The Back Nine comes at you after a ton of real football and even though it was less than drama-filled we now have plenty of stuff to over-analyze and, boy, does my AP poll look a lot different from the first week.
10. It was only one game, but we certainly saw a change in Florida’s special teams Saturday. And this is the kind of game Saturday against Kentucky where the special teams can make a difference. Florida coach Dan Mullen learned from a coach he spent a lot of time with in Urban Meyer (barf bag comes separately). But I’ve said all along that it’s not difficult to be good at special teams as long as you TRY to be good. “These guys weren’t recruited to play special teams,” Mullen said. “As long as the head coach is the one sending the message, the rest of the team is going to buy in. If I didn’t make it a big deal, they’re not going to think it’s a big deal.” Bingo. Forget the spread in this game (Florida is a 14-point favorite). I think we all know it could come down to a play here or a play there. That play could be a turnover or a blocked kick or a return that sets up a score.
11. His numbers weren’t anything special, but one of the best things Gator fans saw Saturday night was Malik Davis make a sweet cut on his repaired knee and later get his legs cut out from under him. Because he got up and ran right back to the huddle. The ACL injury that cut short his season last year isn’t that easy to come back from this quickly. It usually takes a full year. “I liked the hit better than the cut,” said Mullen. “I’ve been watching him run and make cuts. But I think for a confidence thing, when you take a big hit on the leg like he did later in the game — at whatever point it was — I think that would give him a lot of confidence that, ‘Hey, I’m kind of back.’ He’s been running and cutting for a while. I know in a game it’s different, but then when you take a big hit like that, I think that can build some confidence for him.” Davis finished the game with 38 rushing yards on six carries and also caught a pass for 8 yards.
12. Here’s what I don’t get. Never have and never will. It’s the coaching cliche that teams make their biggest jumps from the first week to the second week. “You see what you have and now you can work with it,” Feleipe Franks said Monday. Yeah, but if every team gets better from week one to week two, why do some teams stink on ice in week two? Did Northwestern get better last year when it lost by 27 to Duke in the second week? Did Missouri get better when it was handled 31-13 by South Carolina. I guess my point is that not everybody gets better in the second week. It’s a myth. Here’s some good news for Gator fans — Mullen’s last team won 57-21 in week two (against Louisiana Tech). If you believe in such things. Also, there is this — Mullen was 8-1 against Kentucky in his nine seasons at Mississippi State.
13. Obviously, it was a stellar weekend for the SEC and especially for the SEC West, which flexed its muscles and told the Big Ten East to hold its beer. Let’s stop talking about which division is the best in the country because it’s not a lucid argument to say it’s anything other than the SEC West. The big boy division went 7-0 and beat four Power Five teams by a combined 152-74. And while I didn’t get to watch all of the games, the common theme is a familiar one. The SEC West has the best defensive linemen in the country. Miami found that out. So did Louisville. Auburn got a little lucky, but was playing the best team any SEC squad opened with. Meanwhile, the East had the only blemish for the conference on opening day when Tennessee lost to West Virginia. Still, 13-1 is the best opening weekend record ever for the conference. If Texas A&M beats Clemson on Saturday, the SEC may just ask for all four playoff spots.
14. So I made some significant changes in my Associated Press ballot, which will be submitted today. For one thing, I moved Alabama to No. 1. No offense, Clemson. That was the best team in America on Saturday. I also completely dropped Michigan into the abyss because really, when you are 9-9 in your last 18 games would you be ranked if your name wasn’t Michigan? And I didn’t rank LSU in my first poll, because I was like a lot of people who felt like the Tigers may be headed off a cliff. I stand corrected. I dropped Miami all the way to No. 20 and that may be a little high. And I debated on whether to put Northwestern or Maryland at No. 25 before settling on the Wildcats. Here’s a stat that makes you wonder what the heck world we are living in — the third largest losing streak in American college football (four games) is shared by Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee and Arizona. Yikes.
15. The Summer of Saban is a mini-series that just won’t end. It’s not enough that Nick Saban is featured every time you turn on ESPN or that he is the official coach of the SEC Network or that his team destroyed Louisville in its opener. He had to go and make news by giving a grumpy old man answer to Maria Taylor about his quarterbacks after the win. That’s the thing about Saban — every time you start to like the guy he gives you a reason not to. I wonder if I have the guts at SEC Media Days next year when Saban tells the media how much he respects the job we do to stand up and say, “No, you don’t.” The hacks are supposed to ask questions about the number one story about the No. 1 team which is the quarterback play. Just because you don’t want to answer the question doesn’t mean we have to stop asking it. At least he apologized.
16. It’s that time of year again when I make my NFL picks based on my vast knowledge of the league after watching “Hard Knocks” and a few quarters of exhibition football. Don’t get me wrong, I am fired up to add NFL games to my viewing schedule. It’s just that I read so many teams wrong every year. Like I had the Bucs in the playoffs last year. Here goes nothing:
San Diego, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, New England.
San Francisco, Green Bay, New Orleans, Philadelphia.
Kansas City, Houston, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta.
Now, off with you. Have fun storming the castle.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Smacker Miles, who is the young daughter of Les Miles, who used to be a football coach — “Dad hasn’t stopped pacing and screaming about CFB since 11 am. Someone get this guy a football job.” It is amazing that no team has hired a guy with the track record of Miles. It’s not like there is baggage either. You’d think a Group of Five school would take a chance. Oh well. I have other things to think about. Like how do you get the name Smacker? Wait, your dad is Les Miles? Never mind.
18. Getting old is not for the faint of heart. I went from having a rib pop out in my back to a severe case of plantar fasciitis. Good times. So not a lot of time at the gym. But I still came up with a sweet playlist:
• “No More Darkness, No More Light” by Amos Lee.
• “All My Friends” by The Revivalists.
• “Autumn Love” by Death Cab for Cutie.
• “What’s Your Hurry” by Hush Kids.
• And for an oldie, “England Swings” by Lyle Lovett from the Roger Miller tribute album. I saw Roger Miller in concert once. As previously stated, I am old.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.