The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that saw Florida’s volleyball season end, the basketball team find a way to lose and some of us trying to figure out what to do on a Saturday night without football.
10. The Heisman Trophy has been awarded so that means we are out of the ESPN cone of silence and can tell you who we all voted for. My vote was exactly the way it turned out, as was colleague Robbie Andreu’s. We both felt the same way — that Kyler Murray had to be great every time he took the field because Oklahoma was so bad on defense. It was nothing against Tua Tagovailoa, but his performances did fall off a little as the schedule got tougher late in the season. Still, I was ready to vote for him much of the season. Heading into the last weekend, it was going to be a tough call. The irony is that Jalen Hurts may have cost Tagovailoa the Heisman because he saved the day. I was a little surprised in the voting because it wasn’t as close as I thought it would be. Murray carried every region except the South and even there it was tight with Tua winning by 19 points. Whoever the voters voted for, there are no right and no wrong votes. Except the ones cast before the season is over. And the 27 voters who left Murray off their ballots and 40 voters who left Tagovailoa off their ballots. That’s either regional bias on steroids or people who just wanted to be different or people didn’t watch any games. I’ve been saying for years the number of voters needs to be pared down, but that doesn’t seem to be an option.
11. You all know how much I love college football. And maybe I am late to the party on this. But it seems to me that college football has it backward. One of the common themes for bowl eligible teams is that the coaches are happy because they get an extra 15 or so practices. For many of these teams, a portion of that time is devoted to work with younger players to get them ready for next year. A lot of what you will see this weekend if you go to Florida’s open practices will be developmental work. But shouldn’t the teams that are not very good and were not bowl eligible (a handful of them going 6-6 and being snubbed) also be allowed to practice? It’s like college football is the opposite of the NFL, which tries to help its worst teams with the draft. College football does the opposite, giving the best teams every advantage for the following year, including exposure and extra practice time. I was talking to Dan Mullen about this the other day and he agreed. His suggestion is that the teams who don’t make a bowl game get a few extra practices in the spring or at the start of fall camp. That makes sense. Too much sense.
12. So, one of my mantras is that you have to play around poor officiating and I’m sure Eagles fans won’t agree with that today. It was so bad in their game against the Cowboys that even the experts for Fox were flabbergasted by some of the calls. Philly’s Malcolm Jenkins was so upset that he said the officials should “stay off the bottle.” That’s a little harsh. That said, Sunday was a spectacular day for watching NFL games including the Miracle in Miami. No, I can’t explain how a coach as smart as Bill Belichick would put Rob Gronkowski at safety to defend a Hail Mary when you knew that wasn’t going to be the call. Instead, the Gronk looked like a tight end trying to get the angle on a running back and the result was what you might expect (and led to some hilarious GIFs on Twitter). Anyway, thanks for the entertaining day, everyone. Now, work on those officials.
13. You could tell how frustrated Mike White is with his basketball team after the tough loss to Michigan State in part because it was an opportunity lost. Florida is struggling and its difficult schedule in the non-conference was set up to give the Gators chances to garner quality wins. But those chances are slipping away. I know it’s early, but somehow, some way, White has to get these guys to be efficient offensively. I can’t explain the funk that has enveloped Jalen Hudson. If he’s not making shots, it’s difficult to keep him on the floor with this team because of the things he doesn’t do like defending and rebounding. I love Florida’s young talent, but it is the upperclassmen who are not getting the job done. We all know Florida has issues inside, but they were the same issues last year’s team had and — to a point — were able to overcome. The SEC hasn’t been as good as many of us thought it would be (fifth right now in RPI) but there will be plenty of opportunities for quality wins down the road because of how good the top half of the league has been.
14. Kudos to the Florida volleyball team that made it to the Sweet 16 before falling in an unbelievable environment at BYU. UF had to deal with the difficulty of injuries and a young team to have a really great season, even though the expectations are so high here at Florida. “We lost four first-round draft choices from last year,” said Florida coach Mary Wise. “That’s hard to replace. This team grew so much. Really, it was one of the best coaching jobs our staff has done.” Florida loses only two players for next year and the key will be to get the seeding to host next year. Watch out for the Gators in 2019.
15. We still have a lot of college football to be played, but The Back Nine is curious what the excitement level is for spring football with Steve Spurrier coaching the Orlando Apollos. I have talked to a lot of people who believe the plan for the Alliance of American Football will work and the chance to watch football in the spring is something that is near and dear to my heart because of my years covering the USFL. Gainesville will have a chance to be part of a fan event Dec. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 at Celebration Pointe’s City Walk where ticket packages will be available for purchase. I just can’t wait to see Spurrier calling plays again. Neither can he.
16. One more thing on the bowls — ESPN ranked their entertainment value and had the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl as No. 7. But the list came out before Will Grier announced he’s skipping the Camping World Bowl, which was sixth. The number of players skipping out keeps rising and fans become indignant with each decision. But remember that — other than the playoff games — these are basically exhibition games. Enjoy them for what they are, but don’t get down on players who want to prepare for their full-time jobs.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports, a must-follow for football and Braves fans — “The Oakland A’s have more Heisman Trophy winners than Tennessee, Clemson and Michigan State.” Wow. Just wow. Of course, the Murray win was not without controversy as some anti-gay Tweets showed up from when he was a 14 year old. He apologized and we all do stupid things when we are that age. Not that it makes those decisions any less offensive. There was another old Tweet from Murray that got some attention — “Florida Gators #BestTeam.” That was from 2012, but was brought up by Florida commitment Diwan Black. I don’t think Florida would have been wandering in the offensive wilderness if Murray showed up here. But who knows?
18. OK, so we are officially in bowl season for college football which means we are closing in on Christmas and I felt obligated to skip the music portion of this week’s column and give you my five favorite Christmas movies (in order):
• “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
• “Christmas Vacation.”
• “Miracle on 34th St. (the original)”
For the record, I believe there is a difference between a Christmas movie and a movie that has Christmas as a backdrop, so “Die Hard” and “Batman Returns” and “The Apartment” — while all fine films — do not qualify in my mind.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.