The Back Nine: Wilson’s wait to end vs. ‘Canes

Florida cornerback Marco Wilson. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The Back Nine comes at you and all you need to know is that it is Game Week. It is not Week Zero. It is Game Week. Extra goosebumps sold separately.

10. We’re all excited that there is a game this week (two, actually, but we’ll focus on Florida-Miami and leave Arizona-Hawaii for a handful of media boys and girls). Is there anybody more excited than Marco Wilson? The junior cornerback missed almost all of last year with a knee injury and you could see it in his eyes even at the Peach Bowl that he wanted to play so badly he was thinking about sneaking on the field. Instead, he finished the rehab and is ready to return against Miami. A guy from Fort Lauderdale can’t help but be fired up. “It’s going to be a sigh of relief,” Wilson said Monday about running onto the field Saturday. “Running out of that tunnel knowing I have a job to do is really exciting.” That job will be to make life difficult for first-time starter Jarren Williams of Miami. I would expect a lot of short passes from the Hurricanes offense to let Williams get his feet wet, but you know Miami is going to test Florida’s secondary deep with the speed it has at receiver. And new Miami offensive coordinator Dan Enos has a penchant for the play action.

11. Certainly, a lot will be made about the fact Manny Diaz and Dan Mullen used to coach together. Mullen talked about it Monday and it was pretty clear the guys saw eye-to-eye during their two stints together (in 2010 and 2015). I think it’s a wash that both coaches know each other and what each one likes to do. “Even when he came back to Mississippi State, he was coaching a little different than before,” Mullen said. “He had grown. So had I. It’s not like he’s coming in with the exact same defense that he had (at Mississippi State). But he still has his personality out there.”

12. Maybe you have this mentality and maybe you do not. But there is this weird summer sensation that you can’t wait for the season to get here and then the first day of Game Week is here and you’re, like, “Hold on here. Let’s slow things down a bit.” Kind of like getting an MRI for the claustrophobic. I’m sure the coaches get that way as well. They can’t wait to see what this team is going to look like, but aren’t sure if they want to see it with all of the early warts. One thing is sure — we are all going to overreact to whatever happens in Saturday’s game and again when everybody else starts next week. I always think back to five years ago when Kenny “Trill” Hill threw for 511 yards in Texas A&M’s opener and was declared the Heisman Trophy favorite. He was benched in the middle of the season. And a week after Hill lit up South Carolina, Ohio State lost at home, ending the Buckeyes shot at making the playoffs. They ended up winning the national title that year. I’m just saying, don’t overreact, especially in August. Leave that to the professionals.

13. It was another aggressive move by Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin to agree to a home-and-home with Miami and a necessary one even if you aren’t a fan of playing that team. This is a different world for ADs around the country because they are faced with attendance drops. Whether they are bolstering schedules at Alabama and Georgia and Florida because of the real possibility of an eight-team playoff down the road or simply to give fans a reason besides cheering for the home team, it’s happening and that’s good for college football. But it still seems like an easy solution would be for the SEC to go to nine games. It is borderline silly that Florida is visiting Ole Miss next season for the first time since Tim Tebow was a sophomore, but the league keeps sticking to the premise that things are working out pretty nicely with the eight games. The SEC has played in 11 College Football Playoff games (more than that Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 combined) and dominated the final decade of the old BCS. But in the end, the league’s stubbornness is contributing to the decline in fannies in the seats at its own stadiums.

14. To say there were no surprises in the Associated Press poll that came out Monday is an understatement of epic proportions. The top 10 was exactly the same as the coaches poll and there was only one team ranked that wasn’t ranked by the coaches (Nebraska instead of Northwestern). Miami is 29th in both polls. Nice imagination. At least I wasn’t the only person to rank Alabama first (there were nine others among the 62 voters). But the greatest stat I saw about the AP poll is that of the top eight teams, seven of them have quarterbacks who have started games in the SEC. That’s crazy.

15. Hey, there is one simple rule you have to follow in baseball and everything else is just window dressing. You run everything out. Foul pop-ups, sharp grounders, balls you think you’ve hit to the moon. Ronald Acuna is a stud and it has been a blast watching him, but he didn’t run out a ball he thought was going out and he was pulled an inning later. There was actual debate about whether it was a good idea for manager Brian Snitker to take him out, but it’s a no-brainer. Hopefully, lesson learned and Acuna doesn’t go all Antonio Brown and get angry about his helmet.

16. As baseball has become all about home runs and strikeouts, golf has become all about hitting your driver as far as you can and hope you get a hot week with the putter. “The driver is the most important club in the bag because of the way the game is played,” said Tiger Woods. On the Tour this year, 49 players averaged over 300 yards a drive. I gotta say, the restricted golf ball is sounding like a better idea. What those guys did at Medinah last week (20-under par got you third place) was ridiculous. The season ends at East Lake, but this new scoring system with Justin Thomas starting out at 10-under seems to point to “unwatchable” on the Dooley Meter.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Molly McGrath of ESPN — “Things my husband will do for Golf, but not for me: 1. Wake up early 2. Improve his flexibility 3. Watch instructional videos to improve 4. Buy clothes 5. Spend 5 hours outside. I am stuck in a love triangle.” Check, check, check, check, check.

