The Back Nine: Season-opener has look of a low-scoring outcome


The Back Nine comes at you with a heavy heart after the events of this weekend that make you wonder if our flag should just be kept permanently as half-staff.

10. I have been telling people all summer that the Aug. 24 opener for Florida against Miami might be a real slugfest and low-scoring. One reason is Miami’s defense. Another is the Miami offense. In fact, last year’s Hurricanes reminded me a lot of the 2016 Florida Gators. The defense was good enough to win nine games, but the offense was so woeful that it couldn’t be a special season. Both teams went 9-4 (although 2016 Florida won its division). Those Gators were fifth in total defense and 116th in offense. Last year’s Miami team was fourth in defense and 105th in offense. There is reason for optimism in Miami because of transfer quarterback Tate Martell and offensive coordinator Dan Enos, but this will be the first game together and I think Florida’s defense has a chance to be really good. So take the under. At the same time, it will be fascinating to see what kind of gameplans each coach comes up with after having a whole summer to think about them.

11. My vote in The Associated Press poll isn’t due quite yet, but I threw together my first rough draft. And there are a lot of scratched out teams inserted elsewhere in the poll. For one thing, I forgot Missouri, which was unranked in the coaches poll because the Tigers are on probation (for now) but eligible for the AP poll. There were several teams I struggled with including Florida, Texas and Notre Dame. I still have time to play around with it and I know you are breathless with anticipation. One thing I am really thinking about doing is ranking Alabama at the top over Clemson. Not to be different. My reason would be that if I had to pick one team that I felt was a lock to get into the College Football Playoff, it would be the Tide. Nick Saban is ticked off and the schedule isn’t that tough (South Carolina and Tennessee from the East, nobody of note in the non-conference). So if the poll comes out and there is one first-place vote for Alabama, you’ll know where it came from. Although I doubt there will only be one.

12. One interesting thing about the coaches’ poll that came out last week was that FSU received four points to land among the “also receiving votes.” I have no problem with any sports information director or directors (we all know who votes) who slipped the Seminoles into the bottom of their poll or polls, but it made me wonder about the last time the Seminoles were unranked in the preseason. That would be 2008 when they received 53 points to start the season 29th (also not making the top 25 that year was an Alabama team that went 12-0 heading into the SEC title game). FSU’s preseason rankings in the 10 years prior to that season — 19, 20, 5, 7, 12, 1, 8, 4, 3, 19. It just goes to show you how things can change in college football even if it feels like it’s the same teams at the top every year. Here’s another tidbit from the 2008 coaches’ poll. These teams were ranked — Kansas, Tennessee, Illinois and Wake Forest.

13. I think this would make a great betting game, even if it would take an entire season to get a winner. You get a dozen people together and each has to pick all nine Power Five conference division winners (which includes the Big 12 winner because it doesn’t have divisions). The key would be to pick some team that nobody else is picking (and get it right). OK, I’ll start:

ACC Atlantic — Clemson (still so easy in that division).

ACC Coastal — Virginia Tech (sending Bud Foster out with a title).

Big 12 — Oklahoma.

Big Ten East — Michigan.

Big Ten West — Wisconsin.

Pac-12 North — Washington.

Pac-12 South — Utah.

SEC East — Georgia.

SEC West — Alabama. I thought about LSU after I had a vision and I think it told me this is LSU’s year although it was speaking Orgeron so it was hard to understand.

First 11 people who email me their picks will be in my little contest. All you will win is bragging rights, but it might be fun. I’ll keep track.

14. I didn’t watch the Hall of Fame speeches and not sure I could have lasted four hours anyway. But there was some powerful stuff in almost all of them. I’ve been to Canton for three of them — Larry Csonka, Lee Roy Selmon and Jack Youngblood — and they do an amazing job making the weekend special for everybody involved. Twitter was freaking out over what may be the best bust of all time. Ed Reed’s was glorious. I still don’t understand why Lomas Brown isn’t in, but I’ve given up worrying about it. However, I’m still not done fighting for him to get in the UF Ring of Honor.

15. Danny White, the athletic director at UCF and brother of Florida’s basketball coach, keeps banging the drum for a Florida-UCF series. With a caveat. “We’re not going to do two games at somebody else’s stadium and then a neutral-site game in Orlando at Camping World Stadium,” White said. OK. Only thing is, that’s never been a UF consideration or a discussion, just an assumption that Florida would not play on the UCF campus.

