The Back Nine comes at you after a trip to St. Augustine to see my dad and get a surprise gift from my brother. More on that later.
10. We usually lean to the Gators to lead off this column, but it is impossible for anyone not to be talking about what Sunday was and that the Super Bowl two hours from Gainesville will include the home team for the first time ever. (Interesting, too, that all three Andy Reid Super Bowls have been in the state of Florida). There were so many Tom Brady age references on Twitter compared to Patrick Mahomes that it was dizzying. But the stat that caught my eye was that Brady has now won as many NFC Championships as Aaron Rodgers. That would be one each. Look, we all saw this Super Bowl coming when Brady signed with the Bucs. We were just distracted by that mid-season swoon.
11. But it is cool to have the two quarterbacks who won the previous two Super Bowls playing in the Super Bowl for the first time EVER. And as I am sure you know, Florida continues its streak of having at least one alum in the Super Bowl. There are two, both with the Chiefs, in Demarcus Robinson and Tommy Townsend, who made the All-Rookie team. LSU leads the way with six and there is a chance both teams will start an LSU running back. So maybe it’s RBU?
12. I could go on and on about Sunday’s games, but I would have to reveal how I am smarter than a lot of highly-paid coaches. I would never leave a corner on an island with eight seconds to play in the half and don’t get me started on this obsession with going for two because of what the score is instead of what it could be and everyone knows you don’t give Tom Brady the ball with a little more than two minutes to play and you’re trailing and all he needs is a couple of first downs. Instead, I will simply remark about how Championship Sunday feels different than anything in sports and it is the best weekend of the NFL season and the grilled wings I cooked were perfect.
13. And move on to the Gator basketball game Saturday, another nice win that upped the profile for this team mainly because it was another road win. Remember when Florida was destroyed on the boards by 21 in the loss to Mississippi State and I got after the Gators? It worked (yeah, right) because in the two games since then Florida has won the battle of the boards by an average of 11 rebounds a game. Rebounding is simple. It’s positioning and effort. Give this team some credit for continuing to improve even with the issues of players not being available. The Fire Mike White crowd has been muzzled, but all it takes is one bad possession to get the mob rejuvenated. Just silly.
14. Florida is now 26th in the NET Rankings and plays No. 185 in Vanderbilt Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. (it’s television’s world and we’re all just living in it) before the Big 12 Challenge game against West Virginia Saturday. Every week is a new adventure in college basketball. For example, the Gators had Scottie Lewis on the trip but he still as unable to play and you can understand UF being overly cautious. And then we see Michigan shuts down its program for two weeks. I still can’t believe we had almost a full SEC football season, but for that, I thank you.
15. There might not be a team playing better than Florida State right now but if you’re wondering why they were not ranked until this week a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Semis have played only two games away from home for different reasons. They are No. 21 in the NET. Here are the rankings as of Monday morning for the SEC (and remember, this is the No. 1 guide for the selection committee but not the only guide):
Ole Miss 65th
Miss. St. 92nd
S. Caro. 110th
16. Somewhat lost in what was a wild weekend was the Florida gymnastics team going on the road to Arkansas and pulling out a high-scoring meet on the last event. As special as Trinity Thomas is, team gymnastics is about more than one competitor and she had plenty of help, especially from Megan Skaggs. Skaggs was making her first appearance on the beam in two years and nailed it with a 9.95. The senior also won the all-around for the first time. Have yourself a night, Megan.
17. OK, so my brother Tim conspired with my wife to get a copy of my last column at the Gainesville Sun and have it framed. Made me well up. So did the fact he gave me his old set of Ping irons after I lost my 8-iron and 9-iron. Feel free to turn any of those into the pro shops of Gainesville as well as my putter. I have a bad habit of leaving clubs on the green while I walk off in anger. Anyway, that was a very brotherly gift and my wall is becoming complete in the office.
18. For the “Florida Four” this week, we are giving you a basketball tidbit supplied by Denver Parler, who is the “thumbs up” sports information dude for hoops. Tre Mann has a shot of becoming one of the best stories of 2020-21 season because of his improved scoring. He is currently tied for fourth on this list, but here are the four who have made the biggest scoring jumps from their freshman to sophomore seasons:
Dametri Hill +11.6
Joakim Noah +10.7
Dan Cross +10.5
Taurean Green +9.4
Mann is at +9.4 after lighting up Georgia.