The Back Nine: SEC is top heavy league

[Staff Photo/Erin Nelson

The Back Nine comes at you after a wonderful weekend of football, family and hurricane watching. And some great barbecue.

10. We knew there would be a lot of overreaction after the first weekend, but what we didn’t know was that the SEC-haters out there (and you know who you are) would be so giddy with a chance to bash the league. The league changed its slogan this weekend to … The SEC — It Just Means Mortified. There were some embarrassing losses to be sure, but the early take shouldn’t be that the league is down. It should be that the league is top heavy. SEC fans like to use the top-to-bottom argument when extolling the virtues of the league, but the middle and bottom lost to Wyoming and Georgia State. Not to mention South Carolina losing to a guy coming out of retirement and Arkansas barely beating Portland State and Kentucky and Miss. State struggling with what should have been easy wins. There was a great picture I saw on Twitter of Auburn’s game-winner against Oregon and in the background is SEC commish Greg Sankey leaping in the air with his arms raised. He needed that one.

11. If we’re overreacting, get your hot seats right here. Will Muchamp found a way to lose just like he did all the time at Florida. Charlie Strong revamped his offense with Kerwin Bell and scored zero points in South Florida’s opener. Matt Luke brought in Rich Rodriguez to add some zing to the offense and the Rebs scored 10 points and couldn’t sniff 200 yards. And one has to think the Jackson State mascot who was penalized for celebrating a touchdown with the team will get a pink slip today. And because we are overreacting (which was predictable), should we go ahead and give the Heisman Trophy to Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts or wait until the end of the season? Maybe we should give it to Sooners coach Lincoln Riley.

12. So who feels worse today — FSU fans or Tennessee fans? FSU at least lost to a team that you thought had a chance to beat them. With a freshman quarterback. In Tallahassee. In a game FSU led by 18. There was a lot of premature Tweeting going Saturday when FSU was way up in the first half and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles looked like he knew what he was doing. The next thing we knew, Boise State fans were doing the Gator Chomp and celebrating in their lovely orange and blueness. The stat of the game was this — Boise State had 28 plays of 10 yards or more (so did Oklahoma, but I digress). FSU’s defense looked terrible against freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier (I may have to get one of those Hank for Heisman T-shirts), but the offense didn’t help in the second half with all of those three-and-outs (and 68 yards on 29 plays). My friend Frank Frangie Tweeted this out Sunday — “Never been a fire the coach guy. Willie Taggart seems like a good dude. But the reality: His 5 wins (vs. 8 losses) – Samford, N. Illinois, Louisville, Boston College, Wake. BC & L’ville made huge coaching blunders when they had game won. Tough to ignore.” Oh, believe me, nobody in the Seminole Nation is ignoring it.

13. Let’s turn to the Vols, who slipped to three games under .500 over the last decade. That’s a lot of moonshine. Steve Spurrier, who hired Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott at South Carolina, called the winning coach on Sunday. “I told him that reminded me of the game in 1982 when I was an assistant at Duke and we went to Knoxville and upset them,” Spurrier said. Most alarming had to be that Elliott watched video of the Vols from last year and realized his offensive line could push Tennessee around. Georgia State has been around 10 years. And knew it could handle Tennessee. Let that sink in. “It may be one of the glaring flaws to some degree for Tennessee,” Elliott said. “I thought we could push them a little bit with our offensive line.” I would be remiss not to include a piece of a column by Joe Rexrode of The Athletic here to describe the Vols’ performance. “(Jeremy) Pruitt and the Vols turned in a performance so putrid … it’s going to take a few paragraphs yet to digest that sardine-and-asparagus sandwich and burp something back up.”

14. OK, this column really feels negative, but it was that kind of weekend. I could write about the Year of the Freshmen Quarterback, but I’m saving that for the week Auburn and Bo Nix come to Gainesville. I could write about the transfer portal quarterbacks having success or that only one member of the top 25 lost and that was to another ranked team. But that’s boring. I had this thought watching Georgia -Vandy on Saturday. If I’m Derek Mason, I’m sending out feelers to find a new job, even a defensive coordinator job. Because if I have to stand on that field in Nashville and see another 80-20 crowd for the visiting team, well, I might lose my mind. Mason is a solid coach, but when you never get to play home games, it’s tough to win big games.

15. Our AP polls are due Tuesday morning, but I will tell you that I did switch Alabama to second based on the loss of linebacker Dylan Moses. I made several other adjustments, but kept Florida at 11th. Moved Wisconsin up a little and Boise State up a little. Here’s one final note college football’s first weekend — did anyone notice Trevor Lawrence had worse stats than Feleipe Franks in their first games of 2019? Asking for a friend.

My top 11:

1. Clemson.

2. Alabama.

3. Oklahoma.

4. Georgia.

5. Michigan.

6. LSU.

7. Auburn.

8. Ohio State.

9. Texas.

10. Penn State.

11. Florida.

16. One thing I am not good at — projecting college players into the NFL. I thought Emmitt Smith would struggle at the next level and Danny Wuerffel would be a star. I certainly didn’t think Jachai Polite and Teez Tabor would both be cut over the weekend and neither one claimed off waivers (Polite signed with Seattle’s practice squad). Polite’s problems started when he showed up for the NFL Combine out of shape and he seemed to carry a bad attitude right into Jets camp. It sounds like a guy not getting good advice. Tabor is a classic example of a player who could rely on film study and instincts to be a tremendous college player. But in the NFL, being a slow cornerback without much of a vertical leap will catch up with you.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Darius Rucker, the great singer and South Carolina fan — “Well, football season is over!!” It might be. South Carolina has a brutal schedule and the opener was one of the games the Gamecocks were supposed to win. And Will Muschamp said this was his most talented team.

