Usual suspects top my Top 25 preseason ballot

AP top 25

It’s easy to tell that we are nearing the start of the college football season because I managed to irritate two fan bases in three days this week.

Talking season is officially over.

The first of the frustrated were the UCF fans who didn’t like that I wondered in print whether athletic director Danny White might not really want to have a series with Florida. (Then, they attacked my innocent dog on social media, who barked several times during an interview in Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi’s radio show while I was explaining my position).

The second angry mob? Florida fans when I said on Paul Finebaum’s TV show Wednesday that the Gators were slightly overrated this preseason. (Which I have written several times this summer, but that was during talking season so nobody noticed).


We need some real football games, not unseen scrimmages and gushing optimism from coaches. And certainly not preseason NFL games where the coaches are afraid to play starters.

It’s getting closer, and when it arrives it will be in fifth gear before we shift into second. That’s the way a college football season flies by.

For example, next week you will know where the most respected poll in the country ranks your Gators and the other teams receiving votes. And today, you get to see where this Associated Press voter placed his 25 teams.

Here we go:

1. Alabama: I hinted in The Back Nine column I was thinking about doing this and had little trouble following through. Nick Saban’s excuses for losing the title game last year may not wash, but we know he is as angry as Dabo Swinney is cocky. That’s a dangerous recipe.

2. Clemson: But I’m not stupid. Clemson is going to miss the big guys up front, but still has the likely Heisman Trophy winner and tons of talent.

3. Oklahoma: This is a little bit of a hunch, because most polls have Georgia third. The Sooners under Lincoln Riley score points during timeouts and QB Jalen Hurts has something to prove.

4. Michigan: I have to admit, I fell for the hype. But I wonder how much the Wolverines would be this year’s sexy team if Urban Meyer was still at Ohio State.

5. Georgia: There are holes on this team, but those holes are being filled by five-star players. The changes in coordinators will be really interesting.

6. LSU: Remember when it used to be called Clemson-ing? If this LSU team finds a way to lose a game (and a chance to play in Atlanta) in inexplicable fashion we may have to come with a new name for it. Maybe Bayou Boomerang-ing?

7. Oregon: The Pac-12 is hoping to make the playoffs for the first time in three years. The Ducks aren’t quite in Star Wars territory, as in, “Help us, Oregon-kenobi. You’re our only hope.” Only seven picks in and I’m already getting punchy.

8. Penn State: I am not a big fan of James Franklin, but the dude can really coach.

9. Ohio State: I know Ryan Day went 3-0 last year while Meyer took his punishment by standing in the corner, but the three wins were against teams that went 10-27 last season. In other words, the jury is still out.

10. Texas: If the Longhorns play every game like they did last year’s bowl game, watch out.

11. Florida: OK, so I don’t have the Gators in the top 10, and if you listened to my podcast you already knew this. I love Florida’s starting 22, but the depth is a question mark.

12. Washington: It’s been so long since quarterback Jacob Eason played a meaningful snap, I’ve forgotten what he looks like.

13. Notre Dame: The Irish had a special season in 2018 until the boring playoff loss by 27 points against Clemson. We won’t have to worry about that again.

14. Utah: The term “salty” was invented for this defense. There’s a Salt Lake City pun to be had here, but I’m not clever enough.

15. Auburn: I confess that the first time I filled out my ballot, I forgot Auburn. The Tigers are that big of a mystery team.

16. Washington State: Don’t count coach Mike Leach out. Ever.

17. Syracuse: The countdown to wherever Dino Babers will be coaching next year starts … now.

18. Texas A&M: The Aggies have better talent and better coaching than this spot, but the schedule is brutal.

19. Missouri: I predict the Tigers will win their bowl ban appeal. I’m basing this on my extensive knowledge of how the NCAA works. (insert muffled laughter).

20. Virginia: Solid team that may surprise a lot of people. Or not.

21. Wisconsin: Solid team that, oh wait, I used that one.

22. UCF: Please don’t kick my dog. Archie is a sweetie.

23. Iowa: Kirk Ferentz enters his 76th year as Iowa’s coach.

24. Michigan State: I have a feeling about Sparty. Or is that acid reflux?

25. Boise State: Orange and blue against FSU in the opener? I like it.

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


  1. No Gamecocks in Pat’s Top 25?

    Where have all the Gamecoks gone?
    Too much sucking
    Where have all the Gamecocks gone
    Too much sucking
    They hired Muschamp
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    My heart is filled with such sorrow. Even Pat has finally figured out that Mushy isn’t going to get it done this year- or ever. Did Mushy swoop in and grab the last booze filled eclair at SEC media days? Did he spend a little too much time making eyes at Bianchi during the after party? Who knows? But the scales have fallen from Pat’s eyes, and the bromance is clearly over. Even though Mushy is a nice person and went to Oak Hall, his number one cheerleader has turned his back and walked away, sudsy tears pouring down his cheeks.

