MIAMI GARDENS — The Back Nine comes at you after a busy week and we hope you enjoyed the coverage from the Orange Bowl. Make sure you check out Gatorsports.com for my column on the game. It could win a Pulitzer (not really).
- You never want to get too far ahead of yourself and there is still football to be played this season. But you can’t help but wonder what Florida’s schedule is going to look like next year. I mean, we already know the teams the Gators will play, but 2020 looks a little different than it did when the schedule first dropped. That schedule looked way more manageable than the 2019 schedule, which actually ended up being easier than we thought going in because of the mediocrity of Miami, Missouri and FSU. Confused yet? The reason the 2020 schedule looks different is that Lane Kiffin is at Ole Miss (you can ridicule him as being an immature baby but that will be a difficult game in Oxford because he is a brilliant play caller) and because FSU’s Mike Norvell already won two recruiting battles by keeping Tamorrion Terry and Marvin Wilson on campus for another year. Both were expected to jump to the NFL. Then there is the weirdness of playing South Carolina on the first Saturday of October. I’m not sure how that affects the game, but it will be different. The biggest factor for next year, however, will be what happens at LSU. There are a lot of rumors that Joe Brady is gone for the NFL (Ravens?) and we know Joe Burrow will go ahead and be the No. 1 pick (unless the Bengals screw it up) and there are a lot of high impact juniors on that team who will have decisions to make. Can LSU maintain?
- I have been asking myself why we didn’t see this Bayou Wave coming in the preseason (there is no way Clemson is beating LSU.) It’s not like we were blowing LSU off. The coaches poll and the AP both had the Tigers at sixth. This from a team that had a ton of talent back after a 10-win season. Most of us didn’t trust Ed Orgeron enough to elevate the Tigers into the top 5 (especially ahead of Alabama), but none of us knew what a difference Brady would make. It feels like a perfect storm this year for LSU with the best receivers, best offensive line and best quarterback in the country and the guy who knows how to make it work. I’m not taking anything away from Steve Ensminger or Ed Orgeron, but Brady deserves a bulk of the credit. After the title game, we are going to have to ask ourselves whether or not this is the best offense we have ever seen in college football. When you consider the defenses they have destroyed, it might be.
- The tragic deaths of two journalists last week was painful for everyone who knew either Carley McCord, the daughter-in-law of Ensminger, and our own Ed Aschoff. I didn’t know McCord, but I know a lot of people who did and you can tell how good a person is when people around her are truly devastated. I have not written about Edward because it has been too painful. The thing I would tell anyone who didn’t know him was that everyone who knew him thought they had a special, loving and unique relationship with him. That’s how he made everyone feel. There have been a lot of tears in the Dooley house and a few in the hospitality room at the Orange Bowl where we all decided to be a little nicer in this new year. Being more like Ed Aschoff would make us all better people. I miss my friend and the thought of never seeing him again and never texting back and forth during a game again is making these old eyes water up again.
- I bet you didn’t know that the first Orange Bowl queen was the mother-in-law of Jon Mills, the dean emeritus for the UF law school. Her name was Marguerite Sweat and she was in the parade wearing a cellophane football. Thanks to the reader who passed that information to me. Actually, the first two Orange Bowls were called the Palm Festival and were not sanctioned as NCAA bowl events. But I digress.
- The last time we came to this stadium it was one of the most unremarkable NFL stadiums I have ever been to. That was in 2013 for Florida-Miami and if you haven’t been to the refurbished Hard Rock Stadium lately, you’d be amazed at the difference. Not only is there the overhang that makes it feel like an almost-indoors stadium, but everything about it feels first class. As someone who covered a lot of games at the old Orange Bowl and a few at Joe Robbie-Pro Player-Landshark-Dolphin Stadium-Sun Life Stadium, this new version is excellent. And the new press box is sweet (I know all of you get tired of hearing how the media is treated so I won’t mention our police escort to the game). Every time I’m in a stadium like this, I wonder what Florida’s will look like down the road when they reduce capacity and add amenities.
- It almost feels like we all just need to take a chill pill when it comes to officiating at every level (I’m looking at you, little league dad). Yes, the missed interference call early in the LSU-Oklahoma game was egregious. Ohio State fans (and Big 10 officials) are still complaining about a number of calls in their loss to Clemson. And in the NFL, where you’d think the best officials should be working, every game is filled with blown calls. But no results are going to change and it would help everybody’s blood pressure if they just accepted bad calls as a part of the game. Now that I’m writing this, I feel like I’ve made this point before. Clearly, my advice isn’t working.
- So eight days after South Carolina beat defending national champion Virginia, the Gamecocks lost to Stetson. At home. I’m guessing the only reason that game was even scheduled was that Frank Martin and new Stetson coach Donnie Jones are good friends. But it goes to show how crazy the pre-conference season has been in college basketball. Which may mean it will be as crazy now that we are headed for conference play. And then we’ll see if it translates to a wild and wacky NCAA Tournament. We always talk about every college football game being its own game, but it’s even more that way in college basketball.
- Twitter was ablaze and vicious all weekend with the big games in college football and the NFL. Some of you were very clever. I could do a book on the Miami Tweets. But this was the Tweet of the Week from Tuscaloosa columnist Cecil Hurt — “Oklahoma responding to its annual CFP invitation like the buddy you invite to your NYE party every year even though you know he’ll never make it to midnight before he starts throwing up on the carpet.” Sad, but true.
- It was a long week in Fort Lauderdale, but it was good to get back to my old stomping grounds. My first job out of college was at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and there were still some recognizable landmarks. Anyway, he’s this week’s playlist:
* “Camouflage” by the Front Bottoms.
* “Surefire” by Wilderado.
* “Deep In Love” by Bonny Light Horseman.
* “Reasons I Drink” by Alanis Morissette.
* And in honor of the re-release of a 40-year-old live album last month, “Surrender” by Cheap Trick.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.