Or perhaps White just keeps setting up parameters in place that will mean his team never has to actually play a big-time program in the regular season because, in the end, that could be the worst thing that could happen to UCF. It’s a theory, one I happen to subscribe to.

16. The Back Nine received a release about the odds for a ton of different college football related items and the one that caught my eye was the odds of Urban Meyer coaching again in 2020 are 3-to-4 so get ready for the return of Meyer to the sidelines. Here’s the thing — I truly believe he will coach again but he’s not going to Akron or UTEP. I mean, it would have to be the right job like Southern Cal or Notre Dame. Maybe Auburn? Naw, he doesn’t want to go head-to-head with Nick Saban. All I know is that I can’t do a radio show in this country without being asked about it. Inquiring minds want to know. That same website lists the over/under for Kansas wins at 2.5 and CJ Henderson as the No. 2 favorite (behind LSU’s Grant Delpit) to win the Jim Thorpe Award. I think that’s enough gambling talk for the day.

17. There is no Tweet of the Week. I had to get off Twitter for 48 hours because I couldn’t take it anymore. I go on there to see what’s going on with different teams or watch highlights or read funny comments. But there was nothing funny about this weekend. It was just depressing. Our hearts get broken and then the pieces get broken again. And again.

18. I had a little setback with the new knee, probably because I overdid it on the golf course. Man, I caught the fever and played three straight days and tweaked something. That gave me time to work on this playlist:

• “Introspective” by Oliver Tree.

• “Tell Me When It’s Over” by Sheryl Crow (featuring Chris Stapleton).

• “Hold Me” by The Teskey Brothers.

• “Summer Girl” by HAIM. Hey, it’s not too late for a summer song.

• And for an old one, I give you a song that came up during what has become called “Back Porch Karaoke” at my house. Yes, there were bottles of fermented substances involved. It’s kind of becoming a thing. Anyway, “Walking on a Thin Line” by Huey Lewis and The News.

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


  1. Urb will land in the PAC10/12 somewhere. And we’re about 2 years away from Jimbo going back to the ACC. Miami’s schedule is squishy soft. They should be favored in every game win or lose v. UF. UM will be Clemson’s tackling dummies in the ACC Championship game.

  2. UM’s offense will likely be a hot mess as they look for an actual leader at QB and adjust to a new coaching staff.

    My bold prediction: UM’s woeful offense can’t stay on the field and midway through 2nd half UM defense wears down, Mullen pulls some misdirection plays out and the score gets lopsided. Not to mention the UM turnovers just from trying to hard. UF wins going away by 17 or more.

    • Curse – I like the way you think, but logically with both of these defenses expected to be very good, and the fact that it is the first game of the year, it is safer to believe it will be close. It could very well go the way you stated too, as many teams that have to utilize their defense a lot in the first half tend to compete less as the game goes on. That could mean the GATORS jump on them in the second half, but the odds are in a close game. I think we will only win by 10 points. GO GATORS!!!

  3. Boy you guys at the Sun really like to go out on a limb? I get the “let’s look objective and reasonable” thing when you are the hometown paper. But, hey , this is sports, and how many times have you guys correctly written we all take sports too seriously? So don’t be afraid to actually rank the Gators high or think we might score a few points against Miami. The truth is we don’t really know anything about Mimi’s defense bc they haven’t played a game yet. If we go by last year, even …hush…Florida State scored some points against them. LSU made them look like a farm animal in Tennessee. We’ll see, but this is a prediction game and no one is going to predict anything right most of the time, so who cares? Err on the side of the happiest response to your article. And let Robbie know too!

    • I was talking to a long time Cane fan this past weekend, and he’s not as confident in the defense as a lot of other people are. He surprisingly thinks the offense will be the strength even though that’s the biggest question mark. He’s basing it off the fact that they’re “loaded” at RB, but I said you need a line to block for them and who the hell is your starting QB? The defense returns all 3 starting LBs, who are great, but outside of that they have to replace a lot of talent in the secondary and d-line. I’ve said it before, they may wind up gelling and becoming a good team by the end of the season, but I don’t see them firing on all cylinders in the first game. I have a feeling they’re going to have some growing pains similar to what the Gators had at the beginning of last season, and the Gators returned a hell of a lot more experience than they are, including the head coach. I can see Diaz making some rookie mistakes as well.

  4. The Canes’ defense did put up impressive numbers, but consider who they played, and those numbers don’t look so great. Most of their opponents sucked. The best team they played– Wisconsin– rushed for over 300 yards and scored 35 points. We’ll see how good they really are.

