Pat Dooley’s Front Nine: February 12

The Front Nine comes at you with another Saturday devoid of Gator basketball. Thank goodness we are about to have multiple choices of sports to pay attention to.

1.We’ll get to the drought of Florida basketball games, but since we have officially entered “Talking Season” with football finished for another season, let’s go right to some of the things I’ve been thinking about concerning the 2021 Gator football season. NFL coaches often do this or at least they use to when I was covering the league. But they would mentally divide the season into fourths with four segments of four games each. Last year, that was difficult for us to even think about with games being postponed and rescheduled and we don’t know for sure that it will be any easier this season. However, we can hope. So, we have divided this upcoming Florida season into fourths, one for each month. Remember also that this is a year where the Gators only have half of their games in the Swamp, which may not have been a big deal in 2020 but should be significant this year.

2. Here we go and feel free to respond:
September: At minimum, Florida needs to go 3-1. A loss to Alabama at home would not be crippling and if the Gators can pull what we assume would be an upset, well, that is when we would start thinking of UF as a possible playoff team. Not before.
October: In this month, pulling off a 3-1 mark will not be easy, especially with only one game played in the Swamp. At LSU, Georgia in Jacksonville. This is where Florida’s season will be defined as it often is.
November: Let’s assume that FSU is three years at least away from being anything to worry about. There is also the game at Missouri that is a concern. But this is a month where Florida should be able to finish with a 4-0 record, unless they move a game or somebody throws a shoe.

3. That leaves Florida with a 10-2 mark, which might be the ceiling for this year’s team with a new quarterback. It also would likely mean a fourth straight New Year’s Six bowl game, although after the Oklahoma debacle I’m not sure that floats anyone’s boat. The schedule has its rough spots, but after playing 11 SEC games including eight in a row, I don’t think anyone will be complaining. Hey, there isn’t a UF schedule after this year for the next nine years that doesn’t include at least three Power Five teams. And with the scheduling of Notre Dame this week, the 2031 schedule includes nothing but Power Five teams. So, you might as well get used to it.

4. The job of being on the basketball selection committee is not going to be easy this season because of COVID-19 and the way it has played havoc with schedules. In my opinion, it has also revealed a NET Rankings system that has major flaws. The biggest flaw – one way to climb up the ladder is not to play games. Florida is the perfect example of that. The Gators were No. 31 after the devastating loss to South Carolina. They haven’t played since, postponing three straight games because of safety protocols. Florida is now No. 25 in the NET Rankings. There are other things that are difficult to figure out, but the NET is just a guide and not an absolute. Certainly, if Florida plays at Arkansas Tuesday night, it will be an opportunity to get some love because it would be a Quad 1 win. Arkansas is No. 26. It seems strange to think that there are only five games left in the regular season, although the SEC has an open date at the end for rescheduling. Obviously, Florida can’t play all three of its games on March 6, but would add one (likely Tennessee).

5. Here’s a head scratcher with the NET and we’ll just leave this here. Missouri has five Quad 1 wins and is No. 34. Colgate has no Quad 1 or Quad 2 wins and is No. 14. Colgate didn’t start until January, plays a doubleheader every weekend (Saturday and Sunday) and has had four games postponed. The Raiders are 7-1.

6. Even with basketball sitting out and football being over, it’s a pretty good weekend of sports. Of course, there is the Daytona 500, although there could be some rain issues. And Florida begins its 25th season of softball Saturday. The Gator Invitational teed off this morning if you need to get out and walk. And you have a rare Monday night women’s basketball game as Florida plays host to No. 20 Kentucky after UF pulled off an overtime thriller Thursday night at LSU. And lacrosse starts its season Saturday on the road at Louisville.

7. But the big one will be tonight when No. 1 Florida goes up against No. 2 LSU in Baton Rouge, a gymnastics meet that is must-see TV. I know that regular-season gymnastics meets are more for overall seeding than anything, but this one has a different feel to it. It’s on the SEC Network at 7:30.

8. This week’s Trivial Trivia Question is a dandy, but only because I think you’ll need a website guide to get it correct. In 1996, there were 10 players who made first team all-SEC. Two of those players were not first team on the Associated Press team but were on the Coaches’ Team – Ike Hilliard and Fred Weary. Name the two receivers ahead of Hilliard and the two defensive backs ahead of Weary.

9. When it comes to entertainment, you think, “What Would Pat Watch?” Just kidding, but today’s recommendation requires YouTube where you can watch an entire SCTV show. Not all of the jokes hold up, but if you get an episode with Bobby Bitman, Johnny LaRue and Lola Heatherton, you’ll thank me. The trivia answer – Reidel Anthony and Joey Kent were the receivers and Anthone Lott and Deshea Townsend the defensive backs.

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