Back Nine: Gator Bowl lacks buzz
Published: Monday, December 26, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 12:07 a.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a wonderful Christmas that included so much food I won't eat again until the SEC basketball season starts. Man, my wife makes the holidays special. I hope you enjoyed yours and have your New Year's resolutions ready.
10. There have been Internet reports that Jeff Dillman will be the new football strength and conditioning coach at Florida and, while there's a good chance that will happen, it's not a done deal. Florida coach Will Muschamp is not finished with the interview process. But he likes Dillman, who worked with him at LSU, a lot. Dillman is currently working with IMG athletes down in Bradenton.
One thing he'll do is change the way Florida players lift weights. Under Mickey Marotti, who joined Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Florida did a lot of reps with lower weights. The most physical teams in this league — Alabama and LSU — do it the opposite way with fewer reps and more weight. That's the direction the Gators will be heading.
11. Is it Gator Bowl week? I mean, technically, the game will be played next week, but it is less than a week away. Buzz? No thanks. I think Florida fans just want this over and then we'll find out who their offensive coordinator is and the class Muschamp puts together and they will move on. Many of them will move on to a basketball season that is off to a great start. But this will always be remembered as a football season to forget. College football was a slimy mess, Urban Meyer went to Ohio State, they lost to Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt, Florida's biggest win was over Vanderbilt and the gauntlet of October turned into a weekly beatdown. The best thing about the Gator Bowl is that the season doesn't have to end with one of the most embarrassing offensive performances in Gator history. Well, hopefully it won't.
12. Perhaps the most amazing statistic about the Florida 2011 team was that the Gators ran the fewest offensive plays of any team in college football. This was a combination of too many three-and-outs and not being able to get teams off the field. The SEC average of plays per game was 65.8, which was well below the defensively-challenged Big 12 (76.8). Florida was one of 26 teams to run fewer than 800 plays this season, averaging a measly 61.2 plays per game. It's bad when you run a kickoff back to the 35 and realize you just missed your best chance to score. But that's what I'm talking about when I say this team was hard to watch.
13. Not hard to watch — Florida basketball. Mick Hubert made a great analogy on radio comparing Florida's offense to Oregon's football offense because you can't simulate it in practice. They can pick-and-roll you into exhaustion in the halfcourt or they can run and press you until you're grabbing your hips or they can pound it in deep or they can live outside the arc. There are better teams in college basketball, but I'm not sure there are many more entertaining to watch. And they defend, too. I would never make a comparison to Joakim Noah, but Will Yeguete has made a jump from his freshman to sophomore seasons that is at least in the conversation. If he can get an offensive game going and figure out how to make free throws, he could be a really good player. He's also part of the reason UF ranks 272nd in the nation in free- throw percentage. The Gators have missed 101 free throws already this year.
14. I know we shouldn't look at RPI this time of the year, but it's an addiction like Dirty Birds and gas station sandwiches. If you're wondering, Florida is at No. 32, not far behind the team that may be the best team in the country — Kentucky is No. 25. Alabama (19) and Vanderbilt (29) are also in the top 40. Not there — Mississippi State. The Bulldogs strengthened their schedule after getting so much criticism for weak scheduling, but it hasn't impressed RPI. MSU is 61st with a 212th-ranked strength of schedule, but it should get a boost with a game Wednesday against Baylor.
15. I'm calling it the “Saturday Night Live” jinx. Ever since the TV show spoofed Tim Tebow he's gone 0-2. Coincidence? Of course. The more film these defensive coaches get on Tebow, the better they're going to be able to defend him. To me, next season is when we find out if he's a legitimate NFL quarterback. With a full off-season to work, Tebow needs to get better at reading defenses more than anything. If he gets that down, there is no telling how good he can be. But Buffalo ate him up Saturday by reading his eyes. High drama this weekend — Denver needs a win to make the playoffs and goes up against Kyle Orton. How does the NFL keep falling into these great stories?
16. There was a great story in the Chicago Tribune last week about Noah coming back to Gainesville to regain his mojo after last season. He was so grateful to the staff at UF he bought a couple of 50-inch flat screens for the players lounge. I'm not a big NBA guy but I watch the Bulls just to watch Jo play. To be honest, I watched more NBA on Christmas Day than I thought I would. Maybe that's the answer for the league — have a lockout every year and a shortened schedule. I didn't think the quality of play was hurt by the late start.
17. The Tweet of the week comes from Tim Tebow after the Broncos lost to Buffalo — “Tough game today but what's most important is being able to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas everyone GBČ.' Best I can tell the last part of that message means God Bless, Go Broncos in Twitterese.
18. One of my Christmas presents was a wonderful CD from my daughter Jenny who flew in from Los Angeles and boy were her arms tired. Try these from what was humbly titled “The Greatest CD Mix Ever” — “Where I'm Going” by Cut Cover, “There, There” by Radiohead and for the old-schoolers “Don' Count Me Out” by Gerry Rafferty.