    Enos did some good things at Arkansas. Can he turn around an offense that was pitiful last year? We’ll see. I know in addition to sucking at all things, they turned the ball over a bunch, so I am sure they will be trying to protect the ball better.

  5. Struggle with Notre Dame? Obliterated in the CFP which leant to the well overrated placing. Again this is because they don’t belong to a conference. Conferences have styles Big 12 air raid, SEC Spread and RPO, Big 10 used to be power, ACC etc. Playing a renegade team that doesn’t fit the mold of the conference puts the conference team playing the renegade at a disadvantage. Don’t get me wrong it is good to play teams like that to challenge your players. But gauging that renegade teams quality is harder as they aren’t playing against teams where one can make comparisons to victories like GA beat SC. SC beat TA&M (hypothetical) in making the comparisons. Playing in conference allows those comparisons with the exception of having a really weak conference. IF ND wants to remain independent either they are excluded from the CFP or they have to win all their games by a margin that would be indisputable that they deserve to get in. Three or four td’s over all their opponents. Yes they went undefeated but barely beat Mich, Vandy, Pitt and USC. them got curb stomped by Clemson.
    Texas lost 4 games and with the largest loss margin being to Oklahoma and beat GA. I’d say if they got their collective S together they will give their conference a fit this year.
    Florida? Take the hype the players are talking out of the picture and look at the results of last year. (yes the previous two ______ (not name calling here but I have my opinion) had some early success but to my eye it never appeared real (even though I was at a lot of those games cheering them on) nor did it feel right and in the end my gut was right that they weren’t what they appeared in the first two seasons. Musch and Mac were predictable and any HS coach would have figured them out by year three. Million dollar coaches did and it showed. CDM will get beat but I don’t think they will get beat over and over and over by the same thing. Coaches are constantly scheming to get players in space and coaches are constantly scheming to contain. Those that cannot keep up are left behind.
    Long post. I am comfortable with Florida in the bottom half of the top 10. We need to prove we deserve to stay. ND I shouldn’t be top 10 maybe top 15. Texas top 10 bottom half.
    Comparison to Urban Meyer? Gut felt good about him at first but by 2007-8 felt there were undercurrents that were stirring. Mainly how things of the field were handled. I felt the CDM left for two reasons 1, to become a HC and 2 he wanted separation from the fallout. The latter may have been chance but sometimes one sees the writing on the wall.

  6. comments made about Alabama’s schedule being a clear path to the playoffs could equally be applied to Clemson. yes, Clemson is playing T A&M and S Carolina out of conference, but they don’t have to play eight SEC games like Bama. and the rest of the schedule is so squeezably soft, Charmin may have a copyright lawsuit.

  7. AGREE with Jawsoftruth.

    There’s a reason Miami is ranked #29 in the Coaches Poll, and their schedule last year was mostly questionable. Wisky put a lot of rush yards and points on them too. They barely beat a pathetic fsu team by one point, in their own house. If Miami is “all that”, then they’ll have to show me they are.

    Florida wins 35 – 13. It will be ugly for Miami.

  8. You can hear it from me first – FLORIDA GATORS will win the SEC East! This is what I believe as I know the GATORS are tired of losing to the puppies. Time to go all old Testament on Ga. Feel the wrath of CDM and the mighty, mighty, GATORS!!! GO GATORS!!!

  9. Don’t link this article to any UCF fans!! You realize how many of them will create accounts to blast Pat for having a believable opinion?!!?! UCF is the young millenial of college football. “I worked hard for about 10% as long as the big boys, but I still deserve to be right there with them”. They have no understanding of college football revenue, and they truly, truly believe they deserve a home and home in their stadium, which is half the size of the swamp. They think UF going to Colorado, which would be massive for west coast exposure and for Pac 12 vs SEC revenue, means they deserve the same deal.

    But Pat is spot on. Danny White does not want to play UF because losing to them would devalue everything they’ve done. If UF loses, it sucks, they can talk smack, but the “big 3” in Florida aren’t changing any time soon, even if UCF beats all 3 of them in the same season

  10. i didnt read the irrelevant stuff but agree with the newspaper its going to be low scoring.

    but, cmon man. there are a million pictures of florida miami. best was james jones on the cover of sports illustrated. why use one with champ. its just the kind of foolishness in our newspaper coverage i just dont understand. oh well