The Back Nine comes at you as I am counting down the days until I get to eat hospital food. My left knee and I have been through so much together — mostly pain.
10. Think Greg Sankey is a happy guy today? The SEC commissioner has watched his league make history again by being the first conference to get two teams into the College Football Playoff and I have to admit I was stunned. I’d have put Bama in, but I fully expected the committee to place Ohio State in the four spot because I ultimately believed the tiebreaker would be not putting two teams from the same conference in. Shows what I know. So now we have taken the first baby step toward expanding the field to eight because two conferences were left out. We’re the winners because we get a Clemson-Alabama Part III in the Sugar Bowl and a Georgia-Oklahoma Rose Bowl, which is going to be an expensive Christmas for Bulldog fans. (An Alabama-Georgia final would be a major step toward expanding the playoff no matter what the expensive suits say. They also said a playoff was a no-go until Alabama and LSU played for a national title). So in the CFP history, 14 of the 16 teams who have made it have been conference champs and the only two who didn’t make it were the last two Big Ten champs. Pardon me while I chuckle at Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany (although he can counter with his $20 million 2017 bonus).
11. The great championship weekend we were expecting really wasn’t all that great. Especially, the much-anticipated SEC championship. To me, the thing that killed Auburn was Jarrett Stidham’s fumble early in the second quarter when Auburn was about to go in for its second score. At that point, Auburn had 135 yards to Georgia’s 28. After that play, Georgia outgained Auburn 393 to 124. I always say that college football is a handful of plays in a handful of games, but this was one play in the biggest game of the season (so far). One thing about Gus Malzahn offenses — when they go stale, they go really stale. Like an open bag of chips-in-a-rainforest kind of stale. And I should know something about stale offenses, having covered the malaise that has been Florida offense the last eight years. For that brilliant display of offense, Malzahn receives a massive pay raise. And for going 6-6, Jimbo Fisher loses a Christmas tree, but gains college football’s richest contract. Suddenly, Florida’s deal with Dan Mullen looks like a bargain. It’s like the AP’s Ralph Russo wrote Sunday night — this is the drunkest week in the history of college football.
12. One more thing on the CFP, if we took everything exactly the way it worked out in terms of who played who and what all of the final scores were and just changed one thing — instead of Alabama we inserted the name “Arkansas” — don’t you think Ohio State gets in? There is no question in my mind. These aren’t blind resumes. One of them has a shiny brand attached to it and in the current state of college football there is no bigger brand than Alabama. It’s good for TV and what the Tide has done in the recent past matters, no matter how much it’s not supposed to. So we welcome you to the Southern-fried playoffs where you still will have more corporate seats than accents.
13. A couple of other quick takes from the final weekend of college football:
• FAU students chanted “We Want Bama!” after the Owls latest win. Pump the breaks guys. You lost to Buffalo this year.
• Whoever gets the UCF job is inheriting a heckuva team with a ton of talent coming back. But you can’t blame Scott Frost for going home, even if he’s walking into a football team that finished last in the Big Ten in defense and defense isn’t exactly his strength.
• Although I am not permitted to tell you who I voted for in the Heisman (take a wild guess), I can tell you that I sent in my coach of the year ballot and All-American teams for The Associated Press. I had Kirby Smart as the national coach of the year, followed by Scott Frost and Dabo Swinney. And I had Eddy Pineiro on my first-team All-America team and Johnny Townsend on my second team. That there was no other Gator to even consider says a lot about where this program is.
• There has never been anything like this offseason when it comes to the coaching carousel. Last Monday after introducing Dan Mullen, UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said, “We’re glad to be off the carousel.” I bet. This has been the craziest thing ever. And SEC Media Days is going to be spectacular.
14. For a lot of us, the idea of spending a year without having to work and getting paid for it is appealing. We probably would put our feet up and sip cool drinks until pina coladas started spilling out of our ears. But my friend Brett McMurphy took a different road. He just keeps breaking stories. McMurphy was among the many laid off by ESPN months ago, but his agreement included a non-compete clause. “A lot of people thought I should take a year and travel the world,” he said. “But I thought it was more important to stay relevant for when I’m employed again.” So even though he is not working, he kind of is. McMurphy keeps breaking stories on Twitter like every bowl matchup, Joe Moorhead’s hire at Mississippi State, Mike Gundy’s rejection of Tennessee and Scott Frost’s acceptance of the Nebraska job. He also was the first to tweet that Dan Mullen to Florida was finalized (we had our own scoops as well). It was hilarious during the ESPN broadcast of the UCF-Memphis game when Steve Levy gave McMurphy credit and referred to him as “our own Brett McMurphy.” Anyway, this is a bit of an inside the industry story, but Brett is as good a guy as there is and deserves to get as much credit as possible.
15. This is pretty funny. There is a great frozen custard place in Starkville, Mississippi, called “Bops.” Up until a few days ago, the place featured a special treat called “The Dan Mullen,” which was his favorite when he stopped by. It featured M&Ms, chocolate chips, caramel and chocolate syrup. With Mullen leaving, Bops decided to rename the dish with an online poll. The winner? “The Lateral Move,” a reference to Mullen’s comments three years ago when Geoff Collins went from Mississippi State to Florida. I do like the billboards welcoming their new coach to Starkville that read, “MOOR COWBELL.”
16. I think the best part about getting my knee replaced is not checking Twitter or emails for a few days. And sleeping. Everyone has some advice and it has all been welcome and so many have offered prayers and they have been accepted with gratitude. When I get back in the saddle, let’s all just try to get along.
17. There were so many snarky tweets about the situations in Knoxville and Tallahassee to choose from but I thought the best Tweet of the Week candidate (unvetted) came from the great Chris Low of ESPN — “My stock answer for how it’s all gone so downhill for Tennessee is simply this: Once the new head football coach is hired, that will make it 16 different presidents, chancellors, ADs and head football coaches for Tennessee over the last decade. Zero stability.” What he said.
18. Put together a sweet playlist for the flight to New York for Steve Spurrier’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach (already in as a player). I wonder if he gets two plaques on the wall at UF?
• “Losing All Sense” by Grizzly Bear.
• “Everything Is Alright” by The Glorious Sons.
• “Creature Comfort” by Arcade Fire.
• “Stand By My Girl” by Dan Auerbach.
• And for an oldie, something different. A reader sent me a link to a song by Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles and Matthew Sweet, a cover of “And Your Bird Can Sing” by the Beatles. I loved it and then discovered there are two albums called “Under The Covers” where these two cover great songs — not just the hits — from the past. My favorite is their version of “Beware of Darkness.”
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.