The Back Nine comes at you with the knowledge that the next one of these columns will be a kickoff to game week and that makes me want to run into a field screaming with joy. I know, I need to pace myself. Why start now?
10. There are a lot of you out there who probably have never heard of Jarren Williams, but I’m sure you are aware now that he is the Miami quarterback the Gators will be opening against. Most of you — and I was right there with you — assumed it would be Tate Martell under center. But then there was this quote from coach Manny Diaz after the latest Hurricanes scrimmage. “Very disappointing in the way that you started to see the ‘far away’ look in some guys on the offense, things we’re trying to eradicate from our program,” Diaz said. “We had a feeling the disease wasn’t fully cured.” That could not have been comforting to Miami fans, although Diaz said the second half was better. I am just guessing here, but reading what Diaz had to say Monday after naming Williams the starter, it sounds like he is going with the guy least likely to throw the ball to the wrong team. He knows he has a great defense and can’t afford to allow a bunch of short fields or easy defensive scores. I asked Dan Mullen if the news changes anything for the Gators’ prep work (they start concentrating on Miami on Friday) and he said this: “He (Williams) hasn’t played a whole lot. None of them have. It’s not like a guy who has played a whole lot and it’s a new coaching staff.” Instead, he said, the Gators just need to focus on themselves and not worry about who will be behind center.
11. Diaz didn’t name a backup either and you wonder what is going through Martell’s head right now. This is a guy with a high opinion of himself and he can’t be thrilled, especially if he loses the second-string job to N’Kosi Perry. Martell may not be in Miami long. On the other hand, he can bear down, win the back-up job and wait for a chance. The interesting thing is that Martell left Ohio State because Justin Fields transferred there. And now neither one of them may start because Fields hasn’t won the job (it may go to former Kentucky QB Gunnar Hoak). Quarterbacks are high maintenance.
12. So ESPN came out with its list of the top 50 players and this is one more reason I voted Alabama No. 1 on my AP ballot. The Tide had 10 of the 50 players. I know Nick Saban’s team has been dealt some tough blows in the last week with injuries, but the talent is ridiculous. By the way, Clemson had six players on the list. Florida had one, cornerback CJ Henderson. The interesting thing about Henderson is that teams hardly threw the ball his way last season after Marco Wilson went down (he allowed only 18 catches and no touchdowns last season; the rest of Florida’s secondary allowed 16). And when nobody throws the ball your way, lazy voters leave you off ballots because they only look at your interception totals.
13. The SEC released next year’s schedule last week and while most of the freaking out was over Georgia and Alabama playing in the third week of the season, the thing that stood out to me was Cupcake Week. Usually, the week before the finale is loaded with enough soft treats to give you diabetes. But the league made an effort and we have A&M at Alabama, LSU at Auburn and Georgia at Kentucky on Nov. 21. That’s beautiful, even if Florida hosts New Mexico State that day. That’s another element that we are going to see as athletic directors try to upgrade their schedules because the fans can’t be expected to be blindly loyal anymore — if you are playing nobody and somebody good is playing somebody good at the same time, how many of you are staying home? Anything that gets better games is a plus and because it seems inevitable that we’re heading for an eight-game playoff, ADs are falling all over themselves trying to schedule better games down the road. I approve.
14. I started to make a list of the worst radio show topics I have heard this summer during talking season. But then I realized I’d be feeding the beast. Instead, I will give you this nugget that I didn’t know until I had a conversation with Steve Spurrier on Monday — Spurrier wore No. 16 when he arrived at Florida and now his grandson Gavin is wearing the same number as a preferred walk-on at Duke. So there you have it.
15. OK, so now that a full week of preseason NFL is in the books, I’m ready to make my picks (as if anything that will happen in the next three weeks is going to change my predictions). Here are your playoff teams:
AFC — Cleveland, Houston, New England, Kansas City
Wild cards — NY Jets, San Diego
NFC — Chicago, Philadelphia, LA Rams, New Orleans
Wild cards — Atlanta, Seattle
Super Bowl — Chiefs over Saints
There you go. Head to Vegas.
16. I think the wild card one-game playoffs are the dumbest things in all of sports (and I watched ESPN Ocho last week). But I will say this — the wild-card race itself is brilliant, especially in the National League. There are eight teams separated by only five games in the NL as we head down the stretch which keeps the fans engaged in all of those cities. When people whine about every game being important in college football and an expanded playoff taking away from that, I throw a little math at them. The more teams with a shot, the more games will be played that matter.
17. I was in a mood this week. I was just fed up with reading about politics on Twitter. I go on Twitter for sports news and an occasional laugh. It was just getting to me. So I unfollowed about 500 people. I feel refreshed. Now, the Tweet of the Week and it comes from The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee — “Greens are much faster, which slows play down. Courses are much longer which slows play down. Players have “books” and debates about yardage/reads which slows things down. Roll the ball back. Make the books illegal. Slow the greens down. Problem solved.” That makes too much sense. Maybe it’s time to put clocks on the course. I mean, it worked for college baseball.
18. There was a lot of music Saturday at the wonderful combination of Sara’s Birthday Golf Tournament and Phoenix Fox Foundation benefit to help MDA research. However, my latest comeback from knee replacement surgery was less than spectacular. We had a great time though, so there’s that. And now, there’s this:
• “Luckiest Man” by The Wood Brothers.
• “Kelly’s Bar” by Trampled By Turtles. Whee-doggie. As Darling Briscoe used to say when Andy Griffith was getting ready to twang with the Darling Family, “Just jump in where you can and hang on!”
• “Bird Song” by the Wailin’ Jennings.
• No, nobody kidnapped me and brainwashed The Back Nine to start a country-ish link. These songs were just ones that grabbed me this week. I take this so seriously that I Shazam any good song I hear in public and keep Post-It notes in my car so I won’t forget a gem I hear on Sirius. Anyway, here’s a little more of a rocker — “Take Control” by the Mysterines.
• And for an old one, “Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones in honor of the one that closed at the Galleria Mall that we used to frequent at SEC Media Days.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.