Now that the sports season is winding down for the Gator programs, we’re going to switch gears. The Back Nine will continue Mondays, but we’ll let the Front Nine take the summer off. Instead, we will help you get through the hot months of June, July and August in anticipation of football season with the “Friday Fivesome”, which will be five things about college football that Pat Dooley thinks he thinks. Let’s start and we hope you enjoy the buildup to the 2021 season.
1. I have thought a lot about the first game of the season. Not because it is Florida Atlantic, a team that scared the aw-shucks out of Jim McElwain’s 2015 team (losing in OT) and not because Willie Taggart is the coach. We’ll get to all of that in a later “Friday Fivesome.” No, this is about the stadium and just how packed it will be if we continue on this course of improvement in the battle against COVID. I don’t think many people will balk at going to the games because of the pandemic. The bigger question is how many have gotten used to watching games at home? In some ways, it’s a perfect way to start the “Return to Normal’, a night game that gives people plenty of time to tailgate, etc. But I do believe this will be an indication of where we are heading. Certainly, the home game two weeks later will have tickets selling for big bucks on the secondary markets when Alabama comes to town. But this first game will tell me a lot about where the Gator nation is as a fanbase in terms of attending games. Don’t forget, UF set a max at 17,000 or so for last year and never sold out a game.
2. Paul Finebaum said on ESPN the other day that Texas football is no longer relevant. And they showed a graphic about the Big 12 and how it has been more than a decade since Texas has won a conference title. I guess everyone has their own criteria for what a relevant program is and what isn’t. How many truly relevant programs are there? There are only a half-dozen programs with a real shot at the College Football Playoff every year. Maybe 10 if you want to stretch it. Does relevancy end there? Is Cincinnati a relevant program right now? I made a list and came up with 16 programs I consider relevant and 10 more that could get relevant soon. But before I put these lists out, I want to let it simmer a bit. Keep an eye out for them.
3. Of course, the SEC passed the rule to allow one-time transfers within the conference not to have to sit out a year. Did anyone think the conference was going to put itself at a competitive disadvantage? No, young man, you can’t transfer from Georgia to Tennessee, but Ohio State and Oklahoma said they are interested. And the transfer portal is far from being over for this upcoming season. You’re going to need a great bandwidth to figure out who is where.
4. The more I look at Florida’s upcoming schedule, the more I want to put the over/under at 10 wins. Now, this is all predicated on the belief that Dan Mullen and Emory Jones are going to work like a well-oiled machine and Todd Grantham will remember how to get his guys lined up correctly. But if you can’t have optimism in the summer, when can you have it? To me, the games where Florida will be the underdog are Alabama, at LSU and Georgia. There are trap games and sandwich games and anytime you go to Columbia, Mo., you better bring your pudding snacks. I guess what I am saying is I wouldn’t bet the over, but I wouldn’t bet the under either. So just don’t bet on this season in those terms. Am I making any sense? Also, know that in Vegas, the over/under is nine.
5. ESPN released the news that in the first three weeks of this college football season, there will be more than 100 games on the family of networks. That information and the promise of a cold one after you’re done should make it easier to go mow the lawn. It also will take us back to No. 1 and offer fans more reasons not to go to games. I get it, but I also understand that being at a game is different and special. And I know Scott Stricklin is working on a lot of things to continue to enhance the fan experience.