The Back Nine: Florida facing must-win game

Tennessee coach Butch Jones, left, and Florida coach Jim McElwain are scheduled to face off Saturday. [The Associated Press]

The Back Nine comes at you after only 12 hours without power, eight of which I slept through, and minimal wind damage. It feels like we were lucky, but I look around this great state and realize not everyone was so fortunate. So I offer this distraction, a bunch of nonsense ramblings about football.

10. This isn’t like me. Not at all. I’m not that guy. I’m the guy who says to wait and let the season play out. The guy who cautions fans about getting too emotional too soon. The guy who preaches about the season being a long ride with peaks and valleys. The guy who hates September Heisman watches. That said, I can’t help but feel that with everything that has happened the last two weeks, Florida faces a must-win Saturday against Tennessee. There, I said it and I already feel like I need a shower. Certainly, Florida won the East even though the Gators lost to the Vols last season. But this feels different. The East seems better. And it’s not just about that. It’s about all of the momentum that has been sucked away from this program with the loss and then the lost game. It needs to be restored with an important win over a ranked team. And there’s also this — Florida hasn’t started a season 0-2 since 1971. Many of you were not born yet and before you correct me, the 0-10-1 season of ’79 started out 0-1-1. Florida lost its first five games in ’71 with seniors John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez as Doug Dickey tried to fit a square peg in a round hole. And then — and I’m not making this up, millennials — beat 5-0 Florida State. Anyway, this program, this one this year, needs this win. Badly. So does this coach and his staff. And these players, who have been through a lot, as well.

11. One of the strangest lines I have seen was that Florida opened as an 8.5-point favorite in Vegas. I know they were trying to get some money on Tennessee and within hours the line was down to 5, but what about the way things have gone so far this year would make anyone want to take Florida and give 8 1/2 points? They say home field is worth three points of a spread and that really good home field advantages are worth five points and since Florida has lost only one game in two seasons at home under Jim McElwain and Tennessee should have lost its opener and, oh heck, I give up trying to explain that spread. When it comes time for The Picks, this will be a tough one. Not having a practice game is not a good thing for the Gators. And Tennessee getting three injured receivers — including Josh Smith — back for the game is another plus for the Vols.

12. Saturday meant an unscheduled open date for UF, which meant 13 hours of watching college football and there were a lot of results that changed the way we are thinking about this season. That Auburn bandwagon kind of got derailed, huh? I think Clemson just sacked Jarrett Stidham again. It feels like that’s a season that could head south in a hurry. Ditto Ohio State. The Back Nine is ready to say that we have had to spit out that J.T. Barrett Kool-aid we were drinking. He’s just not that good. Meanwhile, what a huge win for Oklahoma and for the Big 12. That league really needed it.

13. The summer is always filled with talk about who is on the hot seat and who is not and The Back Nine always believes that nobody is ever on a hot seat in July. You can’t be on a hot seat until you lose a game. And so, here we are, two weeks in, and the league is full of hot seats. Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin, Bret Bielema and even Barry Odom in only his second year on the job. Odom pulled off the ultimate panic move when he fired defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross. Mizzou went from being known for defense to being known for not playing defense, but it seems like that’s something Odom could have handled last year when he took a lot of the responsibilities away from Cross. Already, we’ve seen two defensive coordinators canned although Kenwin Thompson was technically re-assigned by East Carolina after his defense gave up an average of more than 600 yards a game this season. I think he may have been re-assigned to the concession stand.

14. And there is Brian Kelly, whose Notre Dame team dropped to 5-9 the last two years with a tough loss to Georgia at home. And then Kelly went all, well, all Brian Kelly on a reporter at the end of his news conference. Yes, it was Laken Litman’s fault for not throwing softball questions at Kelly. You can Google the video of the reporter from the Indianapolis Star and her line of questioning. He was just being a bully. I wonder how many Notre Dame fans have fantasized about just painting over the first name on the head coach’s parking spot and painting “Chip” instead. With all of these hot seats, Chip Kelly’s may be getting warm in the ESPN studio. Doesn’t he look like someone made him wear a suit?

15. Memo to college football: Please let me or someone with a brain schedule your games. Week One was brilliant. Week Two was great, but only at night. Week Three leaves something to be desired. Sure, Miami-FSU being canceled took some energy out of the weekend, but it feels like college football is being programmed to prevent people from enjoying it too much. Or is it just me?

16. So were the Jaguars just sandbagging during the preseason? Raise your hand if you saw a two-win team. Instead, the Jags looked like a playoff team, especially in a division that suddenly looks winnable. Of course, we can’t all freak out after one week of a 16-game season. Otherwise, the Patriots are in trouble. So is Andy Dalton. The Cincinnati quarterback recorded the third lowest Total Quarterback Rating in NFL history on Sunday. And Colts’ quarterback Scott Tolzien threw a pair of pick-sixes and completed only nine passes and had the second worst performance of the first Sunday. And Colin Kaepernick, oh, never mind.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from an Oklahoma fan named Dan Wade, who made me chuckle with this one — “If you don’t like people posting strange flags on your field, maybe don’t call your city Columbus.” I couldn’t believe Baker Mayfield apologized for planting the Oklahoma flag (sort of, it was artificial turf after all) following the big win over Ohio State. Love him or hate him, that’s who he is. Whoever made him apologize should get a job in the NFL.

18. With the devastation of Irma and the remembrance of 9/11, we need a playlist of some fun songs, huh? Here are five of my favorites:

•“Love Shack” by the B-52s.

•“Hey Ya” by OutKast.

•“Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello.

•“Home” by Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros.

•“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at





  1. The “spread” is not rational but designed to increase betting. And this game is a must win for probably both coaches. Let’s hope that we have the players and plan to make it our win, not theirs. I don’t have too much hope that these coaches have it in them. Perhaps some of the players don’t either as a significant number of them have shown themselves to be selfish and stupid in their actions.

    • Why would Chip Kelly come to Florida? Why not go to Arizona for almost the same money, no humidity, better facilities and stay as long as he likes? Kelly can go anywhere, why come to a fan-base and three seasons before he’s paying for meals and getting speeding tickets. Sorry guys, our odds a landing an A-lister like Kelly is null. Our revolving coach door is well known. Why do you think we got coach Mac? According to the coach from the North, this program is broken; until someone proves him wrong, we’re stuck finding “diamond in the ruff” coaches and hoping the turn out.

  2. Even Brian Kelly was calling some quick release slants, and having success. Not that I want him here, just noting that the Domers are showing more offense than the Gators. Sadly, even Cincy gave Michigan a better game than did UF

  3. Hey Pat.

    Not a bad list of songs. But for fun try Here Comes the Sun by Richie Havans, and if you haven’t heard it, Obediah Parker has a great acoustic cover of Hey Ya all over YouTube and Spotify.
    Good stuf. Check it out.

  4. We do have a handful of good games to watch:

    Kentucky VS.
    South Carolina
    LSU VS.
    Mississippi State
    Kansas State VS.
    Clemson VS.
    Texas VS.

    and for what it’s worth, I think the female reporter had it coming ….