The Back Nine comes at you after the end of football season and the beginning of basketball season, which is the way some people look at it.
10. There were a lot of people disappointed in the big game on Sunday and the usual snarky comments about the halftime performer. We should all be happy that people were wearing masks in that show even if they were fashioned after Hannibal Lecter. And The Weeknd in that amusement park maze of lights must have felt familiar to Tennessee football fans. I expected this great, back and forth game but Tampa Bay’s defense got in the way. And those guys deserve immense congratulations. I think Todd Bowles, the Bucs defensive coordinator, should have been given the MVP, but I don’t think they allow that. Tampa Bay looked like an SEC defense (we’re not counting last season) with its speed and physicality and it has been that way throughout the playoffs. Tom Brady was the easy MVP choice for those who never think out of the quarterback box. But I might have voted for TB linebacker Devin White. Naw, not glamourous enough.
11. Yes, I was one of the people who questioned the officiating on Twitter and got scolded by former Buc Ahmad Black for being a “Twitter referee” after the first half. My only problem was that the game seemed to be called differently than the other playoff games and certainly players think they know what they can get away with. But the officiating was not why the Chiefs lost. And neither was Patrick Mahomes the problem. The dude threw the five best incompletions in football history. The problem was that the reshuffling of the offensive line didn’t work.
12. But now, Tampa Bay, you have had enough with a hometown team winning the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup and being in the World Series. Let someone else have a magical year that will spawn a dozen books. And here’s something I thought about this weekend (not THE Weeknd) — how the pandemic kind of forced the best to rise to the top in football. Alabama, Brady. Two title bouts with a combined score of 83-33? Zzzzzzz.
13. With the weekend off because of COVID issues, the mighty Gators actually dropped a couple of spots in the NET Rankings down to 31, mainly because Arkansas and Missouri both won to jump ahead of them, and then rose a spot without playing on Super Sunday. (That’s a bold strategy, Cotton.) Now, with the Tennessee game postponed as well, we wonder when this team will play again. It also did not help in bad loss category that South Carolina reverted to form and was hammered at home by Mississippi State. The Gamecocks were outrebounded by 16 in that game. Do I have to give my rant about rebounding? No?
14. We know that the postponement of the game Wednesday is another opportunity lost for Florida at Tennessee, which is No. 10 in the NET Rankings. We’ll see whether or not the two games lost so far will be rescheduled but I don’t see how. The Gators are also sitting in a four-way tie in the SEC for third place. The conference is a jumbled mess from three through 12 but did get a little more interesting at the top when Missouri beat Alabama to pull within two games. It is starting to make me wonder if all of college basketball should just quarantine until the Big Dance. College sports will be in a bad way if the tournament is canceled for two straight years.
15. While we hope that Super Bowl parties didn’t cause a bunch of hot spots and the numbers continue to go down, it is exciting to think how close we are to softball and then baseball. Florida opens Saturday in Tampa in softball and, of course, there is the baseball opener Feb. 19 against Miami. It’s funny how these days when someone comes to Gainesville, we make sure they go by the baseball field the way we used to tell them to go to Lake Alice. Actually, you can do both pretty easily and quickly. Never mind.
16. Sorry, but I want to bounce back to football again because the Hall of Fame was announced Saturday night and there were no big surprises. Jaguar fans are stunned that Tony Boselli was left out and can’t understand why Fred Taylor isn’t already in and I feel your pain about the latter. I didn’t realize that they voted back in January and the players had to keep it a secret until it was officially announced. “It’s bigger than just me. I get that my family’s disappointed and friends are disappointed,” Boselli said. “But as I told them, ‘Hopefully one day we’re celebrating and it will all be worthwhile – and the waiting will pay off in a big way.’ So, we’ll see.”
17. One thing about the Gator football and basketball teams – they have shown resilience. There has been a lot of that going on around this country, some of it in more serious situations. But my sports point is that Florida came back from two weeks off in the middle of a football season and won its next four games by a combined 189-87. Hoops came back after two weeks off to open the SEC slate with two wins. Of course, neither sustained that high level of play. But we’ll see what happens with basketball the second time through a delay.
18. For the “Florida Four” today, I was curious to look up Florida’s lowest seeds in the NCAA Tournament and how the Gators did. Turns out there were three times when the Gators were the No. 10 seed and twice UF has been a seven seed. (So, this is the “Florida Five” today.) The Gators have never and eight or a nine. That’s kind of strange, but the three teams that were 10 seeds barely got in. Anyway, this is how they fared:
* 1989 – Seven seed, lost to Colorado State in first round.
* 2012 – Seven seed, made it all the way to the Elite Eight before blowing a double-digit lead and losing to Louisville.
* 1995 – 10 seed, lost to Iowa State. In Tallahassee, of all places.
* 2010 – 10 seed, lost to BYU and Jimmer Fredette in double overtime after missing the tournament for two straight years after back-to-back national titles.
* 2019 – 10 seed, lost to Michigan after a mild upset of No. 7 seed Nevada.
That 2012 ride with Florida was so much fun and I have so many stories. Maybe I’ll make that a whole column one day.