Back Nine: Season is on line in storied rivalry


Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins (14) and linebacker Darrin Kitchens (49), two members of the Gators' seven-member senior class, will try to avoid finishing their UF careers with a losing record against Georgia when the Gators play the Bulldogs on Saturday in Jacksonville.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 10:08 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend filled with football and fun, the perfect bye week that could not be ruined by so many games that turned out to be lousy.

10. Florida's season is at a crossroads. A win keeps the Gators alive in the SEC East race. A third straight loss to Georgia leaves us wondering about bowl eligibility. Let's face it, this is a loser-leaves-town game. With a season on the line, my advice to the Gators would be to try to enjoy it. Have some fun. For some of you, it's your last time coming over the bridge and playing in front of a split crowd. There is nothing like Florida-Georgia so try to embrace it. You don't have to get all Mark Richt in 2007 and storm the field after the first score. You don't have to quit trying to be physical. You don't have to ratchet down the intensity. But you can look around the stadium and take it all in and play like your hair is on fire. It has been a long time since a senior class at Florida has had a losing record against the Doggies. You'd have to go all the way back to 1990's true seniors and 1991's fifth-year seniors. There's your motivation, fellas, now go have some fun.

11. Thanks to a first for Steve Spurrier, the Florida-Georgia game has a lot more meaning. South Carolina's comeback win over Missouri means that both teams playing in Jacksonville have a chance. It was the first time Spurrier has won an overtime game in college. “Never won one like that in my life,” he told The Back Nine on Monday. Spurrier was 0-3 in overtime, all three losses coming on missed kicks. Instead, it was Missouri with the crucial miss in the second OT. “A lot of times, it comes down to who misses instead of someone making a great play,” he said. The Ball Coach called a great game in the second half and took advantage of the Missouri pass rush and deep zone by throwing a bunch of screens to Mike Davis.

12. Thanks to another comeback win over a mediocre team, Miami and FSU are set up for a battle of unbeatens. But does anyone really expect it to be close? Certainly, Vegas does not. FSU is a 21.5-point favorite. Have we ever seen a game between top-10 unbeaten teams when one team was favored by three touchdowns? Something I thought about while watching the Semis dismantle N.C. State — this is the same team that Florida physically dominated a year ago. That should tell you how good Jameis Winston is.

13. Miami and FSU are two of the six unbeaten teams in the Power Five Conferences. With Louisville out of the way, don't we all expect it to work its way out for the BCS title game? We know that the loser of the big game in Tallahassee is done as far as Pasadena goes. It's not out of the realm of possibility that a one-loss team could be in the big game over an unbeaten Power Five team. Let's say Stanford wins out. Could they go in ahead of Ohio State? Sure. Ohio State's miserable out of conference schedule will hurt Urban Meyer's team and it's not going to get a lot better next year. Ohio State faces Navy at a neutral site and then three home games against Kent State, Virginia Tech and Cincinnati. On top of that, Ohio State misses Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska in the regular season. Meyer may never lose another game.

14. Before this season began, one thing I felt was overlooked was that Alabama had a remarkably easy schedule. If the Tide could get past Texas A&M, my belief was that they would not be challenged until they faced LSU. Sure enough, Alabama beat A&M and has won its last six games by a combined score of 246-26. That's ridiculous. Alabama faces LSU next week and Auburn to close the season and then there is that SEC Championship Game which looks like it will be against a two-loss team. I'm not saying this Alabama football team doesn't deserve the accolades it is receiving. This is a great football team. But it never hurts to have an easy road to Atlanta.

15. Overlooked, as usual, during the fever-pitch of football season are Florida's volleyball and soccer teams. Mary Wise and Becky Burleigh do such a great job every year and this fall has been no different. In fact, the football Florida-Georgia isn't the most important one this week. The Gator soccer team faces the Dawgs in Athens on Halloween night and will clinch a share of an SEC title with a win. Volleyball has a huge match coming up on Nov. 15 at home against Missouri, the only SEC team to beat UF. The Tigers are 25-0 this season. One of the best parts of living in Gainesville is that Florida is so good in everything. That includes cross country, which hosts the SEC Championships at the UF Golf Course on Friday morning. The women are the defending champs.

16. Tiger Woods has issued an ultimatum of sorts to The Golf Channel. By saying that the ball is in the network's court concerning analyst Brandel Chamblee, isn't Woods saying that Chamblee better be fired if you ever want another interview? Considering how rare it is to get a one-on-one with Tiger, it's not much of a threat. Chamblee inferred that Woods had a year that included multiple incidents of cheating. He may have gone a bit far, but there certainly were more incidents with Woods than any other golfer. At the same time, he can't blow his nose without a camera being on him.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from a one-time radio legend in Gainesville, my old pal Heath Cline — “Can't imagine the odds you might've gotten on the idea Minnesota would be bowl eligible quicker than anyone in the SEC East except Missouri.” Especially when you consider the health issues coach Jerry Kill is dealing with on a daily basis.

18. The iPhone got a workout this weekend, including a long stint while I was cooking hot dogs for the golfers at the 20th Stop Children's Cancer tournament. They never knew where I was going. From The Beatles to Death Cab for Cutie to The Mowglis to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young? Are you insane, man? Anyway, try these wonderful songs — “I Buried A Bone” by Blind Pilot, “More Than Life” by Whitley and sadly because of the death of the great Lou Reed “Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground.

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

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