This week the Back Nine reflects on a bizarre weekend of college football and, well, you talk about the World Series and the NFL. The Back Nine is going all-CFB with so much to discuss.
1. Man, the SEC office just can’t catch a break. Last week, Mike Slive made a very smart public relations move by suspending the officiating crew that blew calls in two games. (An SEC official confirmed to me that it was done because the league was getting killed nationally in the media.) And just when things start to calm down there are two more controversial calls. On top of that, the coaches who felt they were wronged can’t keep their mouths shut. Dan Mullen was upset about the replay official not overturning Dustin Doe’s touchdown and hopes he’ll be made to sit in a corner. Lane Kiffin was steaming about the discrepancy in penalties between the Vols and Tide and explained that was why he didn’t try to move the ball closer for Daniel Lincoln’s last-second kick. Which is hogwash, of course. And he was upset Terrence Cody wasn’t flagged for removing his helmet as he ran off the field while the ball was still alive. “I’m sure we’ll get one of those letters that really means nothing as Bobby (Petrino) got last week, but Florida and Alabama live on,” Kiffin said. Conspiracy theory, anyone? We used to joke that if one of the SEC elite teams was in trouble, Roy Kramer would give a nose-brushing finger move (like in The Sting) and suddenly a phantom flag would appear. But we were joking. I think.
2. Still, isn’t it time for the commish to step in and really punish one or all of these coaches who are violating SEC policy? I understand their frustration, but there is a way to handle this. Instead, coaches like Petrino, Mullen and Kiffin are appealing to their fan bases. “Yeah, I’m just as mad as you are. Let’s get torches and head to Birmingham!” Kiffin’s comments are right in Slive’s face. Let’s see how he reacts. Of course, don’t forget that the league also has a policy banning artificial noisemakers from league stadiums. I can still hear the cowbells.
3. This awful, disgusting football team in Gainesville (according to some of your e-mails) has a decent chance of clinching the SEC East on Saturday. If the Gators handle Georgia, and Tennessee beats South Carolina it would be over. And, yes, this would be the earliest that a team has clinched the SEC East and a berth in Atlanta. Usually, I’m upset I have to miss Tennessee-South Carolina because I’m covering Florida-Georgia. Not this year. We might have another 3-2 game.
4. The Back Nine usually defends the Fourth Estate but I have to wonder what is going on in the minds of The Associated Press voters. Look, you vote Florida or Alabama No. 1, I don’t care. But to flip-flop them in consecutive weeks makes no sense at all. Alabama won a tough, emotional game and Florida looked sloppy in beating a bad team. And that was enough reason to elevate the Gators back to the top? Maybe I shouldn’t get all hot and bothered because the poll is irrelevant anyway.
5. Which brings us to the BCS and the possibility we’re going to have another controversy and more hearings on the Hill. The senator from Idaho has the floor. Boise State got jumped by TCU and there is a real possibility Oregon, which was handled by the Broncos in the first week of the season, could slip past Boise with a win this week over Southern Cal. I think you are going to see some real manipulation of ballots down the stretch, which is why there has to be transparency.
6. The Back Nine has never been a friend of Starkville, but I have to give credit where it is due. The people at the stadium were incredibly friendly and there were event staffers who actually knew where we were supposed to park! Amazing. Baton Rouge could learn a lesson. We stayed in Columbus, Miss., and I highly recommend Old Hickory Steakhouse. Best steak I’ve ever had, and it’s just a little shack. Why is it the best restaurants in small towns have the least amount of neon?
7. It’s all about perception in college football. Florida won in Starkville for the first time in 24 years, won all of its games against the West for the first time since 1998, won its ninth straight SEC game away from home and 17th game overall … and the Gators are underachieving. Iowa barely beat Northern Iowa and Arkansas State and needed a last-second score to beat a .500 Michigan State team and the Hawkeyes are “resilient” according to ESPN’s Mark May.
8. More proof that every game is its own game. Texas Tech beat Kansas State 66-14. Kansas State beat Texas A&M 62-14. Texas A&M beat Texas Tech 52-30 on Saturday. Go figure. Or maybe it’s just proof that the Big 12 is wacky this year.
9. Because the most stunning score of the day that came across the crawl was Iowa State 9, Nebraska 7. The Cornhuskers committed eight turnovers in the loss. Apparently, the Big 12 North title will go to the seventh caller.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.