The Back Nine: Florida has history in Orange Bowl

Florida coach Steve Spurrier celebrates a Brock Berlin first-quarter touchdown against Maryland in the Orange Bowl in Jan. 2, 2002. [file]

The Back Nine comes at you after a wild and crazy weekend, Part II, where coaches were hired and bowls were set and rankings were scrutinized and — gasp — the Patriots lost a home game.

  1. There seems to be some disappointment in the Gator Nation that Florida is playing lowly Virginia in the Orange Bowl. I said, there is SOME disappointment. A lot of people are thrilled and I will remind you that if you were hoping for the Sugar, where were you the last time Florida played there? (I think UF sold eight tickets for that disaster). Heck, the Orange Bowl game has been the scene of some of the great moments in Gator history. When Florida won the game after Steve Spurrier’s final season, it was the biggest win in school history at the time. And it was also this bowl game that was Spurrier’s finale as the head coach at UF. Oh, and Florida won a national championship in Miami (kind of, I mean, the stadium is a good haul from downtown Miami). So you might be upset because you are playing No. 24 (CFP) in the country and I get that, but it’s the way the bowls work. Be thankful Virginia is ranked. The Cavs were No. 23, then lost 62-17 to Clemson in the ACC title game and dropped ONE spot. Utah’s like, “Hey, that’s not fair.” I know the committee will tell you that they rank teams based on the top 25 best teams. But don’t you think a little human nature took over and the smart men and women in that room thought, “We don’t want an unranked team in a New Year’s Six bowl game?” 
  2. The biggest issue for Florida fans was to see Georgia at No. 5 and “in the discussion” to make the playoff over Oklahoma while Florida is at No. 9. This simply tells you that big wins were more important than bad losses. Oh, and head-to-head matters, too. The biggest thing was that Florida stayed ahead of Auburn and Alabama and got into a NY6 game. (You can’t spell Citrus without TU-scaloosa. No? Doesn’t work? Sorry.) Let’s say Florida wins and Georgia does not. The Gators could still end up in the top five ahead of Georgia depending on what else happens. Just enjoy it, Gator fans. Two seasons ago, you watched the entire bowl season from your couches. 
  3. Here’s another thing that crossed this muddled mind this weekend. Remember how, when you would see the schedule for the cross-division games and get upset about how easy this team had it compared to that team? For the better teams, that has changed. You want the tougher teams on the other side to help your strength of schedule. Well, you want the tougher teams if you have dreams of playing for the biggest prizes. If you just want to be bowl eligible, bring on that Arkansas-Vandy daily double. Think about it if we go to eight teams for a playoff. And on that subject, there has been a lot of Twitter noise about how this season is a perfect example of why four is perfect because there are only four teams worthy this year. OK, so I assume you think the NCAA Tournament should be four teams. If Oregon doesn’t lose to Arizona State (it wasn’t the Auburn loss that killed the Ducks) and Georgia doesn’t lose to South Carolina and … we could go on forever. 
  4. Most importantly, we found out the three new acts for SEC Media Days in Atlanta this July. Could the SEC have hired three more different candidates? Ole Miss hires the second most polarizing coach in America (Mike Leach is No. 1), Arkansas hires a career assistant and Missouri hires a guy 99 percent of SEC fans couldn’t pick out of a police lineup. We all know about Lane Kiffin, who did a good job competing at the FAU level (0-3 vs. Power 5 but — to be fair — two of those losses were to Ohio State). Here’s a stat that may surprise you because Kiffin is known as an offensive guy, but his 2019 team led the nation in turnover margin at +20. Sam Pittman is a beloved coach wherever he’s been, but faces a monumental job at Arkansas after Chad Morris left it in worse shape than when he got there. Eli Drinkwitz to Missouri after one year at Appy State sounded like a desperate move. But we’ll see. Here’s all we know for sure — there’s a reason these three had openings and none of them are easily fixable. 
  5. By the way, these are five of Kiffin’s first seven games in 2020 — Baylor, Auburn, LSU, Alabama and Florida. But let’s go back to that turnover margin thing, because the four teams who are IN this year included Oklahoma, which was minus-7. The other three combined to be +33. There are different ways to win games and the playoffs are often different than what we saw in the regular season. And with a ridiculous 16 games between the semis and the final, it’s going to be like a new season for the two survivors. However, we should expect offense in all the games because that’s the way to win now in college football. The four playoff teams are all in the top five in total offense this season.
  6. Obviously, this weekend started out well for Gator fans with Mary Wise’s volleyball team making it to the Sweet 16. But it took a turn when the basketball team laid another egg up in Butler. Mike White is struggling with this team, but everyone needs to get out of that football mentality. Three losses do not end a season. I get that Florida fans are frustrated with a team that was supposed to be better than this (at least on paper). But sometimes, a team makes tough shots at home and the other team misses wide-open looks on the road in a tough environment. The biggest concern right now shouldn’t be putting the ball in the basket. That will come. But when you allow 19 assists on 25 baskets, you’re playing pretty soft defense.
  7. After watching a bunch of NFL games while working on the Sunday Blog and the Back Nine and other junk (I’ll help with the tree later, dear), I am convinced there is a major penalty committed on every play. And about 70 percent of them are called. And yet, it was a pretty entertaining Sunday unless you are a Jags fan. Man, how did that franchise go from a fingertip away from making the Super Bowl to a 9-20 record over the last two years? Anybody?
  8. The Tweet of the Week comes from Andy Staples from The Athletic, who was really on his Twitter game this week — “As I lay my head on the pillow following championship Saturday, I’ll think only of this: Lane Kiffin is a head coach in the SEC again because a guy pretended to pee like a dog on the field. God bless America.”
  9. It was perfect timing to get to St. Augustine just in time for the end of the Christmas parade. Not. The good news was that I had more time to come up with a playlist. The bad news was that I could smell the barbecue I picked up just north of Hastings in the back seat:

* In honor of my oldest daughter Jennifer’s birthday Sunday (ask her what happened to her phone), “Jennifer Juniper” by Donovan.

