The Back Nine comes at you from a different platform but it’s the same old Dr. Football. Stay with me peeps. I’m staying with you. Kind of like those aunts in that commercial.
10. Think about this but not for too long or you’re going to end up having nightmares. But when Florida was courting Chip Kelly to replace Jim McElwain, Tennessee was courting Dan Mullen. God smiled on the Gators, as the ambassador would say, and Kelly pulled out so Mullen, who also had a conversation with UF, could slide in. Tennessee, after a nasty coaching search that saw Phillip Fulmer pull his second career coup (ask Johnny Majors about the other one), ended up with Jeremy Pruitt. Now, I take you back to the Florida-Tennessee game in the first encounter between Pruitt and Mullen. Both teams were coming off miserable seasons, but I walked out of Neyland Stadium thinking Tennessee had a lot further to go to get back to respectability than Florida (which won 47-21). Saturday night, watching the game, it didn’t feel the gap was any narrower. Tennessee, losers of six straight by a total of 117 points, is not a good football team. Remember when Fulmer said, “We’re back” after the Gator Bowl?
11. So Pruitt and Mullen started the same year and it’s easy to say they have taken different paths. Pruitt is 15-18 with one bowl game. Mullen is 29-6 with the two New Year’s Day bowl games and whatever happens this season. Oh, there is still plenty of criticism of Mullen, but that’s what fans do. This week’s gripe session concerns Florida’s inability to run the ball. Tennessee was playing a lot of players in the box so Florida threw on almost every play. And it worked, just like last season.
12. I know that a lot of Florida fans cannot watch this team without thinking about Alabama. I’ve said it a million times, Florida wasn’t playing Alabama last week. Or this week. Next week is another story. And there isn’t a lot of reason for optimism. You know why? Alabama is the best team in the country and it’s not close. But instead of fretting about the Crimson Tide, try to enjoy the last home game of a season that was almost scrapped. And don’t forget that it is Senior Night and these guys have helped resurrect Florida football.
13. It is funny, though, that Florida-LSU feels so different, mainly because the Tigers stink like a sewer full of used diapers. LSU is 113th in total defense despite having some really good players on that side of the ball. Somehow, Bo Pelini forgot that you are allowed to use safeties on passing plays. This game has become Florida’s fifth rivalry (in order, Georgia, FSU, Miami, Tennessee) and the teams don’t like each other. Be careful guys. LSU has nothing to lose but a second-half targeting or fighting penalty could cost you time in the SEC Championship Game.
14. Kyle Trask or Mac Jones? Mac Jones or Kyle Trask? Trask has better numbers but it will still come down to next week’s game. I wonder if Devonta Smith could still some votes away from Jones? I mean, the guy is playing football at another level.
15. Speaking of numbers, I am a stat guy despite the old saying that statistics are for losers and assistant coaches. So I was researching all day Sunday (my wife was, like, “Aren’t you retired?”) and here is what I came up with. SEC home teams in this SEC-only schedule only have a 34-24 advantage as we head down the stretch. That’s 59 percent and understandable because of the lack of big crowds at the home venues. Also, the SEC East is not doing well against the West with three games to go trailing 15-10. Considering Vandy went 0-4 and Tennessee will fall to 0-4 when it faces Texas A&M in two weeks, it’s not surprising.
16. It’s difficult to get a feel for the Florida basketball team and how good it might be but a 3-0 start is better than the alternative. Tre Mann looks like a different player and Florida can come at you with a lot of different weapons, but having to postpone the first three games hurt the strength of schedule and missing so much quality practice time didn’t help. But it’s that way for everybody. Especially Kentucky. The Wildcats are 1-3 and we know the story about how they will look bad with a young team and then find themselves in March. Interestingly, Kentucky has the worst record of the 14 SEC teams so far. I know, it’s early. The SEC right now is 29-11 in non-conference games. OK, that’s enough math for today.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times –”But seriously. My issue with Kyle Trask v Mac Jones in the Heisman race is that I don’t think the QBs are the best players on their teams. It’s Pitts at Florida and Smith for Bama.” You could certainly make that argument.
18. This is where some of you will stop reading because you are expecting five songs to listen to. And while I know the playlist had its fans, I think that whole thing had run its course. Instead, we will finish each week with what I’m calling the “Florida Four Pack.” This week – the four best catches of the 2020 season (so far):
1. Tre Grimes vs. Georgia (14 yards). It was an amazing athletic catch and was also a dagger in the heart of the Bulldogs at the end of the half.
2. Kyle Pitts vs. Ole Miss (17 yards): Trask threw into double coverage but somehow Pitts found a way to catch the ball between two defenders in the end zone.
3. Justin Shorter vs. Arkansas (21 yards): Shorter high-pointed to ball perfectly and came down in the end zone to give Florida a 21-7 lead on a wild night in the Swamp.
4. Pitts (again) vs. Tennessee (21 yards): I don’t know how a guy can twist his body the way he did and still be under control. One play later, Florida put the game away on a TD pass to Jacob Copeland.