    They may blame the schedule
    But it’s the coaching
    They blame the schedule
    but it is the coach

    (arf arf arf arf)

        • Sorry, that was meant to be in response to your post above. I mean, I get the sarcastic humor, but “grab the last booze filled éclair” and “spent a little too much time making eyes at Bianchi”? Even though sometimes chuckey – like, I agree that Muschamp is basically a nice guy and a decent person. To me, these comments just seem a little over the top. Just my opinion.

          • Hey Austin — having gone back over the last couple of days and reading the archives, I can definitely tell you that a lot of the comments about Mushchamp 12-15 months ago were WAY over the top. By comparison, our pal Jaws is quite tame! And that’s from a guy who has always liked Champ.

            How you doin’? Hope that Dallas project is going well and you have a chance to stop in Salado on one of the trips, at least for a quick cup of coffee. After contending with bumper to bumper on 130 a few days ago, it’ll be a while before I venture down there again!

          • I’ll make it happen G-6. I usually pass Salado about 4:30 a.m. on Mondays and 5:00 pm on Fridays. What works best for you? Project is going well, but all I do is work from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed when I’m up there. Thank God for weekends at home! Gotta love ya Jaws!

          • Boy I hear that, Austin — several years ago I did a year long specialty fellowship up in Waco, which was a whole lotta fun, but man I couldn’t wait to put that 350Z back on I-35 every Friday night. Tell you what, the 0430 would put you behind in your effort to beat the Dallas traffic anyway, but the 1700 southbound trip might work to your advantage before you get into that Round Rock to Downtown mess. Give me a holler.

  2. “For example, next week you will know where the most respected poll in the country ranks your Gators and the other teams receiving votes.”
    Your Gators. The question was answered by the author where he stands. Your not our? Personally I’m comfortable at 11. We’ve always done well when the media gives us no respect.

  3. Frankly, I believe the Gators, with their OL and depth issues at the start of the season, belong just inside the top 10. If Mr. Dooley wants to protect his precious “journalistic integrity” and rank them just outside the top 10, I’m not going to get too worked up about it. I always believed they’ll have to earn their respect this season and their schedule sets up well for that.

    Now, I do have a problem with ranking 3 teams from the same division of the Big Ten in the top 10. Those picks must be nods to otherwise truly weak schedules because they WILL have to play each other before all is said and done.

    GO GATORS!!!

    • SO MUCH AS PERTAINS TO #11, NARRATIVE IS AMENDED TO READ: “I am not a big fan of Dan Mullen, and the dude sure can’t coach. I’m only ranking Florida at all to appease spoiled Gator fans since I work in Hogtown and had to put the hapless bastards somewhere lest I get run out of town on a rail”.

      #8 IS REVISED TO READ: “Penn State isn’t any good, but it’s a good way to show that the BIG10 is just as deserving of undeserved rankings as Florida. I was going to put Central Michigan in the #8 spot, then South Carolina, but didn’t want to listen to all the whining from spoiled Gator fans”.

    • StL – I have no problem with where Pat has the Gators ranked for precisely what you mention – the offensive line issues/questions. I have great trepidation that a deep and prolific running back corps and potentially lethal line up of receivers will get left at the dock because the O-line is soft/leaky. Felipe Franks is no longer a weak link, but he’s going to look pretty feeble if he’s flat on his back or running for his life.

      I also think there’s some truth that the Gators, in general, do better with modest expectations. Their schedule is tough. It’s tough every year. The ceiling for this team is probably Top 5 or 6. The floor is probably still in the rankings. Beat Dawg Scum. Get to the SEC Title Game. Then see if they can raise the ceiling. Go Gators.

      • Dooley is of course free to write anything he wants, and to rank anybody where he damn well pleases. After all, this is nothing more than speculation at this point anyway, as not a single down has been played yet. And, I stand by my evaluation of him being a terrific sports writer of the first order. But, he has a blind spot…..and that blind spot is a near compulsive tendency to stick his finger in Gator fan’s eyes, virtually every chance he gets. If nothing else, it’s certainly not becoming.

        • Gator-6 Do you remember the days of uber-biased, homer and a half, good ol’ boy Jack Hairston? Classic hometown scribe. That was some fine shining of the Gators. Pat’s o.k. He’s better than our local hack here in So. Fla.