18. Driving to and from St. Augustine this weekend to see my dad and watch some football, I didn’t want to hear any more talk about what might happen in Saturday’s games so I worked on this playlist:

* “Wild Roses” by Of Monsters and Men.

* “Dancing With Your Ghost” by Sasha Sloan.

* “The Story” by Brandi Carlile.

* “Used To Be Lonely” by Whitney.

* And because I went heavily in female singers in this rotation, we’ll macho it up with for today’s oldie “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper. Wait a minute.

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


  1. Can someone please explain to me how Michigan and LSU have improved since last year, sufficiently to be ranked 5th and 6th? I’m not seeing it. Joe Burrow’s arm strength will still be an issue against better secondaries.

    Auburn will be up and down. Save for a memorable final two passes, one of which was underthrown and saved by the receiver, Bo Nix did not play well and looked very much like an inexperienced freshman quarterback. Talented, but he’ll have a long day against the Gators.

    • I watched the Auburn-Oregon replay after not seeing it live, and then I had company, so I didn’t get a good look at Nix. The box score shows Herbert threw for a much higher completion percentage, way more yards, and no picks, while Nix completed only about 42% of his passes and threw 2 TD’s and 2 picks. Still, ESPN has Nix’s QBR at 1 point better than Herbert. Can’t understand that unless winning the game carries significant weight. One thing I did notice was that Kirk Herbstreit raved about how good Nix was and how he was taking over in the huddle and had a confident look in his eye. Sounded a little over-the-top, especially considering the way he ripped Franks on Game Day earlier.

    • Oh man I came here to say exactly this. I watched every snap of that Auburn game and … this kid threw probably two good passes (the last two). I mean, good on him for making the most important throws of the game. But come on already! He looked like a deer in a headlights the whole game.

      And FOR CRYING OUT LOUD with Michigan and LSU! The same Michigan team who the Gators pantsed at the end of last season, who basically did nothing in the offseason to get better (except hiring a spread offense guy to come into the “future” of 15 years ago?). The same LSU with the same Joe Burrow. I don’t get it. I understand the Gators looked sloppy as hell against Miami. But it was Miami, after all. Not MTSU or Georgia Southern.

  2. 1. Clemson vs. 3. Oklahoma
    2. Alabama vs. 4. Georgia.

    Pat, so today that’s your College Football Playoff ”Final Four” …AGAIN? Ugh! At least only in your fantasy poll, Pat. Because it will be ”a fantasy” for U.G.A. to still be ranked that high after early Nov. in J’ville, but now I’m the one digressing.

    So for now, at least make it reasonable. U.G.A. manhandling Vandy (and the U.G.A. fans taking over that ”big ship” of a stadium), versus beating a newly installed ‘O’ at Houston (from the ”American West conference” or something another???), like the Sooners did at home?
    Well then, UGA should be #3 in your poll, or maybe ”it just means more” to only me…

  3. “So who feels worse today — FSU fans or Tennessee fans?” Who cares? I’m just happy they both feel like shit:) I guess it could have been better but Vandy didn’t do their part…

    Gotta say, I am real surprised at the whole 0 points from USF. I have been a big Kerwin Bell supporter for a while. I would have thought Charlie Strong – Kerwin Bell would be a winning coaching combo.

    • I was at the at game (my wife is a USF grad), and USF was just outmanned. USF had the athletes to compete, but the trenches were a different story. Wisconsin’s OL just pummeled USF and the linebackers were blocked in the 2nd level on every play. I wonder if USF’s defense had ever seen an offense that used a fullback. The USF OL was destroyed too and there was no room to run and no time to throw. Plus, one receiver dropped 3 passes of 10+ yards (Ugh)! The only thing that surprised me was that USF seemed to give up after halftime. They have to recruit and develop in the trenches, or the good skill players are useless.

      • Not across the board, Orlando, but that really is the difference between the AAC and a Power-5 team. I am hoping tho that my men Charley and Kerwin will get it together down there….they sure ’nuff do have the athletes and a coaching combo that is a dream team if there ever was one.

        • Players have to have more than 2 months of Spring practice and 3 weeks of pre-season practice to get a new system down. Kerwin Bell has the track record wherever he has been and with whomever he has….he’ll make it work. As far as Rodriguez, don’t know how well that’ll work. Where Mullen has the capability to change his square holes to fit round pegs, I don’t really see Rodriguez doing that, which is probably why nothing has ever really worked for him since WVU.

          • Boy do I ever agree with all that, Corey. I had a wacky dream last nite that CDM decided he needed an OC and hired Kerwin Bell away from USF after the bowl games. Well, one can dream, can’t one? Regardless, Bell and Strong together should pay dividends in pretty short order — and I would like nothing more to see that happen this season.

    • Whatever the final score is against UT-Martin, I’m sure it either won’t be good enough or it will be an over-match in which we’re accused of running up the score against a hapless cream puff opponent, so expect further slippage next week led by our own Pat Dooley.

  4. Bad loss “rankings” start with Tennessee. That was embarrassing. FSU should feel shame because of the extraneous circumstances – they got a home game they weren’t supposed to have, they faced a freshmen qb and they had a BIG lead. Minus the first 2 things, it’s reasonable that Boise St. could stand in with a crummy Noles squad on a “neutral” field. But the Nolies choking that lead embarrassing. Willie Taggart – Mayor of Hotseatville.

    As bad as things were, Auburn saved a little face for the SEC by beating Oregon. But that still is more harmful to the PAC 12 than helpful to the SEC. Oregon and Utah were considered hopefuls to make the CFP (hahahahahahahahahaha). Auburn is about a 3rd tier SEC team. So a PAC 12 “heavyweight” losing to a middlin’ SEC team? Not a good look Left Coasties. When’s softball season start for y’all?