ON OUTBACK BOWL
Dooley: What will we learn from today?
Published: Monday, January 2, 2017 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 1, 2017 at 9:36 p.m.
TAMPA — All of the theme parks have been visited and the swag packed away. They've celebrated the calendar flipping to a new year even if this is still technically the 2016 season, something we have been reminded about by both teams.
After a week of bowl festivities and sleeping in hotel beds, Florida and Iowa will finally get what they came here for today.
More than a month after Iowa's regular season ended, they will finish it off for good at the Outback Bowl.
“We had a lot of momentum at the end of the season,” said Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse, “but I don't think any of it has diminished.”
Because there's only one thing we know for certain about bowl games and that's that we have no idea what is going to happen.
They are different animals. At the first news conference here, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz called bowl games “unique.”
That really is the best way to describe them.
All year you are on a weekly schedule, even when there is a bye. Everything is either home or away except an occasional neutral site game and even then you know what to expect.
At a bowl game, you go out to play in front of a different group of fans, some of whom couldn't care less who wins the game.
Maybe it's the environment, maybe it's the long break, maybe it's that coaches sometimes outthink themselves with so much time on their hands.
Why else would we see so many trick plays? My gosh, has any team NOT run a flea-flicker during bowlmania?
Of course, the common theme we hear before and after these games is whether a team shows up or not. Jim McElwain talked last year and again this week about how last year's team seemed satisfied with winning the East as an underdog. Meh. Those Gators showed up against Alabama and FSU at the end of the season.
And Michigan was just too good.
That's why we can't take too much from the result of any bowl games except the playoff semifinals and the national title game. While you're going to hear the hype train a-chugging all summer for Miami and Tennessee, don't drink the Fool-aid.
One bowl win does not wipe out a disappointing season. It is almost a season of its own. So don't read too much into what the Gators do. Sure, a win would help ease the pain of the last two losses and nobody wants to end two straight seasons with three straight losses.
But if this game comes down to what we believe it will, it's a bad matchup for Florida because of its linebacker situation.
That's the thing — it might not. I mean, who had Ohio State getting shut out for the first time in 279 games?
Who had the over in the Potato Bowl (Idaho 61, Colorado State 50)?
Who had Steve Addazio and Will Muschamp-coached teams scoring 36 and 39 points, respectively, and a Mike Leach-coached team scoring 12?
Who had Colorado laying a six-point egg after such a great season?
Who had Baylor — after six straight losses to close the season — blowing out Boise?
Who had Hawaii, Old Dominion and New Mexico winning bowl games?
Who knew which players would be X-factors and which X-factors would be invisible?
The point is that bowls are weird. As Ferentz said Wednesday, you can play great and still lose.
Florida could use one more feel-good day. This has been a mixed season. They have played one game in Gainesville in the last 2½ months and may not remember what The Swamp looks like.
They won the East, handed LSU what it deserved and fought through critical injuries to key personnel. They beat Georgia. They beat Muschamp.
They lost the last two games of the regular season by a combined 85-29.
So it has been a mixed bag. And I'm not sure how much momentum is created by a bowl win whether it be for next season or the offseason or the recruiting season.
I just know which result will make seniors and outgoing juniors on this team feel better.
They know it, too.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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