The Front Nine comes at you with the full knowledge that Sunday it will officially be Bob Dooley Invitational week. It’s kind of like Masters week without the Champions Dinner.
1. We were talking about this on the Tailgate the other day – who are the third best teams in each division of the SEC in football. That’s assuming you think Florida and Georgia are tops in the easy (duh) and Alabama and Texas A&M tops in the West. That second team is a bit debatable but now that Jimbo Fisher has become cocky enough to poke the bear that is Alabama football, we will concede it. I would have a difficult time taking anybody but LSU for that third spot because the Tigers have the second-best players. Ole Miss will have to play SOME defense before I take Lake Kiffin too seriously and I just don’t know what to think about Auburn. As far as the East goes, I have a feeling that if anybody challenges the two big shots in the division, it will be Missouri. Kentucky will be what Kentucky always seems to be. Solid. Good, no chance for great. Tennessee, come on, I won’t even call them the Kardashians this year.
2. That’s the interesting thing – what are the ceilings and the floors for every team. It feels like all but Florida and Georgia in the east have a ceiling of, well, getting bowl eligible. The gap hasn’t been reduced. Nor has it been reduced in the West between Alabama and the rest of the division. A&M has to beat Alabama to take them REALLY seriously, right? And Johnny Manziel isn’t walking through that door.
3. So, let’s do this for fun knowing I’ll be allowed to change my mind after SEC Media Days in July. Here’s my 1-to-14 heading into the 2021 season.
3: Texas A&M.
6: Ole Miss.
11. Miss. State.
13. South Carolina.
That’s it. That’s the list. For now.
4. Florida’s opening game of the Kentucky series was a microcosm of this season in that the Gators fell behind, rallied to tie it, blew a chance to take the lead and then kicked away the game with a crucial error. I’ve seen this movie before. If the Gators are not careful, they are going to blow a chance to at least have the regionals at home. Forget Super Regionals. There is something missing with this team that I have a difficult time putting my finger on. And yet, every time I’m ready to give up on them, they do something to bring me back. Still, this has been a weird season.
5. It has not been weird for softball, which goes into the final series with a chance to share the SEC title. I know Tim Walton is preaching to his team that it cannot win all three games tonight against Texas A&M, that you just have to win this inning or this at-bat. But it’s human nature to think about the necessary sweep and it can put pressure on at-bats if you fall behind. Anyway, good luck to the ladies and thanks so much to the Florida coach for what he gave us for the golf tournament. I know I’m bidding on one of the items.
6. How about a little love for the lacrosse team, which tends to get ignored during the spring with so much emphasis on baseball and softball. The Gators will play Saturday for the American Athletic Conference tournament championship at the Diz at noon and I’m at least toying with the idea of heading over and then catching the softball game at 4. I need to get out of the house more than just driving around town picking up prizes. I’m declaring Saturday “Be a Real Fan Day.”
7. And I could also head over to tennis and watch the No. 1 seeded Gators open play in the NCAA Tournament. Interesting that Bryan Shelton is changing up his doubles lineup as the tournament begins. It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. And the women start today in their 33rd consecutive NCAA tennis tournament. Amazing.
8. It’s “Trivial Trivia Time” and today’s question will test your softball knowledge. No fair looking it up. Walton will likely get his 800th win at Florida later this season. But what team did he beat to get his first win as a Gator coach?
9. I have to admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time watching anything but sports on TV lately. But that won’t keep me from giving you a recommendation because I did watch the documentary “Don’t Look Back” about Bob Dylan’s tour of England back in 1965. It was directed by D.A. Pennebaker and if you are a Dylan fan it’s really interesting. And if you aren’t, you should be. The Trivial Trivia answer is Kansas. Florida opened up with two losses in Walton’s first season and then beat the Jayhawks 7-2 in Houston.