The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend with way too much Executive Time, as we kind of rested up for what should be a wild week of Gator athletics.
10. Yep, I watched all that was offered in the new Alliance of American Football, especially Steve Spurrier’s debut. The crowds weren’t great (rain didn’t help in Orlando) and the broadcasts were a little over the top, but the football was fine and — most importantly — it was football. The attendance at these games isn’t what really matters, because, if you watched, this is definitely a made-for-TV league. Any game that has Spurrier miked up is for me. But what really was cool was hearing the replay official going through the replays before deciding on a ruling. That kind of transparency is spectacular. All this time I thought replay officials were eating popcorn and watching “Game of Thrones”. No kickoffs, two-point conversions only. What’s not to like? It will be interesting to see what AAF rules are adopted eventually by the NFL, which took a lot of ideas from the USFL and XFL. By the way, I was watching the Florida-Oklahoma national title game from 2009 (2008 season) and I was thinking who could have thought that night that one of these coaches would be in the XFL and the other an assistant athletic director. Life comes at you fast.
11. Sometimes you wonder if the recruiting rankings are too SEC-centric in that the players from the South tend to get higher rankings, because this is where football is the most popular. Or maybe that’s just me. But then you see a stat like this and those rankings hold up — the state of Florida high schools produced 51 players who were invited to the NFL Combine, by far the most of any state. And Georgia was third with 25. That means there were 76 players in the two states who were good enough to get invites. That’s a lot. I also saw where Vanderbilt was the only SEC school not to get at least a B- in recruiting. It feels like the SEC East is on the verge of becoming incredibly competitive.
12. There’s been a lot of Twitter jawing already and it’s still a long way away, but doesn’t it feel like Florida-Miami in Orlando is going to be a big deal? Florida needs to keep the positive momentum going and Miami could use some. Of course, what do we do on the Monday after the opening weekend of college football? We overreact. And we will on the first Monday in September. But it still feels like a big game.
13. Unfortunately for the Gator basketball team, things went about as expected last week playing at Auburn and at Tennessee and both by double digits. Tennessee is No. 1 and Auburn is really tough to beat at home. It’s one reason I don’t have a lot of faith in the Tigers in the NCAA Tournament — their 1-5 record on the road. And one reason I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Kentucky and Tennessee in the Elite Eight at least because they are a combined 12-1 on the road. And there is no such thing as a road NCAA game for the Wildcats because of the fan support. I know that there are no true road games in the tournament and there are nothing but neutral sites. But neutral sites are not created equal and it is still a telling sign to see how you do on the road away from your comfort zone. It will be interesting to see where Kentucky ends up because there are some sites (Columbus, Ohio; Columbia, S.C.; Jacksonville) that would result in a Big Blue Wave. Amazingly, Florida is still at No. 41 in the NET Rankings despite a 12-11 record. I’ve heard some people say Florida would be better off in the NIT to possibly get more games in. Never. And remember that you can’t be under .500 to get into the NIT. It was a little weak of the Auburn students to be chanting “N-I-T” and “C-B-I” at the Gators late in the game considering Auburn has been to one NCAA Tournament since 2003.
14. Tonight is a big one for the Florida softball team, as the Gators play host to Japan and open their brand new facility. It looks absolutely amazing with one of the best features being that when you walk into the stadium you are immediately greeted by a view of the field instead of a brick wall with a humming air conditioner. Softball got off to a great start by winning its first five games, two over ranked teams. Especially good to see was that senior Kelly Barnhill got off to a 4-0 start with a save.
15. And, of course, baseball cranks up its season with three games against Long Beach State this weekend. UF also broke ground for the new stadium last week, which got me to thinking that it might be a nice idea in two years when the stadium is completed to start a Wall of Fame. Who would be on it? I’d start with Brad Wilkerson, but it would probably be heavy with pitchers. Maybe they could do that with softball as well, starting with Lauren Haeger. Just a thought.
16. Congrats to all of the students who got the word Friday they are accepted at Florida. You have a chance to do some great things in this world. Starting with showing up for the football games and showing up on time. I kid, of course, but I know one new student Scott Stricklin won’t have to worry about showing up. (Hint: She’s related to me).
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the Great One, Henry Aaron, on the passing of Frank Robinson. “Frank Robinson and I were more than baseball buddies. We were friends. Frank was a hard-nosed baseball player who did things on the field that people said could never be done. I’m so glad I had the chance to know him all of those years. Baseball will miss a tremendous human being.” I remember as a kid watching a game that went to the bottom of the ninth and the only way I could stay up was if the Orioles sent it to extra innings. I didn’t even like the Orioles, but I didn’t want to go to bed so I said a little prayer. Frank Robinson was up with two outs. He doubled off the wall to knock in a run. I stayed up. Ever since then he seemed like a magical figure to me.
18. So for those of you reading this in print, we’re trying to do something different, which is to include the YouTube versions of the songs I am recommending. You can find them online (I hope) at Gatorsports.com:
* “Company” by The Proud Sons.
* “Longshot” by Catfish and the Bottlemen.
* “Shaky Bridges” by Sean McConnell.
* “The Joke” by Brandi Carlile.
* And for an old one, “Two Divided by Love” by the Grass Roots.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.