters who have already submitted their ballots should have their votes taken away. What if Kyler Murray throws for 400 yards while Tua throws four interceptions and Alabama loses? Why wouldn’t you wait until after today to vote?” I agree wholeheartedly and I can’t tell you who I voted, but both the events of Saturday had a major impact on my very tight ballot.

18. So you know how when you are driving from Gainesville to St. Augustine and go through Hastings and after you veer to the right on Friday and Saturday there is a smoker firing up meat by the side of the road and it smells great? I stopped Saturday. Turns out the guy is a big Gator fan. He loaded me up with ribs and chicken and we had a glorious time watching football and chowing down. So I highly recommend it, especially the baked beans, which my dad said were amazing. And here’s a playlist:

• “Beloved” by Mumford & Sons.

• “I Know What It’s Like” by Jeff Tweedy.

• “Morning Is Made” by the Hush Kids.

• “Darker Things” by Lily Kershaw.

• And for an old one, “Strange Brew” by Cream. Not to be confused with the McKenzie Brothers movie with the same name.

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

24 COMMENTS

  1. UF verses Mi is “OK”, since UCF lost their primary QB Milton, though Mack the backup got things going in the second half against Memphis. UF against UCF with Milton would have been an epic State of Florida story: Big Brother against the new comer. UCF wins and the game is on in the State of Florida or UF wins and sends Little Brother back to his room. I’m pulling for UCF against LSU, but am afraid it could be Bobick verses Norton II. Hey older guys, remember that one in the mid 1970’s. Bobick was the new undefeated heavy weight contender against Norton the veteran…Norton sent Bobick to the promise land in less than a minute because he wasn’t tough enough to defend himself against a determined assault from someone who knew how to hit. Is that UCF? We will see. It could be the birth of the FSU replacement!

  2. ”Florida heads to Madison Square Garden, a place many of the older guys know quite well, to face West Virginia Tuesday night and needs a win in the worst way.” -Dooley.
    I think Florida needs 2 things right now. 1. the big men need to contribute more. The bigs accounted for 1/3 of the scoring in the last game, while the guards scored the other two-thirds of offense (61 points worth, in fact). And 2. Florida ”needs a win” against a major school, a big time opponent, like say West Virginia.
    The bonus for me, so far, is the freshman are contributing early in the season which is good. Go Gators!

    • The Gators need to make more layups/shorties. In most of the games I’ve watched this season, the Gators have been spotty-to-decent on shot selection. But when the team works the shot clock, moves the ball and gets a bunny, it’s super deflating to clang that shot and have to go to war for an offensive rebound. Then it’s back to jacking 3s (when, as noted, Allen and Hudson are no-showing). The Gators haven’t beaten a quality opponent yet this year. They DO need a win against W. Virginia.

  3. Drawing conclusions from Power 5 / Group of 5 matchups in bowl games is ridiculous. The Group of 5 team is hyper-motivated and more often than not, the Power 5 team is mailing it in because they didn’t get the bowl game they really wanted.

    Most college football fans (e.g., the UCF student body and alumni) can be forgiven for their outrage because they don’t really understand their roster talent disparity versus a top 10 Power 5 team. Danny White knows better, but he is –shamelessly to excess, in my opinion– just playing a branding game to promote his program.

    I really wish the CFP committee had a format to get UCF into a playoff. Then –when the games really, really matter– you would see the reality of roster talent disparity in full bloom.

    • I couldn’t agree more with your statement. An unmotivated Auburn team whom had just lost the SEC championship game to Georgia and a spot in the CFP was the best possible scenario for a motivated UCF. However, I believe an LSU team wanting a 10-win season for their coach should provide a better test for the Knights. LSU’s defense should be able to slow down UCFs offense.

    • I hear you but they are then damned if they do, damned if they don’t for that’s the built in excuse when a Power 5 team loses. Just give them access like in every other D1 sport and let the chips fall where they fall. Speculation and opinions on what would happen would be ended as it would be on the field. Auburn may have just gotten their collective butts kicked on that day.

    • Be careful what you wish for Nashville. You may just get it some day and IT will surely damage the greatest sport in America today.

      Expansion of the CFP field to 8 teams in time for the next TV contract has been promoted ad-nauseum by the talking heads on ESPN, who stand to benefit greatly from more “meaningful” bowl games and a whole new playoff round. But, we can already see (with the general weakness of the Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12) that any such agreement would have to somehow include ALL Power 5 conference champs in the field of 8. It would also have to include a CFP Top 10 finishing Group of 5 conference champ, like UCF, to avoid an anti trust law suit against the NCAA.

      If in place this season, an 8-team field would add a weak Ohio State, weak 2-loss Washington, 2-loss UGA and pretender UCF to the CFP. None of those 4 teams would really add any NC value to the overall CFP field. However, a couple of 2-loss teams would make the field for the 1st time and with a 3-loss Gator team finishing in the CFP Top 10, the likelihood of a mediocre 3-loss conference champ making the field of 8 in the future would realistically enter the conversation. THAT would completely devalue the college football regular season the way it already has been devalued in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA hoops.

      I don’t know about everyone else, but the “magic” of college football to me, lies in the fact that games played in September count just as much as those played in November. In effect, the “playoffs” begin the day the regular season begins.

      It would be a crime to lose that “magic” just to give pretenders like Washington and UCF a shot at a NC they didn’t EARN during their regular seasons. If pretenders like UCF want a shot at making the CFP field of 4, maybe they should pressure the Washington’s and Ohio States to schedule regular season games against them in the future. Nothing would give UCF more credibility than winning such games, which would then allow them to lobby the SEC or ACC for admission in the future.

      Go Gators!!!

  4. A couple of years ago we beat Iowa in the Tampa bowl game. Thought sure we were back. We weren’t. Who knows what will happen without a reason to play. I agree don’t balme stricklin. I think he will get us on a more Florida centric approach the things.
    If not then sure the next AD will but I doubt it will ever come to that

  5. Wisconsin actually showed OSU the blueprint, or at least part of it. They used a lot of crossing routes and consistently beat Michigan’s coverages. I thought for sure Michigan would mix it up, but they played the same defensive schemes and OSU ate them up as well. I have to think we will at least try some of that, though I don’t feel we have executed crossing routes all that well this year.

    Of course, with Mullen the game plan will always include RUN, RUN RUN.

    • The game Michigan won 38-13? Where Wisconsin threw for 100 yards (1/3 of which came on one play) because Michigan was willing to give them the cheap underneath stuff? Ohio State went downfield often and spread Michigan out which led to blown assignments. Key is giving Franks time and establishing the run early.

      • I must be thinking of a different game– It was Indiana I was thinking about. They rolled up almost 400 yards in a losing effort. I thought I heard someone say it was the crossing routes, but whatever the case may be, I guess Mullen will be talking to Meyer about it and getting some ideas.

  6. Pat, I totally agree with you on the bowl selection committee and Stricklin, but here’s an update for you about Seinfeld… no, it ISN’T funny. Matter of fact, I’ll never understand the allure for one of the un-funniest shows I’ve ever watched.