The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that was going really well in St. Augustine until the disaster in Lexington.
10. I was wrong. I thought Florida might be on the verge of a run this season, that the quarterback situation had been worked out and the defense was getting better and the Gators were a confident bunch. Maybe overconfident. The defense did enough, but the offense was just sad. And now, Dan Mullen is sitting here with a 1-5 record in his last six games against Power 5 teams. That’s not good whatever school you are at. And it certainly isn’t good enough at this school. Nobody with a brain is asking for a new head coach. But this has been a bad streak of football over two seasons with two different styles of play.
11. I have been to Lexington many times. It’s a good crowd, one that seems to have gotten louder the more Mark Stoops does well. But it’s not in the top half of the league in terms of noise. That’s why all of those false starts felt like a problem that should not have been that big of a problem. At some point, don’t you go to a silent count? And, look, I know that Mullen has done something that Ron Zook, Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain never did – lose in Lexington. And lose twice to Kentucky. Karma was definitely on the side of the Kats, but even when things were going poorly, I expected Florida to find a way like they usually do. Today I sit here and realize that Kentucky – outside of two plays – really didn’t do that much to win the game. Instead, they let Florida lose it. That was a switch.
12. One of the big questions for Mullen after the game involved his decision not to try to score at the end of the first half. Yes, they did take over at their own 13, but those Gators USED TO try to score in that kind of situation. It just shows that Mullen and his staff do not trust Jones the way they trusted Kyle Trask. Which is something we already knew. But what is now obvious is that he doesn’t trust any of his quarterbacks despite asking the fans to trust Jones.
13. And now, Florida really has no chance to go to Atlanta unless they can get tickets. I don’t see Georgia losing to another team, let alone the mighty Gators. And Kentucky would have to lose three times. Remember how almost every media person before the season talked or wrote about how the Gators were going to take a step back this year because of all of the lost talent? Now that they have, everyone seems shocked. Maybe that’s because Florida had played Alabama to the wire. A couple of days ago, Alabama was the team taking a step back. And Mullen was a genius and John Hevesy was a legit candidate for national assistant coach of the year. Funny how one weekend can change so many perceptions. Now, everyone believes Alabama and Georgia are in a league by themselves. Although I’m not sure anyone thought before the season that Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky would be the last of the undefeated teams in the SEC.
14. Saturday was the anniversary of the passing of the great Tom Petty and the playlist will reflect the sadness I felt even before the Gators laid an egg. So, on the anniversary of his death, the Gators did back down. Actually, they just kept backing up because of the penalties. The 15 were the most since Steve Spurrier’s 2001 team committed 15 against Mississippi State 20 years ago. That team – which had a much bigger margin for error than this year’s team — won that game 52-0 and elicited this great quote from the HBC – “It was a good win, but it’s just one win. We can’t get too excited. I tried to tell our guys we don’t get nothing extra for beating them 52 to nothing.”
15. I did better on The Picks on Statement Saturday going 4-2 to get back to even for the season at 17-17-2. On to this week:
* Florida is giving up 38 points against a Vanderbilt team that is coming off a win. Of course, it was against UConn. Still, I’m never turning down 38 points against a team that struggles to score that many points. Take Vandy and the points.
* Auburn’s big win Saturday came just in time for a visit from Georgia. The Tigers are getting 14.5 points and perhaps Bo Nix is finally getting it. But Georgia is a different animal this year. Take the Bulldogs and give the points.
* LSU has problems of its own with seven losses since it celebrated the 2019 national title. The Tigers are getting 2.5 points at Kentucky. Will the Wildcats celebrate the win over Florida too deeply into the week? I’m taking LSU.
* Alabama is a 17.5-point favorite at Texas A&M. This was supposed to be the game of the year. It is not. And stay with Alabama even giving that many points.
* The bowl game for the two teams who were embarrassed in big games last week has Arkansas getting 4.5 points at Ole Miss. I can’t get the images of the two teams out of my head from Saturday, but I am taking Ole Miss and giving the points.
* Penn State is getting two points at Iowa. This Iowa team may be for real. As I would tell one of the Gator running backs, take the Hawkeyes, Pierce.
16. I have to get schooled up really quickly on the Milwaukee Brewers, who play host to my Braves in the playoffs. Does Robin Yount still play for them? And when did they switch to the National League? Just kidding. Thursday was a special night with the Braves clinching. Proud of those guys.
17. But really, could you ask for anything better in terms of high drama than the wild-card games Tuesday and Wednesday? Yanks at Red Sox in Fenway? Cardinals and Dodgers on the Left Coast? I’m not a fan of the one-game playoff, but when it’s not my team it sure does get exciting. I’ll take the Yankees (begrudgingly) and the Cardinals, but I think the Rays will win it all. Champa Bay just keeps it rolling.
18. My reaction to Brady vs. Belichick? Went to bed at halftime. That drama was a big deal, but it’s over and not much changed in terms of the dynamics of the 2021 season. Anyway, I wanted to pick the perfect Tom Petty playlist for today. I went with three rockers:
* “You Wreck Me.” Which many fans feel about their Gator football team.
* ”Jammin’ Me.”
* ”I Need to Know.” As in, I need to know why Anthony Richardson didn’t play more.