The Back Nine comes at you after what can only be described as a weird birthday weekend. I was sick on my birthday and even more sick watching Florida’s defense against Samford, but not Florida’s defense against FSU.
- Did I say weird? Let’s see, the football and basketball scores were almost the same and that has to be a first. We had 70-52 and 71-55. And yet, the fanbase feels almost the opposite about the two results. The fans who are ready to dump Dan Mullen were probably sharpening their knives for another round of Mike White-bashing when Florida trailed at the half a day later against FSU. Instead, Florida’s basketball team put on an impressive show in the last 10 minutes and – as Leonard Hamilton said – “out-Florida Stated Florida State.” Which was my exact reaction. That team was playing for Keyontae Johnson and you know why. I’m not sure what this football team is playing for.
- And, of course, the football team got everybody mad at them by celebrating in the locker room. I agree that it is not a good look, but you can’t blame the players for celebrating their first win since Oct. 9. Why not enjoy the moment? People need to chill, but I’m guessing that won’t happen. To be honest, I don’t see any way I’m picking the Gators to win either of their last two games because both teams have reasonable enough offenses to put up big numbers against a defense that is not trying to tackle anybody. And then, we are left to wonder if Scott Stricklin pulls the plug or rolls with the changes that Mullen has to make.
- Clearly, firing Todd Grantham may have been the answer for next year, but it wasn’t for this year. During this awful run of five wins in 13 games, Florida has allowed 32.1 points a game. The last one goes on Christian Robinson’s resume, but this is still Grantham’s defense. And these are still the same players with very little commitment to doing their jobs. That’s the one thing that is hard to shake – why these guys won’t play hard. And that goes back to the head coach. On my birthday, I received so many wonderful texts, but when anyone not around here sent me one they added this at the end – What the heck is going on in Gainesville? I can’t explain it, how a coach who could be considered a top 10 coach in America could see it all dissolve so quickly.
- Quick stat for you – Florida has a real shot to have its first back-to-back seasons with single digits in interceptions since at least 1977. That is the first year in the media guide that has everything logged in. DBU? Don’t even try it.
- Enough talking about bad football, let’s talk about some good basketball. Sunday was so emotional for the team and the staff and the Rowdies. And Florida played with that emotion. Despite dealing with the flu, the Gators finally broke that losing streak against the Seminoles. That’s what you do when you have adversity – you play harder. You don’t roll over. White said it best when he talked to the team after the win – it’s just one game. But it was a special one. “We have a chance to be good,” White said. “But we have a lot of work to do.” Still, this was the kind of early season validation of how good it can feel when you put in the work. “This can lay out the foundation for the rest of the season,” said Anthony Duruji, who played 36 of the toughest minutes you want to see out of every player.
- One thing about this Gator basketball team – White wasn’t kidding when he said this would be a better team defensively. There weren’t many easy shots for FSU. Colin Castleton is becoming a star and worthy of his first-team All-SEC selection in the preseason. He said Sunday he is taking the approach that “it’s my rim” and that it’s not just the blocked shots (he has 12 in two games) but altering shots that is part of that defense. This is an older team that seems to enjoy playing together. It’s early — really early — but it was a nice birthday present Sunday.
- It was not a good week for The Picks, including a bad beat in the LSU game where I had the Tigers and 2½ and Arkansas won it with an OT field goal. So, a 1-4 week is another program heading in the wrong direction at 35-32-3 for the year.
* Florida is a 7.5-point favorite over Missouri. I guess since the game Saturday was not on regular TV, the wise guys must have missed it. Missouri is not anything special, but Florida is not going to have an ideal travel schedule because the big runway in Columbia is closed so they have to fly to St. Louis and bus two hours to the hotel. And this team looks for reasons not to play its best. Take Mizzou and the points.
* Michigan State is getting 18 points at Ohio State, which seems to be a lot. I’ll take those points.
* FSU is getting 2.5 points at Boston College and I would think the Seminoles will cover. They are playing better and they know that if they lose then the Florida game will be only for bragging rights.
* I know what Alabama can do to teams, but Arkansas getting 20.5 points seems a little excessive (it opened at 22). Take the Hogs to cover.
* Auburn was a 10.5-point favorite at South Carolina. Then, the news broke that Bo Nix is lost for the year with an ankle injury. Instead of good Bo or bad Bo, it’s no Bo. I would have taken SC with the 10.5. Now, it’s 6.5. I’ll take the Gamecocks.
* Oregon is getting three points at Utah. Oregon will probably be ranked third when the new CFP rankings come out Tuesday. I’ll take the Ducks.
- By the way, Florida softball destroyed FSU in a fall scrimmage 10-inning game or 10-inning two games or whatever it was. And Phil Mickelson won his fourth tournament in six tries on the Champions Tour. So, Sunday was a really good day.
- Since the Gators scored 70 points on Saturday, I figured we should go with nothing but songs from the 1970s for this week’s playlist. Here are three of my favorites from the worst decade of rock music. Oh, there were a lot of great songs, but more bad ones than anyone can count:
* “Into The Mystic” by Van Morrison.
* “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe” by Barry White.
* ”Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.