Steaming toward the halfway point


Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2003 at 12:51 a.m.

It flies by like a cheetah no matter how many obstacles we put in the way to slow a college football season. It wasn't that long ago we wondered if it would ever get here, and now, today, it is October and the season we wanted to creep along is steaming toward the halfway point.

It's a little depressing, but we should be used to it by now.

It never changes. We try to reach out and embrace a season but it's always in such a hurry.

Sundays are filled with hangovers from losses and bouncy steps from victories. Monday seems like miles from another football Saturday, but the next thing you know it's Wednesday and you can start to smell the sweet air of anticipation. Thursday and Friday blur together as if they are one giant pre-game show.

And then it's game day and then it's over.

It makes you want to slow down and take a deep breath, but you are afraid you'll miss something.

Pre-season seems like it was last year already. But we can't help but think back to the summer when we had so many perceptions that have already been debunked. Or not.

  • SOME THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Before the season, we thought Florida had a brutal schedule. Today, it looks impossible. Five of Florida's 2003 opponents are currently ranked in the top 8, six in the top 11. And that doesn't include a South Carolina team that is obviously much better than we thought it would be. Maybe Ron Zook deserves to be cut a little slack.

    Before the season, we thought Houston Nutt and his Arkansas team would be typical. Win one, lose one. Instead, the Razorbacks are serious contenders for a BCS bowl game with a win at Texas and a comeback from 21 points down at Alabama.

    Before the season, we thought FSU quarterback Chris Rix would be the one factor that would keep the Seminoles down. Instead, he has FSU poised to make a run at a national championship.

    Before the season, we thought Daryl Dixon might be the weak link in the Gator secondary. He was creaking with rust, and you couldn't help but wonder about that shoulder. Instead, Dixon has been Florida's best defensive player, a sure tackler and a leader.

    Before the season, I was excited about finally being an AP voter. I couldn't wait for those late nights juggling teams on a legal pad. That was before I was in a Lexington, Ky., hotel room at 1:30 in the morning waiting for the TCU-Arizona game to go final, only to see it was going to overtime.

    Before the season, we thought Dallas Baker would keep Florida's streak of having an All-SEC receiver alive. But Baker has been a disappointment, and that streak is likely to end this year.

    Before the season, we didn't see any way to stop Auburn. We thought Ohio State would be a dominant team that wouldn't have as many close calls. We thought Nebraska football was spiraling into a black hole. We thought FSU had a difficult schedule.

    We thought Ole Miss had a better defense.

    Before the season, I had no idea where Northern Illinois University is located. I know now it's in Dekalb, only because I looked it up.

    Before the season, we thought Ty Willingham was a genius. Now, he's staring at a 1-7 start that could have been 0-8 if not for Washington State's fold.

  • SOME THINGS HAVEN'T CHANGED: Before the season, we thought the Heisman race was wide open. At this point in the season, there still is no clear-cut leader. Ask a dozen voters for their top three and you are likely to get 20 different players.

    Before the season, we thought the first two coaches to be fired would be John Mackovic and Jackie Sherrill. Mackovic is already gone and Sherrill is soon to follow.

    Before the season, we wondered about the common sense of the already mentioned Chris Rix. We figured Bobby Bowden would catch Joe Paterno before the year was out. We thought the Orange Bowl was a dump. We thought Florida might go 6-6.

    Before the season, we knew that being on the cover of Sports Illustrated was a jinx. No team has ever lived up to that with more gusto than Oregon last week.

    Before the season, we felt strongly that college football had the right way to decide overtime. That has never been more evident than Saturday when a college football weekend that was supposed to be ordinary turned electrifying.

    Before the season, we thought Brock Berlin was an average quarterback who would excel because of the team around him.

    Before the season, we thought college football officials had become ridiculously overzealous in calling celebration penalties.

    A month into the season, a lot has changed. A lot hasn't. A lot will in the weeks ahead.

    Try to enjoy it all.

    You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear Pat weekdays from 4-5 p.m. on WGGG 1230-AM in Gainesville and WMOP 900-AM in Ocala.

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