The Back Nine comes at you after a very Peachy four days in Atlanta that included a lot of Chick-fil-A, a world class hospitality room and a dominant performance I didn’t see coming.
10. So I want to take you back to a place in the not-too-recent past when things looked pretty bleak for this Florida football team. The Gators were coming off losses to Georgia and Missouri and trailed South Carolina 31-14 late in the third quarter. Then, Dan Mullen got his groove back. From that point until the end of the season, Florida scored 166 points and won four consecutive games. During that stretch, the Gators averaged 7.1 yards per play. Oh, and the defense gave up a total of 39 points in three-plus games. It’s difficult to maintain championship performances all season, which is why I have so much respect for Alabama and Clemson. But this run that Florida has been on is the first time we’ve seen anything like it since 2008. I don’t want to overreact to this finish because it will be a different team next year. But the players who return will know even more that the plan that Mullen and Nick Savage and the rest of this staff had will yield tangible results.
11. We all know that bowl games are different animals and that you never know how teams are going to treat them. And I do get tired of the cliche “that team wanted it more.” But cliches can sometimes be true and this one certainly was. There were Michigan players who played their tails off, guys like Chase Winovich played through a variety of injuries while teammates sat it out. But there was no doubt which team wanted it more and the evidence was the number of players crying after the game. I doubt you’d have seen the same thing if Michigan had won and that is not a criticism. I don’t think the Wolverines were overly excited to be playing Florida again and probably figured they’d just push the Gators around as usual. “A lot of people thought they were just going to come out, punch us in the mouth, push us around because they’re bigger than us,” said Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. “We showed a lot of heart and a lot of fight and treated it like a regular week. I don’t know how they prepared. But I don’t think they prepared too well.”
12. Meanwhile, the rest of bowl season has pretty much reeked on ice, especially the two playoff games. Some of the performances are downright embarrassing to the coaches who didn’t get their teams ready because you are usually playing a team that is roughly similar in talent. South Carolina still hasn’t scored against Virginia. Army just scored again against Houston and Georgia Tech still can’t come from behind. Of course, Houston pulled a very NFL-like move by firing Major Applewhite after two seasons. Who do you think you are, Houston? Man, there are some entitled boosters out there in the world of college football.
13. Because of those bad semifinals (which has become the norm in the playoff era), you’ve heard the talk go from “We must expand” to “We need to contract.” What’s the point of expanding when you probably are going to get worse games? At least that’s the argument. We are also hearing the hindsight argument that Notre Dame shouldn’t have been included despite a 12-0 record. I think Georgia is a better team, but at some point losing has to be part of the criteria. And anyone who thought Notre Dame should have been in before the game (including all of you who thought the Irish might win) and changed their minds after the game cannot be taken seriously.
14. It was a real bombshell to hear Mark Richt was quitting at Miami, but he just couldn’t deal with it all. The Miami fan base is a rough crowd and when you take them to the top of the roller coaster and then it derails on the way down, it’s going to get ugly. Every fanbase has its lunatic fringe, but Miami has more than anybody and the word is that the soft-spoken and religious Richt just got tired of it. This was a guy who went from 10-0 in year two to losing nine of the next 16 games. That doesn’t play well anywhere, but certainly not at a place where there are so many delusional and entitled fans. Also, Richt fell victim to the reason there are nepotism rules at some places of work. Like Bobby Bowden many years ago, he was too stubborn to get rid of his son (Jon) from the staff when things were blowing up, giving the fanbase one more target that could be taken personally. (Also, he didn’t have a quarterback, which is kind of a big deal). So Manny Diaz will take over after a few days on the job at Temple where I’m sure he told his players how important it was to buy in. And we wonder why players sit out bowl games.
15. I saw this stat Monday, that the six highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL did not make the playoffs. Those six quarterbacks made $171 million and produced 31 wins. That’s not real efficient. But here is my question — did this happen because there wasn’t enough money left under the salary cap to build a good team around those quarterbacks or are the young guns still working under their rookie contracts just that good? Or did the teams with those six quarterbacks overpay badly? It’s not like the surviving quarterbacks are all young whippersnappers because we have Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers still playing, but the youth movement is going to make this an interesting postseason. My bold predictions (also known as wild guesses) for the wild-card playoff games — Houston over Indianapolis, Chargers over Ravens (I’m sure I will be burned on this one), Dallas over Seattle and Bears over Eagles.
16. My New Year’s resolutions are too numerous to mention. But the most important one is to be a better person. I’m not a bad person, but I could be better. It starts right now. By the way, how strange was it to have a bowl season without FSU to cheer against? OK, it starts NOW.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Pat Forde of Yahoo, one of the best in the business — “Everyone: Georgia Tech and Miami might have set a new standard for no-showing a bowl game. Purdue: Hold my boilermaker.” Yeah, there were a lot of teams who no-showed their bowl games, but Purdue has to be one of the all-timers with its performance against Auburn. That was the best example of how a running clock wouldn’t be such a bad idea in some bowl games. It was also an illustration of something Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson told me Thursday, that the top four of the SEC and Big Ten were even but the next four, not so much.
18. Just wanted to say that the Peach Bowl people did an amazing job in everything and it was a real pleasure. For players, coaches and media, the bigger the bowl, the better the experience. Anyway, here’s a new playlist:
• “Talking Straight” by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
• “Middle America” by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.
• “If I Say” by Mumford and Sons.
• “To Be” by Foxwarren.
• And because he caught a lot of shrapnel on Twitter after his performance at halftime of the Orange Bowl, for an oldie let’s go with “The Best of What’s Around” by the Dave Matthews Band.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.