The Back Nine comes at you after the final regular-season weekend of college football and, as usual, it did not disappoint. Unless you were a Michigan fan or an FSU fan or an Auburn fan, etc.
10. We all know the stories about how Dan Mullen changed the culture at Florida this season, but there is one thing he did kind of backward. Aren’t you supposed to secure your home-field advantage and then learn how to win on the road? That’s what his mentor Urban Meyer did in his first season at Florida going 6-0 at home and losing three times on the road. But Florida at home was only 5-2 with three cupcake wins and 4-0 in true road games. In fact, Florida was one of only seven of 130 FBS schools to go undefeated in true road games. The others were the obvious ones — Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCF — and one surprising one in Northwestern, which had four home losses but reached the Big Ten title game by going 5-0 on the road. Florida’s schedule on the road didn’t hurt in that it only played one team in the SEC that finished with a winning record (Miss. State). But winning on the road is still not easy and this Gator team should be commended for it. Now about that taking back The Swamp thing.
11. I have seen a lot of graphics comparing Florida’s offense to last year’s, which is incredibly misleading. Last year’s team only had one gimmee game and even that was against a pretty good UAB team. And the head coach was fired in the middle of the season. A better comparison would be to Jim McElwain’s first Florida team. It’s just as impressive when we are talking offensive improvement according to national rankings:
Scoring 100th 31st
Total off. 112th 48th
Rushing 113th 26th
Passing 86th 78th
Per play 102nd 35th
Remember back in September when Mullen was talking about wanting to see his team get better as the season went on? The Gators had their dip in the middle of the season, but here are their last 10 quarters: 125 points, 1,479 yards, 7.4 yards per play.
12. Most projections have Florida playing in the Fiesta or the Peach in New Year Six bowls, but there is no way of knowing because we still have one more potentially crazy weekend of college football to go. What if Northwestern beats Ohio State? Or Pitt beats Clemson? Stranger things have happened. If those things do happen, it would take away slots in the major bowl games. The bottom line is that Florida could end up in the Fiesta or the Peach, but nothing is guaranteed. If it’s the Peach, I don’t think they would match the Gators up with UCF because the Knights were there last year and the committee tries to avoid that. So basically, I spent all morning on the phone and I have no idea where the Gators are going. And neither does anybody else.
13. So what if Georgia beats Alabama on a field goal? Is Alabama still in? That would mean three Power Five conferences would be out. If Oklahoma beats Texas and Ohio State beats Northwestern, which one makes the playoff? You know Meyer is going to try to score as many points as possible to impress the committee. Could it all wash out so that Florida plays Ohio State in the Peach Bowl? Or that UCF loses with its backup quarterback and falls all the way to the Gasparilla Bowl? The highest ranked Group of Five team gets a New Year’s Six bid, but it has to be a conference champ. Boise State vs. Florida in the Fiesta? While I’m asking questions, I’ll offer this one courtesy of the SEC Network’s Peter Burns — does Urban Meyer have to claim Jim Harbaugh on his tax returns?
14. One of the best things about a noon game Saturday was that we made it home for some high drama Saturday night and every second of the fourth quarter and seven overtimes of LSU-Texas A&M. College football overtimes that won’t quit might be my favorite thing in all of sports, but I do get the concerns about players being on the field for too many plays. I will say this — games like that are rare. But I was curious so I looked it up and found this info on the Pittsburgh-Cleveland OT game at the start of the season and the one Saturday night:
• NFL game — 125 plays in regulation, 29 in overtime.
• College game — 141 plays in regulation, 56 in overtime.
That’s a lot of time to be on the field. But it makes for great entertainment. One thing I truly believe and have for some time is that overtime stats should not count on your season stats. A defense should not have its stats skewed because it gave up 74 points in a game. But that’s me.
15. So I guess there is a run on coaches in their 60s, huh? Mack Brown to North Carolina is the second one in two weeks open to debate. Is Jim Tressel working on updating his resume? I guess Herm Edwards started the trend last year for older coaches and we’ll see how this one works out. It’s like ESPN is a halfway house for coaches who get fired until they can find new jobs. This year’s casualties will probably just step right into the studios. It does feel like it is going to be another wild hiring season. There is even talk about Derek Mason to Colorado. I feel bad for Larry Fedora because he’s truly a good guy. But that’s the business.
16. As we were leaving Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night, I wondered this out loud — have two college teams ever played two games in the same year against each other on neutral fields in the same state 21 miles apart? This is a big tease because I tried to find the answer and gave up. Texas and Oklahoma will have played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and Jerry World in Arlington after Saturday. I think that’s kinda cool, to quote a former coach.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Connor O’Gara, the columnist from Saturday Down South — “For the ‘SEC bias’ crowd, consider this:
The SEC is now 8-3 vs. Power 5 teams in non-conference play.
The 3 losses?
•Vandy at Notre Dame (by 5)
•Tennessee vs. West Virginia
•Texas A&M vs. Clemson (by 2)
No bias. Just results.”
The league has a chance to have two teams in the College Football Playoff and a real chance to have LSU, the loser of Alabama-Georgia and Florida all playing in New Year’s Six bowl games. It’s the best conference and the best division in that conference was the East, which went 9-5 against the West. Sorry, but I’m not letting that go.
18. No excuses this week. There is no Florida football game so I had better be in the gym. And I’ll be listening to this playlist from my favorite CDs of the mid-1990s:
• “Battle of Who Could Care Less’ by Ben Folds Five.
• “Basket Case” by Green Day.
• “In Bloom” by Nirvana.
• “Where It’s At” by Beck.
• And for an oldie, “Bad To Me” by Billie J. Kramer.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.