The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that saw a noisy Saturday and a sleepy Sunday or was that just me?
- The final shoe did not drop, as Kadarius Toney decided to play his senior year at Florida rather than try the NFL. Dan Mullen’s roster for 2020 looks better than ever and it’s not finished. Florida hardly was affected by the NFL with only CJ Henderson going pro and he was the one guy you knew was definitely not coming back DURING the season. We still have to wait on the finish to the recruiting class and see what happens with the transfer portal, but one of the keys to this upcoming season may well be Toney if Florida can figure out what to do with him. It’s easy to say he has been a tease because we see the brilliance, but don’t see the volume. Remember Toney missed six games last season with an injury, but he still only had 22 touches when he was healthy. Some of that had to do with Florida’s plethora of veteran receivers, some of it had to do with the way the offense was set up. The tease was that he has regular season bookend plays of 66 yards against Miami and 47 ridiculous yards against FSU. (Those accounted for 113 of his 194 receiving yards). So, anyway, it will be interesting to see if Florida lines him up at tailback every once in a while a la Percy Harvin. Nobody with a brain would compare Toney to Harvin, who was a generational talent. But he could be an effective weapon to add to the arsenal this season.
- I’m not going to be one of those people who stands on a hill and starts barking at the “Fire Mike White” mob. You were wasting your breath anyway. And we all know that while this team grabbed a big win Saturday against Auburn, there’s no telling what happens tonight or anywhere else down the road. UF’s 4-1 start in SEC pay has been helped by South Carolina missing Jermaine Couisnard (58 points in three games since being out for UF) and Ole Miss not having Breein Taylor (third in the SEC in scoring). But that was a gutsy effort by Andrew Nembhard on Saturday and the Gators looked like a team getting closer to figuring things out. Of course, we’ve been down that road before. Sometimes, a season can be defined by how you respond to wins more than how you respond to losses.
- It won’t be easy tonight against an LSU team that has a knack for winning tight games. The Tigers are 5-0 in the SEC and have won the last four by a combined 11 points. No, I don’t understand how Will Wade is still coaching after the FBI stuff, but that has nothing to do with the actual game tonight. Again, this is another one of those excellent opportunities for this team. The Gators moved up to 39th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool metric the selection committee will use and LSU is 23rd. The Gators also get No. 1 Baylor here for the weekend. The one negative to winning a big game against a quality team? Auburn’s two road losses last week knocked that team’s NET ranking down to 20th, so the UF win loses some impact. Not that anyone cared Saturday afternoon. The place was rocking.
- Florida would be a lot better off if college basketball was using some of the other rankings to figure out which teams will participate in March Madness. Maybe RPI (UF is 24th)? Or KenPom (25th)? Or BPI? Never mind on that last one. BPI has Florida ranked 16th, ahead of an FSU team that is 16-2 and beat Florida in Gainesville. It also has Duke, which lost twice last week, ranked No. 1. As an old friend used to say about computer rankings, “Garbage in, garbage out.” It was another crazy week for college basketball with four ranked teams losing TWICE and a total of 12 ranked teams taking losses. It was the wild West before we got into conference play and it’s only going to get more bizarre.
- One reason the Top 25 lists we come up with are way too early is because of things like D’Eriq King’s destination may change your mind about whether or not to rank Miami at the end of the poll. It looks like that is where he is headed and I think this is another casualty for LSU. If Joe Brady doesn’t bolt, does King end up at LSU? If King ends up in Miami, would that change the way I feel about the Hurricanes. A little. Not Top 25 change, but the biggest problem for that team last year was the play at quarterback. Last season was the perfect example of how football is a game of cycles. Miami and Florida State each had awful quarterback play and Florida had excellent quarterback play. It wasn’t that long ago that it was the other way around.
- So maybe the College Football Playoffs struggling to have two good semifinals is contagious. Neither of those NFL games did a lot for me because you know Kansas City would come back and win comfortably (again) and Green Bay ran out of the pixie dust it had used all season so early I didn’t even watch the second half (instead, a couple of episodes of “The Outsider”). A Kansas City-San Francisco Super Bowl may be a great game and those are clearly the best two teams (sorry, Ravens, beat somebody in the postseason). But does it rock your world? There’s nobody to root against and as the state chairman of the Society for Negative Rooting that cannot be tolerated. Can Jerry Jones buy the Chiefs this week? Anyway, it’s great to see the son of former UF assistant Mike Shanahan in the big game. I’ll always wonder what Mike would have done if he had succeeded Steve Spurrier at UF. I wonder a lot of things that are not relevant.
- Most of you did not know David Climer, the sports columnist for the Tennessean for so many years, so let me tell you about my late friend. He was funny, honest, but never mean, rarely ornery and mostly sweet. He was a good guy, a true professional and he battled cancer until the end. We lost a Tennessee legend this weekend. He was 66. This has been a sad couple of months.
- The Tweet of the Week was an educational one and it came from USA Today’s Dan Wolken — “Among the rule proposals being voted on at the NCAA convention this week: The ACC proposed a rule that would ‘allow the use of footballs during a walk-through.’ Full disclosure here: I didn’t realize they weren’t allowed.” Nor did I. This could revolutionize the game, he said with sarcasm. My thing is — why is that even a rule?
- It was a good weekend and I expect next weekend to be even better with Florida-LSU gymnastics on Friday and a sellout expected for that one and Florida-Baylor a sellout. Despite a busy Sunday on the recliner, I came up with a playlist:
* “Drag” by Day Wave.
* “Don’t Swallow The Cap” by The National.
* “Works Every Time” by Mini Mansions.
* “Thunder Clatter” by Wild Club.
* And for an old one that’s not that old until you start to add up the years, “One Night In Bangkok” by Murray Head. Although you might prefer the Mike Tyson “Hangover 2” version.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley