The Back Nine: Despite departures, Bama still the choice

[Staff Photo/Erin Nelson

The Back Nine comes at you after a super weekend, especially because my wife and I both finally put together an Adirondack chair that had been sitting in pieces on our back porch since before the Peach Bowl. Of course, we’re both afraid to sit in it.

10. When Dan Mullen went on the basketball court before the Florida-Tennessee game Saturday and thanked the fans and helped get the crowd fired up, he said something that certainly stirred up the fan base and some media members in Bulldog Country. Mullen pointed out Florida was the second best team in the SEC, but that the goal is to finish with a championship. He was basing that on the coaches’ poll, which had Florida at sixth. The writers had Florida tied with Georgia for seventh. It’s splitting hairs in a way, because too much emphasis is placed on what you do in bowl games. But Georgia people have pointed out that Georgia beat Florida and won the East. Which I get. What’s the coach at Florida supposed to say? That’s what makes rivalries great. Look, Georgia was better than Florida this year, not by a wide margin, but better. At the same time, which fan base enjoyed its season more, the one that beat LSU or the one that lost badly to LSU? The one that finished its season by beating its rival to break a five-game losing streak and blew out a Top-10 team in its bowl game or the one that blew a big lead in the SEC title game and lost its bowl game? Asking for a friend.

11. Just a week ago, I gave you my early Top 25 and had Alabama at the top. Since then, Alabama has lost, like 50 players to the NFL and some more coaches. Can I have that prediction back? Alabama will be just fine, but sometimes I wonder if all the defections will catch up to the Tide. Nick Saban seems to reload every year and he still has the best skill players in the conference and the No. 1 recruiting class coming in. I’ll stick with Alabama for now. By the way, Florida’s class is now 11th in recruiting according to 247Sports and has a chance to slip into the top 10 by the time we get to the late signing day.

12. One thing coach Mike White said during a subdued postgame news conference Saturday was about how more of his guys need to finish plays with contact at the rim rather than celebrating that they were fouled and missed the shot. Amen to that. One thing Florida lacks is a player who takes it strong to the rim and has a shot at an “and-1” rather than missing the shot and getting two free throws. The effort was there Saturday against a really good team, but there was also that occasional lack of basketball IQ that has plagued this team all season. Just doing their jobs on every possession is an issue, especially late in games when there seems to be a panic rather than sticking with the plan. That’s how you leave Admiral Schofield wide open for a trey on the biggest play of the game.

13. I am volunteering my services to be the onside kick coach for any NFL or college team. Because I am never wrong. Too many times I see coaches try the onside kick when they should kick it deep. On Saturday night, Dallas chose not to try one with more than 2:11 left down eight points to the Rams. Dallas has forced one — ONE — three-and-out in the entire game. It’s true that it’s difficult to execute that play, but when you can’t stop the other team, it’s worth the risk. Instead, Dallas kicked deep (and I was thankful as someone rooting for Los Angeles) and the Rams got two first downs (Nos. 29 and 30 for the game) to end the game. I am cheap and available.

14. So what we have is a dream final four for the NFL playoffs — Rams at Saints and Patriots at Chiefs. The four teams have combined for 53 wins this season, including the playoffs. Pass the popcorn and reserve me a spot on the couch. I went 2-2 again this week, which won’t get you far in Vegas. I’m going with the Rams and Chiefs this week, which means I’m betting against Tom Brady and Drew Brees, which may be the dumbest thing ever. But many weeks ago, I wrote about how great it would be to have a Rams-Chiefs Super Bowl and I’m sticking with it.

15. We all know how difficult it is to win on the road in any sport and any league. Sometimes I think it’s toughest in the NBA. For example, there are only three teams in the Western Conference with winning records away from home — Denver, Golden State and Oklahoma City. Billy Donovan has done a heck of a job this year after losing the first four games of the season and going through a recent three-game losing streak to get to within three games of the top. It seems so long ago that Billy was Florida’s coach. That’s how fast time passes.

16. Very impressive showing for the UF gymnastics team in its debut against Missouri, a result that has the Gators at No. 3 heading into Friday’s meet at No. 5 LSU. But the thing that caught my eye — and was watched more than 13 million times on social media — was elsewhere, the floor performance by Katelyn Ohashi of UCLA on Saturday night. She received a 10 that could have been an 11, it was that impressive. Go Google it and watch. You can’t help but smile. What won’t make you smile is that former UF coach Rhonda Faehn was fired at Michigan on Sunday night a week after being hired as a consultant after Board of Regents members voiced their concerns over the hiring. Their concerns were based on allegations Faehn waited too long to report abuse by Larry Nassar that was relayed to her by gymnasts on the USA Gymnastics team.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to UnBiased_UF and I have no idea who this person is but someone retweeted it and it ended up on my timeline: “Former Saban OC’s and what they did last year:

– Jim McElwain: Coached WR’s

– Doug Nussmeier: Coached TE’s

– Lane Kiffin: HC FAU, went 5-7

– Brian Daboll: OC Buffalo Bills, went from 29th to 30th in total offense.

Seems to be easier to call plays at Bama.”

I don’t think even I could mess it up with that talent. (But can Steve Sarkisian?) The Tide didn’t lose to Clemson because of play-calling (except for the fake field goal). They lost because they couldn’t stop the Tigers.

18. My playlists have all become messed up, some disappearing, some missing songs. It has something to do with my daughter and I sharing an ID on our phones, I will solve this. And this will be the first playlists I include:

• “Grass” by The Candescents.

• “Big Boss Man (Live)” by the Kentucky Headhunters.

• “Little Mexico” by The Flusters.

• “Death in Midsummer” by Deerhunter.

• And for an old one, mainly because I couldn’t remember the name of the group while we were watching a commercial and I pride myself on music trivia, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam.

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

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