Back Nine: Good teams play well on the road, not just at home
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 21, 2013 at 9:41 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a first-ever trip to Columbia, Mo., a delightful campus where the leaves were changing and so was the football team.
10. Seasons are defined by how teams play on the road. Winning at home is the easy part. How you play in a hostile environment has the most impact on your season. It also reveals character. I'm not dumb enough to think that all of these injuries aren't killing the Florida football team, but on the road the Gators have been awful this year. Last year, they won in College Station, Knoxville and Tallahassee. This year, they have won in Lexington. Florida is 1-3 on the road and that's why this season is peering over the edge of the toilet bowl. As a result, I have been here for you to vent and vent you have. I don't answer every email and tweet or else I'd never get any work done. Some of you have offered smart suggestions in a civil manner. Those of you demanding that Will Muschamp be fired need to calm down. The man won 11 games last year and his reward was to be handed a brutal schedule and, oh by the way, one-third of your starters will be out. On Monday, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said to me, “We will be fine and Will is fine.” Everybody just needs to breathe during this open date and try to enjoy some family time.
11. And you might feel a lot better if you gave Missouri some credit. That is a very good, very deep football team. The Tigers are also the poster child for something I preach — putting together a roster is about evaluation, recruiting and then developing players. You can get disillusioned by recruiting rankings and lose track of what really matters. Missouri's average ranking by Rivals over the last five years? It's 36th in the country. But Tiger coaches have done a good job of developing players and they have stuck around so that Missouri is sporting eight fifth-year seniors in their starting lineup. They've also caught a break with both Georgia and Florida devastated by injuries and their next opponent South Carolina missing QB Connor Shaw.
12. The question is whether Missouri can keep it going and have a chance to keep the SEC's streak going. Actually, that's not the question. The question is whether anybody can stop Alabama. The Tide continue to dominate the league's lesser teams and all of the questions of the early part of the season are forgotten. An Alabama-Florida State title game would be fascinating, especially if an unbeaten Oregon is left on the outside. I have a feeling the Ducks will jump FSU if both teams win out, because of the schedules. But Seminole fans should be rooting hard for Miami and Florida to win out, except when they face FSU.
13. I don't have an Associated Press vote, but, if I did, I might put FSU at No. 1. Welcome back, Seminoles. FSU looked like one of those great Bobby Bowden teams against Clemson, emptying out the stadium the way Steve Spurrier used to do on the road against SEC teams. And their success couldn't have come at a worse time for Muschamp. There are a lot of people saying Florida is the fourth best team in the state. I think they're the fifth. I'd put the Dolphins ahead of them.
14. Going back to my statement that seasons are defined by how teams play on the road, SEC teams are 45-13 at home this year. On the road, they are 16-20 and if you take out Alabama, A&M and Mizzou, the rest of the league is 8-20 on the road. There has been a lot of talk that the league is down this year. I think it's more compressed. Alabama is a great team, Missouri is really good and then there are about four or five teams that are pretty good and four or five who are mediocre and then Arkansas and Kentucky are just bad. All that really matters for the SEC to keep bragging is to win it all. I would say that everything else is as irrelevant as the AP poll, but imagine this scenario — Alabama and Oregon play for the national title, but FSU goes 14-0. Might the AP pick the Semis as its national titleist?
15. A lesser story is that my fantasy team has lost on consecutive weeks by two and three points. I know, I told you before about the three things nobody wants to hear about — your fantasy team, your hole-by-hole golf score and your child's youth league exploits. But I just had to vent. I think I'm done with Fantasy Football. I used to use it as a reason to watch the NFL, but now I have a better reason — I have HD TVs in three different rooms.
16. It was very cool to be in St. Louis while the Cards were playing the Dodgers in Game 6. I mean, everybody who works in that city was wearing Cardinals gear. The guy who checked you in at Avis, the guy selling you gas, the girl behind the counter at the convenience store. And they were all cheering every hit. “Yes sir, that'll be … IT'S OFF THE WALL! .. uh, $32.50.” It's come full circle for me because I started pulling for the Red Sox in 1967 when they ended up facing St. Louis in the World Series. I'm picking Boston in seven. More importantly, it's nice to see a World Series or any season-ending event where the two best teams are playing.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my friend and Associated Press writer Mark Long — “Florida & Georgia can debate who's had more injuries & who has less depth in 'The World's Largest Outdoor Pity Party' in 2 weeks.” They could go with these themes for the game — “Florida vs. Georgia: A real excuse to drink.” Or “Florida vs. Georgia — Haven't Jags fans seen enough bad football?”
18. A lot of time spent in airports and on planes over the last two weekends and a lot of new music. Try these downloads — “Everybody Out There” by Sir Paul McCartney, “Get On It” By The Kin and for a deep album cut that will blow your mind or at least is pretentious enough to think it can “Supper's Ready” by Genesis.”
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.