* “On Your Side” by the Innocence Mission.

* “Democracy” by The Lumineers.

* “Pandemonium” by Darlia.

* And for an old one, “Mr. Soul” by Buffalo Springfield.

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



  1. This orange bowl should be similar to the thrashing we gave the then ACC Champs, Maryland. OHBC was very proud of that.

    I’m a Gator, but I think the popular or hopeful view that Bama is on the slide is dead wrong! Fluke plays kept them from easily putting away Auburn with the biggest being the Harris arm tip pass on the goal line for a 100 pick 6. Bama scores on that play and they are on their way to winning with an edge. Hard to believe Saban can’t find a kicker? The missed kick was big, but the sensational 12 man penalty was just that sensational, just an emotional stat…the missed kick was what lost the game, again a missed opportunity. Bama is a level above Auburn, coaching and players.

    An early 2020 story line will be LSU replacing Burrow. That will be similar to replacing Tebow. But at least they shouldn’t allow the whole team/sytem to be trashed like Meyer.

    • Totally agree BSCE. Anybody who believes the Alabama juggernaut is finished is just indulging in wishful thinking and has NOT paid attention to ALL it took to bring them down to a 2-loss season to AP #1 LSU by 5 points and #9 Auburn by 3 points. The Empire WILL strike back in 2020 and God help Michigan for being the first victim in their way! Dropping Alabama all the way to 13th is just what Saban needed to motivate his talented, young team to show the committee where they really belong, as soon as January 1st.

      Also agree on the challenges LSU faces repeating next season. It’s not just Burrow, they’ll also lose RB Edwards-Helaire, WR Jefferson and several guys on that spectacular OL to the NFL Draft.

  2. Dooley is 100% correct, football is determined by magic and the same teams have the same record in each stadium every time they play there. I can’t quite figure out why there are ever exceptions to that rule, but I’ll keep on trying.

    But one thing I do know for certain is that Mike Leach can’t hold a candle to Lane Kiffin when it comes to being polarizing, obnoxious, and the matter of weak character. Leach does trump (if that’s not too polarizing to say) on one thing however — he’s a helluva lot better football coach.

  3. To say, ”…sometimes, a team makes tough shots at home and the other team misses wide-open looks…” is the equivalent of saying, ”sometimes a home team makes a great play at the wide receiver position, and scores…” In other words, WEAK! I mean it’s like saying, ”sometimes the shots fall, and your team looks great!” Duh! I think the real problem, while not making excuses for Coach ‘W’ (like the local media is presently), they need CONTINUITY. They need FLUIDITY on offense. Any semblance of an offense. The Gator ‘D’ is always there for Coach White… most times. But the ‘O’, well, it’s like Will Muschamp’s version of college basketball. Go Gators! Just gel!

  4. “When Florida won the game after Steve Spurrier’s final season, it was the biggest win in school history at the time.”

    Dooley – Please explain how that is a bigger win than say, the 96 national title game or a multitude of other SEC titles.

    Brink: Pat wrote about Spurrier’s final season as a player.

  5. 10. “But don’t you think a little human nature took over and the smart men and women in that room thought, ‘We don’t want an unranked team in a New Year’s Six bowl game?'”
    This is exactly what’s wrong with the CFP Selection Committee; it’s smoke filled, back-room political machinations with no accountability and no transparency. Anybody that thinks this is better than the old BCS standings has a screw loose. The only real problem with the BCS was the fact that it only gave two teams a chance instead of four. All that was necessary to solve that problem was to expand the BCS to four teams. The formation of the CFP and the Committee was an unnecessary waste of resources.

    15. I disagree that soft defense is the Gators’ major problem. In a single game, maybe. For the season, the problem has been, and continues to be putting the ball in the basket. You won’t win many games when you take 20 3’s and only hit four or five. Either the outside shooting has to get better, or the focus has to be on finding a way to get easier shots. The best way to get easier shots, since the half court offense often goes stagnant, may be to speed up the tempo and try to get out in transition at every opportunity. Something has to change. Go Gators!

  6. “disappointment in the Gator Nation” Yea we could have had a real opponent on New Years day in the Citrus on ABC, broadcast TV where everyone would have seen us play someone, like Wisconsin. A much better Bowl game time and matchup! No one wants to see a blowout!
    ” smart men and women in that room”… More like CORRUPT men and women who have made a mockery of their last 2 polls, scheming, just like you said!
    Sorry, Kiffen is by far the “most polarizing coach in America”
    Jags? …Under coached! or poorly coached! That much talent and they play so poorly, they are not being coached properly.