18. Because it is Game Week (always a proper noun), I will sprinkle a little hype into this week’s playlist. Remember, I am very old. So my idea of hype may be different than yours.

• “Let Go” by Judah and the Lion and I know ESPN already dropped a hype video with this song but I discovered Judah and the Lion first so I am taking credit for this song,

• “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osborne. A classic.

• I spoke in Destin last week and there was strong pressure on me to include a song from someone who got his musical chops in Gainesville. But that’s not the way this works. I bring songs to you. Your mind is expanded. Like this one — “Gainesville” by Drew Kennedy and co-written by the great Wright Thompson.

• “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” by Tears For Fears.

• OK, I give in. For a not that old one, here’s a song from someone from Gainesville. “You Wreck Me” by a little band called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

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


  1. Looks like Acuna is not pulling an Antonio Brown:

    “Acuna, 21, said through a translator that there was “no excuse” for the baserunning mistake and that he respected Snitker’s decision [to pull him].
    Acuna said he “obviously wasn’t thinking and that was the action I took. … It’s never happened before.”
    -ESPN (

    On another note, the author of this article wasn’t named. That’s weird. I am guessing this is another development in underpaying writers. You contract a group of people to write up reports, edit them, and send them out — without letting any particular name get famous or valuable.

  2. I think Marco is in for a monster year. He will get his chances as teams will go away from CJ but will find out real soon to avoid #3 as well. As for Acuna-he is nowhere NEAR AB in terms of attitude. I think that as a youngster-and as youngsters tend to do sometimes-he just got caught up in the moment of thinking that he had just hit a bomb and had a momentary brain freeze. He’s going to be a great player for a long time and I think his response immediately after that happened said volumes. Great talent. Even better young man. I think I’ll give him a mulligan on this one. Game week!!! GEAUXXX GATORS!!!!

  3. It’s finally here …. Game Week!!! I’m very excited because we wait 8 months for this moment. Sadly though, it’ll be over so quick, so enjoy every moment of every game (well, maybe not the games against D-2 schools).

  4. I think our AD’s home and home deal with Miami is a slight shot at UCF’s arrogance. It was his way of letting them know they do not belong in the same league as the Florida’s and the Miami’s of the world.

  5. I’m curious to see the Nielson ratings for our game. UCF is probably choking on their faux nc trophies, having to watch their big brothers brawl in their own back yard. What would the tenor of this game be if instead it was UCF vs USF? Blah vs Yawn

    I agree with mkfgator, the Miami deal comes with thumb to nose and finger wave at UCF.

    If Miami relies on a short passing game, look for a pick with a high probability of six from either our LBs or safeties.

    What I want to see from our team is everyone blocking all the way down field, especially the WRs.

    I also want zero blocks in the back from our punt and kickoff teams and very few penalties. The O-line can frustrate Miami’s D-line by committing no false starts or holding penalties. Play a clean game.

    I saw Tear for Fear. Roland Orzabal was without Curt Smith, but you couldn’t tell the difference. One of the best shows I’ve seen.

    Pat’s Heartbreaker song has an interesting back story. Originally it was called “You Rock Me Baby,” but it just didn’t feel right. Then someone said try wreck and there you have one of Petty’s Top 10 songs of all time.

    My “get up for the game” song would be AC/DC’s “War Machine.”

    Go Gators!

  6. I remember when UF played um to start the season back in the ’80s. Due to the intensity of play & emotions involved, there was plenty of penalties, mistakes, fights,etc.. I’m expecting more of the same Saturday. Gators need to stay focused & take care of business.

  7. The game is here ready or not. At least there is a bye-week right away. Needed not for the players but for us fans that have a hard time getting the cars washed and the lawn mowed with three straight home games on Saturdays. I just hope it is a long ride back to Ocala for my two co-workers after Saturday.

    I agree with SpringHillPhil with his desires for the game. “War Machine” is a great tune and I love hearing it in Gainesville to start the second half. Just to be different, I am going with Van Halen’s “On Fire” from their first album. Go Gators!

  8. If the SEC wants to stay at 8 games, can we just get rid of the permanent opponents and rotate both opponents with the west? The schedule gets so stagnant. I know we would lose the annual match-ups of Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/UGA and LSU/Florida, but the cycle would be faster and we would play every team from the west in a 4-year period. If you wanted to keep the rivals, you could cycle LSU in the 8th crossover slot, giving rivals the opportunity to play 2 times in 4 years. So far this year, Auburn has sold out the fastest because people know that we won’t see Auburn in the Swamp for 14 years.

    I would set it up this way:
    Year 1 @LSU; Auburn
    Year 2 @Ole Miss; Miss St.
    Year 3 @Texas A&M; LSU
    Year 4 @Arkansas; Alabama
    Year 5 @LSU; Ole Miss
    Year 6 @Auburn; Texas A&M
    Year 7 @Miss St.; LSU
    Year 8 @Alabama; Arkansas

    In 8 years, we play LSU 4 times, we play every West team home and away, and a senior would have played every SEC team. I would rather see this than a 9-game SEC schedule. That would be brutal and would impact the number of bowl eligible teams from the SEC.