Back Nine: Developing the key
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 11:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 11:14 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after one of those special weekends that are what college football is all about. It was nice to watch games late Saturday with Gator fans in a good mood.
10. Isn't it about time we gave some credit to the guy who put this thing together, the guy who deserves a pat on the back for recruiting a team that is now ranked in the top five in the country? Of course, I'm talking about … Urban Meyer. After all, 19 of the 22 starters for Florida on Saturday were Meyer recruits and the other three originally committed to Meyer before he bolted. I point this out only because everyone (starting with me) in 2006 was giving credit to Ron Zook for leaving Meyer a mega-team that would win a national title. But there is one thing you have to understand — every coach at Florida for as long as I've been covering the Gators has been left a team full of potential. It's what you do with those players that matters. Meyer took some goofballs and turned them into studs. Muschamp took some entitled players, weeded out the ones who wouldn't buy in and formed a bunch of men. Seriously, while recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, I could recruit to Florida. It's player development that sometimes gets overlooked. Muschamp and his staff have done an amazing job of molding these young men into real, honest-to-goodness football players. That's a part of coaching that is as important as recruiting and play-calling.
11. But there is still a long way to go. Gator fans might have grimaced three years ago if you told them their team would win a game by generating 61 passing yards. Today they are happy just to have won a big game. You'd think there was some kind of decade-long drought that had enveloped Florida football. Since going 26-2 in 2008 and ‘09, the Gators had lost nine straight games against ranked teams. Those two years felt like a decade.
12. While there are teams putting up some amazing numbers in college football, the SEC is still about finding a way to win games. A perfect example came Saturday when the two biggest games so far this season were won by two teams who threw a total of 22 passes. South Carolina threw 10, Florida 12. Steve Spurrier's transformation is a testament to what a great coach he is. There was a time when he was a bit stubborn (taking so long to try the shotgun at Florida, empty backfields against Nebraska) but his ability to evolve is one reason South Carolina has a real chance to win the national title. Certainly, we'll know more in the next two weeks. As poorly as LSU is playing offensively right now, it's hard to believe the Tigers can score enough points to beat the Gamecocks. Still, of Spurrier's 62 career losses in SEC play, 23 of them have come against teams from the SEC West, including 14 while at South Carolina.
13. I was surprised Florida State didn't drop any lower than ninth in the Harris Poll (11th in coaches' poll and 12th in AP) and I started to wonder if there was a way the Seminoles could win out and still play for the national title. As Stewart Mandel points out on SI.com, it won't happen. The non-conference schedule is terribly weak and the only opportunity for a big win the rest of the way could come at the end of the season against Florida. Notre Dame's rout of Miami and another Virginia Tech loss were almost as damaging to the Seminoles as their mind-numbing loss to North Carolina State. The Wolfpack gave up 566 yards to a Miami team that scored all of three points a week later, yet FSU was shut out in the second half by that same N.C. State team. So stunned after the loss was Jimbo Fisher that he said, “We still have control of our destiny in the ACC.” Not so fast, Jimbo. If N.C. State also wins out, they'd own the tiebreaker.
14. For the first time in the history of the coaches' poll there is not a Big Ten team ranked. Ohio State is carrying the water for the conference, but is ineligible for the poll because of probation. It probably won't stay that way because there are five teams receiving votes. One of them is not Penn State, but you have to give a lot of credit to Bill O'Brien for rallying a decimated team to four straight wins. I've said all along that you can't blame the players for what happened there with the scandal, but I feel that there are college football fans conflicted about whether to root for the kids who stuck it out or against the school that allowed the tragedies to happen.
15. Baseball season ended for me on Friday. I was at my daughter's volleyball match (a heartbreaker if there ever was one) but was half-listening to the Braves' game when the infamous infield fly controversy happened. It was a bad call, but the Braves lost because the best fielding team in baseball committed three costly errors. Baseball is dead to me. Let me know who wins it all.
16. If the weekend wasn't good enough for Gator fans, Sunday capped it off when the soccer team ended No. 5 Texas A&M's home winning streak and volleyball rallied from two sets down to win. Those two sports tend to fly under the radar because of football's long shadow and sometimes are taken for granted because they are always good. But soccer has won seven in a row and is tied for first in the SEC and volleyball is alone at the top after winning 10 straight. Mary Wise and Becky Burleigh just keep getting it done.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Bill Shanks, who writes for the Macon Telegraph and hosts a radio show there as well — “Since 2008, UGA has defeated only two teams (2009 against Ga Tech & 2008 against Mich. St.) that have finished season w/ more than 8 wins.” Shanks devoted a whole column to the woes of Mark Richt against good teams.
18. I think my iPod is getting jealous because ever since I got an iPhone the iPod sits in its charger waiting to be used again. I can hear it crying. Anyway, try these downloads — “Let's Go” by Matt and Kim, “Teenage Icon” by The Vaccines and for the old school in you “Car Wash” by Rose Royce. Come on and sing it with me.