The Back Nine comes at you after a week of hustling to catch up to where I should be for the 26th Bob Dooley Invitational and using up a tank of gas without leaving town.
1. That said, the generosity of the people in this town never ceases to amaze me. I can’t list everyone who contributed something last week or will in the weeks ahead but allow me to mention our title sponsors Titan MRI and Leonardo’s at Millhopper. I am overwhelmed with the support and I really love this community. And I know the people at Stop Children’s Cancer appreciate you all, too. Pat yourselves on the back Hogtown.
2. OK, so this is something the great Jeff Cardozo and I may talk about on the Tailgate today and I’ve been thinking about using it as a Book of Lists item for Gators Wire “I am in full plug-away mode). But it is kind of amazing to see how much love Florida football got last year and how little it is getting this year now that the dust has settled on what rosters will look like heading into football season. For example, the SEC has four of the top eight teams in FPI (which is a flawed stat annually), but not one of them is Florida. The Gators are down at No. 14 and I think when the polls come out later they will be right around that spot, maybe even lower. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I have always believed that – unless you are one of the caviar crowd (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State) – there is always a metric the voters use when doing polls in the preseason. Is your quarterback returning and did you win your bowl game? That’s just lazy voting.
3. Which gets me to the point of how different last offseason was compared to this one. Last offseason, it was a real challenge to pick between Georgia and Florida and the media boys and girls picked UF (and were right) to win the East. This year, I think it will be unanimous for Georgia. It’s not just what Florida lost, it’s Georgia’s conference schedule. From the other side, the Dogs get Arkansas and an Auburn team with a new coach. Florida gets Alabama and LSU. There are years when its just not fair which is why it wouldn’t bother me to go to 10 games in the SEC the way we had it last year. But there are too many schools who need the cupcake games to have a shot at being bowl eligible.
4. So, the NCAA this week went ahead and did what should have been done a long time ago and will allow one-time transfers without sitting out. There is a concern that a lot of players in football and basketball will not be able to find schools that will take them and then will not pursue their degrees without scholarships to help them. And that is a very real concern. I believe there should be an education process to really explain this to everyone who wants to enter the transfer portal. Or maybe we can develop a fund for players who can’t find a landing spot and still want to go to school. I know the money is there.
5. It’s a big weekend and – as the great Tom Petty said – kick off the dust, if you don’t run you’ll rust. I’m getting a nervous stomach waiting for the NCAA gymnastics for Florida’s young ladies. Talk about a small margin of error, nobody has a smaller one than the ones getting up on a four-inch-wide beam in Fort Worth. And then we have the NCAA volleyball championships where Florida already has won a match and will now face Ohio State on Sunday. That’s a battle between the eighth seed and the ninth seed so it should be a good one in Omaha.
6. Of course, the teams that use bats went into the weekend with different momentum. Florida’s softball team has a huge series at Alabama, but lost its midweek game to a good UCF team 7-0. Shake it off ladies. This series will have a lot to say about the SEC title. The baseball team had a walk-off win over FSU that was so exciting that shirts came off and now plays host to Missouri, which is 11-20 and in last place in the East. It’s big for the Gators because in a couple of weeks they will select the host sites for the NCAA tournament and – while Florida has no shot at a national seed – the Gators want to at least host the first weekend. So, a big weekend followed by another one at Auburn would certainly help the cause.
7. Remember when the Red Sox were swept by the Orioles to start the season? Now, they are leading the AL East and have won nine of 10. Never overreact to early baseball results. That’s why I can take all of these Atlanta extra-inning losses and let them slide off my back. Kind of.
8. It’s “Trivial Trivia Time” and as we get closer to an NFL Draft that feels like it is still miles away, how about this one? It has been almost a decade since Florida has had a tight end selected in the NFL Draft. We know Kyle Pitts will end that drought, but who was that player and who selected him?
9. I’m going old school with my recommendation for viewing today because I’ve been in a mood lately. With all of the stations and services we have on our cable, it’s not that hard to find anything you want to watch, even if it is from way back. I was thinking about how much my Dad liked “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” and was able to find it on Prime Video and watched a few episodes. Not all of it holds up but it was really bawdy for its day. And the cameos were priceless. You bet your sweet bippy I enjoyed it. The last tight end taken was Jordan Reed by the Washington Football Club in 2013.