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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.