Pat Dooley’s Back Nine: January 4

The Back Nine comes at you with a sense of relief because I attended the Florida-LSU basketball game as a fan and did not jinx the mighty Gators. As a result, my daughter Kelsey said I am allowed to attend future games.

10. It would appear that Gator football fans are going through the man phases of feelings with the football coach, something that happens at a lot of places. Especially those that did not end the way they wanted to. There is a small but vocal segment that want to move on from Dan Mullen and another group that is concerned he might leave for the New York Jets. Certainly, all Gator fans should be more worried about the latter much more than the former. I don’t think it happens, but I learned a long time ago that the day you have seen everything is the day you pass away. Look, I get that there are some people out there who are crippled by the way the Gators finished the season. This was a team that looked like a playoff team with a Heisman winner and the demanding fans want that to be the norm rather than the exception. There are certainly plenty of reasons to be disappointed in Mullen this year EVEN THOUGH HE GUIDED A TEAM TO THE SEC TITLE GAME IN A PANDEMIC! Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout there. I wasn’t happy when he demanded the Swamp be full or when he ran out onto the field at halftime of Missouri to berate officials or when it was revealed he had a show/cause levied against him or when he didn’t get his team properly prepared for LSU. But the thought that Florida would want a new coach is the Gidiots at their peak. Get a grip and hope that your current coach learns from his mistakes. Sheesh.

11. Most of the displeasure with Mullen is because he has not and doesn’t appear willing to fire Todd Grantham after a historically bad defensive season. It would be easy to say that defensive coaches Ron English and Torrian Gray were the scapegoats, but the Gators were next to last in the country in scoring passes allowed. And none of us are in that meeting room. These moves aren’t going to help Mullen with the fan base and that’s why there is so much negativity. I don’t think any of us can truly understand why the defense was so bad – I mean, putrid – this season after being so good last season with the same defensive coordinator.

12. I had several conversations with smart people about how to handle the final Associated Press poll, which is due within an hour of the national title game next week. I have it ready to go, but I keep trying to figure out what is right for Florida. As someone put it to me, “If Florida was a top 10 team with Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, wouldn’t they still be a top 10 team just because those guys opted out?” That won’t be happening on my ballot, but I will probably have Florida higher than a lot of voters. Part of the problem with the bowl system – and I’m saying PART of the problem – is that we have that fresh memory of a loss or even a win in our brains in what is basically an exhibition game. That has an effect on their final rankings and their preseason ranking next August, which is probably unfair and irrelevant. My first try at this final poll had Florida at No. 17. You have a week to change my mind on the Tailgate with Jeff Cardozo.

13. I don’t have any real solutions to the postseason problem facing college football. The Bowl games have been rendered irrelevant for so many players and the only fans who get really into bowl season are football nuts (like me) or fans of the teams playing. And we now have had 14 College Football Playoff semifinals that have had an average margin of victory of 20.9 points a game. We don’t know for sure if the answer is to expand the playoffs, but it might be worth a try. The problem is that football is not like basketball where one great player can carry a team. I think it’s at least worth giving it a shot.

14. It was something of a stunner to see Texas cut loose Tom Herman, but this had been brewing for a while and the latest news about players leaving and telling other players not to go there didn’t help. You know what else didn’t help? Texas A&M blowing past the Longhorns in recruiting and on the field. Steve Sarkisian is a good coach, but hardly known for his recruiting so this will be another interesting experiment as Texas tries for its season 10-win season since it won the national title in 2009. One thing you realize is that the best recruiter at Alabama is … Nick Saban.

15. Urban Meyer to the Jaguars? I love that rumor. Shoot, he might get the old band back together with Charlie Strong and the guys. Meyer turned down Texas (I’m hearing that was some time ago, not last week which tells you a lot about the dissatisfaction with Herman) and I can’t see him in the NFL coaching a team that is going to lose a lot of games even with Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. But who knows? I know how itchy he gets doing TV (even though he is very good at that). Stay tuned.

16. Florida’s gritty performance against LSU says a lot about this team, but don’t sprain your ankles jumping off the bandwagon if things don’t go well this week with games against Alabama and Kentucky. Alabama is coming off that big win (actually the biggest of Nate Oats’ short Alabama career) and Kentucky possibly finding a scorer in Dontaie Allen, who had been mostly watching the Wildcats lose six of their first seven. It got a little nerve-racking there at the end Saturday for the Gators, but that was a nice win over LSU.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the SEC Network’s Peter Burns (who is also a guest on Monday’s podcast, but that is just a coincidence) – “Last 2 years, the ACC has gone 4-13 in Bowl games, two of those wins coming against Eastern Michigan and Temple. They were 1-9 vs. Top 25 opponents. Last 2 years, SEC has gone 15-4 in Bowl games. (SEC was) 12-3 vs. Top 25 opponents.” I stand by what I said, that we put too much emphasis on bowl game results, but after a while there is a track record.

18. The Florida Four today is not a positive one, but that’s because of the way the season ended. Florida lost its last three games, something that has happened 13 times in the history of the program. Two of those teams went winless, but there were four teams in UF history that lost the last three and still didn’t have a losing record. Here they are:

* 1950, under coach Bob Woodruff, lost four straight games to lose the season (Kentucky, Georgia, Miami, Alabama) and finished 5-5.
* 1999, under Steve Spurrier, lost to FSU, Alabama in the SEC title game and Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl and finished 9-4.
* 2015, under Jim McElwain, lost to FSU, Alabama in the SEC title game and Michigan in the Citrus Bowl and finished 10-4.
* 2020, under Dan Mullen, lost to LSU, Alabama in the SEC title game and Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

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