The Back Nine comes at you after a wonderful weekend that included my famous $50 chili, loads of sports on TV and a wife who understood that it’s OK to spend two days in sweatpants.
1. Don’t hate Pete Carroll for leaving the college game behind. He really had no choice. Carroll wanted a new challenge and there are millions of reasons to go to the next level. If Kurt Warner retires, it’s a winnable division and he has two high first-round draft picks. Now we sit back and see what happens at USC. Remember that the Trojans had become irrelevant before he turned Southern Cal back into an elite program. This is a huge hire for Mike Garrett. Whoever becomes the new coach may be inheriting NCAA sanctions as well as a bar that has been raised incredibly high. The first name that came to mind when the news broke was Lane Kiffin. He knows USC, is a powerful recruiter and, let’s face it, it’s easier to win in the Pac-10 than the SEC. Imagine the angst Tennessee fans are dealing with right now. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it might. Especially now that Mike Riley is out of the picture.
2. The Back Nine was rooting for the Pats to win Sunday, but you have to be happy for Greg Mattison. The former co-defensive coordinator at Florida was catching heat this season as the new coordinator at Baltimore, but not today. His defense seemed to know everything that was coming. The Ravens made Tom Brady look very ordinary at home in a playoff game, and that never happens. I’m not going to write off New England like some have done, but it has been a difficult two seasons in Foxboro.
3. Of course, one of the touchdowns New England scored was after a blown call on the fumbled punt. You combine that with the miss of the facemask grab by Michael Adams on the winning score for Arizona, and it wasn’t a good day for the NFL zebras. Still, Arizona-Green Bay may have been the best NFL game I’ve ever seen. And it cemented Warner as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
4. The weekend wasn’t so good for Billy Donovan, who saw his team score 85 points and lose. Look, Vandy is better than Florida because the Commodores’ bigs are better. But it’s still difficult to explain how the defense could be so pitiful. It seems that this team does one thing poorly in every game and Saturday it was interior defense. Meanwhile, Kentucky stays unbeaten by finding a way to win again over a Georgia team that is a lot better than most expected. And Tennessee pulls a stunner with six scholarship players. The East is a beast this year.
5. Bumped into Urban Meyer on Saturday night at a local restaurant, and I have to say he looked a lot better than he did in New Orleans. He said he’s feeling better, too. Getting those three commitments Saturday can make a guy feel good. I asked Meyer if it was true that he has been in his office during the “leave of absence” and he said, “Every day.” Talked to new defensive coordinator George Edwards as well. Very impressive guy. Meyer said hiring Edwards was a “home run.” There are a lot of balls leaving the park for UF right now. I still believe that impressive showing against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl was huge for Florida to keep the momentum going in the right direction.
6. Word out of Mobile, Ala., is that ticket sales spiked since the news that Tim Tebow will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30. They sold 3,000 over the weekend. Senior Bowl CEO Steve Hale told Mobile columnist Tommy Hicks, “In my 16 years with the game, I’ve never seen a single player spark so much interest.” Welcome to our world.
7. Now that Maurkice Pouncey is going to the NFL and Mike is staying at Florida, at least we won’t be confused anymore as to which Pouncey is which. It’s going to be a different Florida team next year, for sure, but we knew it was coming.
8. Next year we will have new coaches at Notre Dame, USC and Florida State. That’s just weird.
9. For you iPodders, this week’s musical suggestions — “Let’s Go Surfing” by The Drums, Ringo Starr’s new CD “Y Not,” and old schoolers need to get “Mississippi Queen” by Mountain, the soundtrack of my first year of college.