Back Nine: Great weekend of football, but many questions remain


Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, right, eludes the grasp of Kentucky's Jason Hatcher in the fourth quarter of the Cardinals' 27-13 win in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday. (AP Photo)

Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 10:48 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after a wonderful weekend of football, family and food. I’m warming up to this concept of an early open date. Especially when the games were as strong as they were Saturday.

10. Now I don’t know what to think. We’re three weeks into the college football season and I’m totally confused. Can Alabama, with all of the excellent recruiting it has done, be that bad on defense or is Texas A&M just that good on offense? As good as Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater has been, he was pretty average against Kentucky, which hardly has a great defense. Is Tennessee going to be a tough game for Florida because the Vols will be wanting to end an eight-game slide to the Gators and are coming off a bad loss? Or is Tennessee just not any good and will be worn out after a trip to the West Coast? If Braxton Miller is so good, why has Ohio State’s offense been better with Kenny Guiton under center? Isn’t Charlie Weis a football genius? So why has he lost 16 straight games to FBS teams dating back to his last season at Notre Dame? Think the Jayhawks wish they had stuck with their first choice — Gus Malzahn? How did South Florida get so bad so quickly? Why is Nebraska incapable of playing well defensively against a good team? The Huskers gave up 115 points in their last two games of 2012 and 63 earlier in the year to Ohio State. So far this year, they have allowed 34 points to Wyoming and 28 in one quarter to UCLA. Anyway, I’m confused and it’s early.

11. For example, I’m not one to take the Heisman Trophy race seriously this early in the season, but I was one of those who was considering eliminating Johnny Manziel from consideration because I don’t consider him to be an eligible player. But after watching that performance, I mean, the guy is amazing. Talk about must-see TV. All of us who were saying that Nick Saban had so much time to get ready for Manziel that he would have an answer found out the hard way — there is no answer for Manziel. In two games against mighty Alabama, he has 907 total yards. That’s just ridiculous. There are a lot of great players in college football and by no means am I even close to knowing who I will vote for when it comes Heisman time, but there is no doubt in my mind Manziel is the best player in college football. It doesn’t make his boorish off-the-field behavior excusable and I still think someone received money for all of those signatures. But Manziel is amazing.

12. Not so amazing would be the Texas defense. It was surprising to me to see so many people stunned when Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said after his team outscored the Longhorns 27-0 in the second half that Texas ran the same defense it did a week earlier when a loss to BYU led to the firing of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Of course it was. A new coordinator isn’t going to fly in and start changing terminology and everything else a defense has spent weeks trying to get right. Not that it has gotten much right. The coaches get the blame when things go wrong and the credit when things go right, but it’s still the players who are on the field and I think Texas needs some attitude adjustment. You start believing you can’t play defense and guess what?

13. It still is early, but there seems to have been a seismic shift in college football. Win with defense? I don’t think so. Pac-12 teams averaged 41.2 points Saturday. We expect that from the Pac-12, but it’s also infecting the SEC as we saw with Alabama and A&M. There are 71 teams in FBS who are averaging more than 400 yards per game and 28 averaging more than 500. Yards don’t always translate into wins. Kentucky is at 490 per game and is 1-2. Alabama is 12th in the SEC in total offense and is No. 1 in the country.

14. Steve Spurrier has worked hard to change the culture in Columbia, but he hasn’t been able to change one thing — Gamecock fans leaving games early. They were pouring out of Williams-Brice Stadium at halftime of the win over Vandy and missed an exciting finish, as the Commodores cut the lead to 10 and were driving to make it a one-score game before an interception at the goal line. “First off, I don’t think there’s any excuse for our stands to be emptying out,” said South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw. “I was kind of disappointed in that.” The first half seemed to go on forever and lasted nearly two hours. Still, I’ve never understood why people would go to the trouble of going to a game, then leave when the outcome is still in doubt. What do they think they are — Florida basketball fans?

15. There were some stunning results as usual Saturday and we’ll have to count on the extraordinary again this week because the schedule is not good. That’s why GameDay is going to North Dakota State. If I were commissioner of college football, I’d work with schools to make sure we don’t have a weekend like this one or the second week, which was also bad. One thing we are looking forward to seeing is whether or not Auburn is as good as its 3-0 record. The Tigers face LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

16. It wouldn’t have been a truly decadent football weekend without a full Sunday of NFL games. What made it especially great was that the Bucs-Saints game was delayed by lightning so it didn’t finish until the Sunday night game was starting. That meant there was always football on and I didn’t have to watch any of the inane pre-game shows. Maybe the NFL should consider starting one of its late games at 5 p.m. just to make sure I don’t have to go without football at any point on a Sunday. Roger? Roger? And while I have your attention Mr. Goodell, thanks for the rule that delivered us the awful Jacksonville-Oakland game instead of the Manning Bowl. I am now a big fan of WKMG in Orlando which ran a crawl across the screen apologizing for having to show the Jags.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the Buffalo Bills official Twitter feed — “EXTRA POINT GOOD!! OVERTIME HERE WE GO!” Except that the extra point actually gave Buffalo the win over Carolina. Oops.

18. I just couldn’t pull myself away from all of the college football games to try to get scalper’s tickets to see Mumford & Sons in St. Augustine and I really was regretting it when I found out John Fogerty replaced Fun. in the lineup. Oh well, I really had a great time with my father eating chili and wings and watching my favorite sport. Time to work all of that food off at the gym while listening to these downloads — “Who Needs You” by The Orwells, “Little Games” by The Colourist and for a deep old album cut try “Perpetual Change” by Yes.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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