      • ”I also think there’s some truth that the Gators, in general, do better with modest expectations.” -GatorGopher.
        While I get what you’re saying, GatorGopher, history says…
        In ’95 (the 1st ever undefeated reg. season), the Gators had ”high hopes” the following year in 1996. In 2008, after we watched, ”yet another Florida QB win the Heisman” in 2007, I had ”high hopes” in 2008. So history says, ”high hopes” aren’t a bad thing in Hogtown, either.
        Go Gators!
        Just win baby!

        • I agree – it was a lot more fun starting seasons with obviously great talent and coaching. I was more referring to non-Spurrier and not-Urb eras. I don’t think anybody looks at this year’s squad and sees reflections of ’95. We have good talent – but not overwhelming. We have good coaching – but not SS caliber. I do think Coach Dan is good enough to build and sustain and ultimately win BIG. But every peak isn’t going to be followed by another, higher peak. At least I don’t think so. I’m good with high expectations. But I’m not going to get bent about preseason rankings – even by the local sportswriter. As you say, Just Win! The rankings will pan out accordingly.

  4. Most of the rankings are spot on. I didn’t see Miami in there. I guess we are opening with an unranked opponent. Maybe they should get an honorable mention (their defense is pretty good and it would look great for us to beat a ranked opponent for our opener). Michigan at 4 is a head scratcher. So much that I have a bald spot (or maybe it is my age).

    As far as UCF fans, they are just jealous because they are an overrated school with an overrated football team that plays in a tinkertoy stadium in an overrated league. If you want to be a big boy, you have to play big boys in a big boy league and have SOME history and tradition. They should join a junior college league because they are simply a community college with a football team. Go Gators!

  5. Don’t know why or understand all this Dooley bashing. So he wrote “your gators” instead of “our gators” and some got their feathers ruffled. He either gets bashed for being a homer at times, and ridiculed at times for not bleeding orange and blue. He can’t win from losing with some. I respect his writing ability and he writes with style and with logic and he just lays it out. You can argue with his content but do so without the personal attacks. Not becoming of “us” gator fans.

    • I agree, gator-sr. Pat’s in a “no win” situation. In 2017, he and Robbie simply reported Mac’s claim that the O-line would be a team strength. When it became painfully obvious that wasn’t the case, both of them were vilified for “drinking Mac’s kool-aid”. If Pat pumps the brakes a bit and tries to temper expectations, as he seems to be doing here, he gets roasted for not being a fan. I guess I’m a bit of a hypocrite, though, because I do enjoy reading all the creative ways our fellow Gator fans come up with to criticize Pat’s writing skills and question his fanhood.

    • I respect the man for his writing abilities, -sr, and have said that on more than one occasion. Nobody that I’m aware of has ever “bashed him” for being a homer, and likewise nobody has ever “ridiculed him” for not bleeding orange & blue — in point of fact, I would tell you that type of expectation of him would be about as silly as bifurcating the polarities you just described. There is, however, a pattern of his that I find rather disturbing, one which I would expect from a Tallahassee sports writer and certainly not from one based in Gainesville. If that represents a personal attack in your opinion, while I certainly affirm your right to it I respectfully submit that it’s off base and rather “not becoming” as well. That said, and I’m sure you agree at least with this: Go Gators!

      • 6, you have defended Pat’s writing in the past, and I respect that. I always enjoy your comments, both the analytical and the sarcastic, but “bifurcating the polarities”? C’mon, maaaan!!! You’re making me run to the dictionary to keep up. Well, it’s actually typing into Google, but you get the picture! Go Gators!

        • I have Joe, but I’ve definitely changed my opinion. But don’t worry about the “bifurcating polarities” thing — I just couldn’t think of anything else to say! Don’t tell me that you haven’t pulled the old bifurcating priorities card yourself when you suddenly are at a loss for words!

          • Guilty as charged! If you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle ’em with BS. Now I have another bullet for my BS gun!

    • You answered your own question, Gator-sr, Pat is inconsistent, sometimes being a homer and sometimes being in opposition, only to serve his own agenda, which more often that not is to rile Gator fans.

    • Seconding your point, gator-sr. More discussion here about Dooley than football. To that point… I enjoyed reading the rankings, fun stuff. Gators at 11? Fine. We went 7 – 3 against real competition last year, getting bludgeoned by the rushing games of Kentucky and Missouri and picked apart by Fromm. We need to prove we’re a top-tier team — Alabama, Clemson, Georgia — and that starts with UM. I’m looking forward to seeing what Greenard and Zuniga will do, and would love to see Kadarius Toney get at least double the number of touches he got last year, assuming his frame could handle that load. That dude is pure lightning. Go Gators!