The Back Nine comes at you after one of those weeks where you are supposed to have some vacation days, but you are too pumped up for football season so you work every day. Or is that just me?
10. OK, I have heard it. The buzz. The dripping optimism. But right now, it’s just all talk. I’m speaking about the Florida offensive line, which has been one of the stories of the preseason, because Jim McElwain has been talking up the big guys. I’ve heard all the stories about bonding through fishing and dinners. I’ve heard how new coach Brad Davis is going to make a difference. I’ve heard lineman Tyler Jordan say, “I think we’re a whole different offensive line.” I’ve heard tackle Jawaan Taylor say he thinks Florida should have a top-5 offense. Shoot, most Gator fans would settle for top 50. And I listened as Fred Johnson said he was surprised the Gators were ranked so low (116th) in total offense. “We had 500-yard games, backs running for 100 yards in a game,” he said. Yes, but you also had six games with 261 yards or fewer and that will chew up your stats. We also heard McElwain say he thought the turnaround started during Outback Bowl preparation. Florida had 11 first downs in that game. So I guess what I am saying is, show me. Show me you are a better offensive line. Don’t tell me, show me. Michigan, Sept. 2 would be a nice start.
11. There are two kinds of people in this world — those who study the preseason polls when they come out and those who think preseasons polls are dumber than a box of bubble wrap. Actually, there’s a third category and that would be the people who don’t care about college football, but those people need to stop reading this. The coaches’ poll came out last week and I’m sure many of the coaches were surprised to see who they picked. Can you imagine Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney wasting time trying to decide who should be No. 23? Saban is one of seven SEC coaches who are among the 65 who vote — Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn, Derek Mason, Dan Mullen, Barry Odom and Mark Stoops are the others. The only real surprises to me were at the end where Texas is No. 23 and Tennessee 24. Florida at 16 sounds about right, although I have the Gators a little higher in my Associated Press ballot. You have to wait until Sunday to find out where. Personally, I think ranking Texas 23rd was crazy, but Tom Herman has the chance to prove me wrong.
12. I listened to Nick Saban’s explanation for not suspending defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand and, I bought it. But with his case and the one involving Antonio Callaway, we are left to wonder if those two players would be suspended for the opener if they were playing Alcorn State and Wofford instead of FSU and Michigan, respectively. We’ll never know for sure what the answer would be, but you can’t help but be a little cynical.
13. This feels like the shortest summer ever, perhaps because Florida was playing baseball so late in the season and our golf tournament was postponed for five weeks. It’s difficult to believe college football games will be played in less than three weeks. Not that anybody is complaining. We’re ready. But every summer does make me pine for the USFL. Man, those were the days.
14. While the uproar got a little louder over the Colin Kaepernick issue when Miami signed Jay Cutler, this one I get. Cutler may be a pouting narcissist but he knows Adam Gase’s playbook and gives the Dolphins a slim chance to be a playoff team. Very slim. Razor thin. OK, they still don’t have a chance. That Kaepernick doesn’t have a job is one issue. That the Dolphins signed Cutler over Kaepernick is another. That Miami kicked the tires on Tim Tebow and Christian Ponder tells you their level of desperation after Ryan Tannehill’s injury. That there are so few quarterbacks that NFL teams think can play the game is a testament to the spread offenses changing the landscape. There, are those enough issues for you?
15. It was a rough week last week when college football lost Ara Parseghian and John Reaves a day apart. My relationship with Reaves was a long one that went back to his days with the Tampa Bay Bandits. Like everyone else, I was always rooting for him to get his life under control. The last time I talked to him in person was for a book I was writing and we met for breakfast in Tampa. For days after he called me with more detail about the Houston game from 1969. Being a Gator meant a lot to him and, despite his flaws, the Gator Nation isn’t as full without him.
16. This is the world we live in where a pro basketball player can shoot a pair of 74s and miss the cut in a minor league event by 11 shots and get more attention than the guy who shot a 61 in the final round and won a World Golf Championship event leading into the PGA. At the same time, the Web.com Tour should give Steph Curry an exemption any time he wants one because people paid attention and he drew nice crowds. As for the final Grand Slam event of the year, well, I did pick the British Open winner so you had better pay attention. I’m taking Rory McIlroy. Just a hunch.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Kevin Clark, who covers the NFL for The Ringer — “Jay Cutler just performed the most elaborate trick ever executed to get out of two weeks of training camp.” If only he was that cunning. The second best Tweet of the week came from Time magazine — “The most annoying thing you can order on a plane, according to a flight attendant,” I read the story and it turned out it was Diet Coke because the altitude makes the carbonation react longer and it takes forever to pour. So I have to adjust my flight to Dallas in a few weeks.
18. Meanwhile, I will be heading to Northwest Florida this week for a couple of visits with Gator Clubs so I have to be prepared for a lot of driving. This playlist should help:
• “Sunset for Somebody Else” by Jack Johnson.
• “Run for Cover” by The Killers.
• “Hitchhiker” by Neil Young.
• “The Night Begins to Shine” by B.E.R.
• And for an oldie that’s not really that old, but 23 years have passed since “Wildflowers” was released and I think it might be the most underrated album ever so “To Find A Friend” by Tom Petty.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.