The Back Nine comes at you after a busy weekend in Gainesville and if you think that was busy wait until you see what’s in store for you this weekend.
10. The Back Nine is a big fan of lists and Sports Illustrated outdid itself by ranking the top 10 vacated football games of all time. You can tell we are in the dog days of football. Of course, seven of the 10 games involved either USC or Alabama. Florida hasn’t had to vacate any football wins in its history so the Gators have that going for them. We do have some football worth watching with the Alliance of American Football and I have to say that I made sure I was in the recliner for Steve Spurrier’s second game. The shade he threw was classic when he compared the 29,000 fans in San Antonio to the crowds at Neyland Stadium. “I think it was just as loud as Rocky Top,” he said. “And I know The Swamp is maybe a little bit louder.” Spurrier has been after Tim Tebow to join, but Tebow said Saturday he is “all in” on baseball. Spurrier coaching Tebow with both of them on the mike would be the best TV ever.
11. I think there are a lot of us who want to believe Florida’s basketball team hit a switch and the light came Saturday in Tuscaloosa. We’ll find out down the stretch, but it’s more likely that Alabama continues to be a little schizophrenic. One thing that has happened with these Gators is that we are seeing some improvement within the season, something that had been lacking deep into SEC play. Andrew Nembhard is getting better (9 for 9 was a bit of an aberration, but he is improving as a shooter) and the three amigos all starting as freshmen seems to be paying dividends. At LSU on Wednesday will be a different animal. The Tigers in their second year under Will Wade are terrific and have a knack for winning tight games.
12. So I was curious to see where the Gators were in the NET Rankings, the official measure of a team’s worth from the NCAA. Problem was the site was down or running extremely slow until around 11:30 a.m. Monday. We simply cannot have that NCAA. Anyway, because a lot of us are starting to get a feel for these rankings, I figured Florida would jump. And the Gators did, all the way to No. 33 (from 40). The Back Nine gets that the only ranking that matters is the final one, but this is an illustration that a season on the brink still has life. And as frustrating as this team has been to watch at times, you can’t fault the effort.
13. The Kentucky-Tennessee game Saturday night was appointment TV. And yet, there I was watching a sitcom when I should have been buckling up for a wild finish. The biggest question about Kentucky’s manhandling of the No. 1 Vols is whether the Rocky Toppers were overrated. There is certainly a school of thought that buys in — Pat Forde of Yahoo wrote a smart piece about it — but there is also the theory that Tennessee just had a bad night. Kentucky is a bad matchup for a lot of teams, especially at home and especially when the game means something. The Vols’ schedule ranks 21st in strength and that’s not too shabby. I tend to believe that it was just one of those nights and the rematch will be fascinating in Knoxville. But you always wonder how a beating like that will affect a team’s mojo. By the way, Kentucky fans fell into the trap of idiocy by chanting “Over-Rated” at the Vols. It’s the dumbest cheer in America. We beat you so you can’t be any good? Dummy.
14. Kevin O’Sullivan told us what to expect, a young team that may take some lumps early. With five true freshmen on the field when the game ended Sunday, he may have underestimated how young the Gators would be. There is no doubt the talent is there and while Long Beach State is not anything special (under .500 last year), the Gators still swept a team that was loaded with older players. This weekend will be a good indicator, because the Gators take on a Miami team that is unranked but supposedly much improved this year under first-year coach Gino DiMare. The Hurricanes blew past Rutgers for a sweep on the opening weekend. Considering the solid numbers in the first three games, you could see some special crowds in the Mac this weekend.
15. By the way, O’Sullivan getting to 500 wins is just a round number, but it is an illustration of the great job he has done when you consider that he has only lost 229 games during his 11-plus years. You lose 20 games accidentally every year in college baseball because there are so many games (especially in the mid-week) and to average 20.8 losses is impressive. The most impressive number of all is 11, as in 11 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament (not to mention seven College World Series). One thing Jeremy Foley was a big believer in was that the Gators should be in the tournament every year and when you are in there enough you get the right team and celebrate a national title.
16. Of course, we have so much going on here that your typical Gator fan has to make some choices. No. 5 baseball all weekend (and the weather is supposed to be nice), basketball against Missouri on Saturday, the No. 3-ranked gymnastics team in America at home against Georgia on Friday night and the No. 4 ranked and unbeaten (11-0) softball team hosting its own tournament at the brand new softball stadium. Take your pick. Now leave me alone while I try to figure out what to cover.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the great golf writer from ESPN Jason Sobel — “One of the worst things about slow play is that it gives everyone extra time to tweet about slow play.” That’s the thing. I watched most of the Genesis Open on Sunday and I didn’t care about the slow play because it doesn’t matter that much on TV when they can switch to another golfer while J.B. Holmes is taking 15 minutes to hit a wedge shot. It didn’t bother me because I wanted something to drag on just to have late Sunday viewing. The thing about slow play is that people always complain and nothing ever happens. It was pretty funny to see former Gator golfer Matt Every actually pull up a folding chair in the fairway while he waited.
18. I received just enough positive feedback from including YouTube versions of the songs online (Gatorsports.com) that I’m going to keep it up. It means more work for me, but I am here to serve you. Kind of. This week’s playlist:
• “New House” by Rex Orange County.
• “Pumpkin” by The Regrettes.
• “Northern Lights” by Death Cab for Cutie.
• “After the Sun” by Kim Churchill.
(The video comes out Thursday. It’s worth finding then.)
• And for an old one that’s not that old but I guess really is that old, “Take On Me” by A-ha (as much as I love Weezer’s version, let’s go with the original of an underrated song).
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.