My halls have been decked and the cookies consumed. It was indeed a wonderful Christmas with my family over in St. Augustine. I hope yours was just as great.
10. So, we started the trip by getting to our rental home (the kids call it an Airbnb) just in time for the start of Florida’s bowl game. What a shame. One more disappointment. One more episode of “America’s Bad Penalties”. One more chance to see a depleted team with a depleted coaching staff stink up the place because this team never understood how much the other team wants to beat you. One more night sitting there with a cocktail on the deck and thinking about the sadness that has enveloped this program. That’s really the overwhelming theme of this season, that there were so many nights when you thought about taking up a Saturday hobby other than being a Gator football fan. Help is on the way. It’s just going to take time.
11. By the way, the official tab now stands at 7-10 since Robbie Andreu and I retired. Florida decided to shake things up by losing to a Group of 5 team for the first time since the Will Muschamp Era. I wrote something for GatorsWire about the good and bad things about going bowling with a bad team. Right now, you’re probably wishing the game had been canceled like so many others have been around the country. It’s not embarrassing to have lost this game to UCF. Yes, their fans will be obnoxious about it. But the majority of the season was embarrassing, not just one game. Maybe I could write a listicle of Florida’s most embarrassing performances of 2021. Just sad.
12. One thing I could never figure out about this team was its identity. Other than throwing interceptions and committing bad penalties. I know Billy Napier said he’s starting with a clean slate, but there are certainly things he has seen that will be difficult to scrape off the resumes of some players. What was the identity of this team? Was I a bunch of underachievers? Was it a lack of discipline? Was it an offense that could move the ball but not score? Or a defense that was at its worst when it needed a big stop? I keep rolling this around – was this a poorly-coached, poorly-prepared, poorly-motivated team or did the Gators just not have enough talented players? Maybe a little bit of both.
13. And the pressure is on Napier right away because he is one Florida bowl loss from the Gators falling back to .500 lifetime in bowl games. Just kidding. We can’t blame him. But the bottom line is that Florida is in a bad place right now and all Gator fans want to sit back and trust Napier and everyone over there at The Firm to get this figured out. But there are no guarantees. The three-coach losing streak tells you that. The three seasons under .500 in the last nine years should never happen. But it did and we all saw it and are thinking fondly back to the days of Ron Zook. He never dipped below the break-even line.
14. In some parts of this country, they don’t start paying attention to college basketball until the NCAA Tournament starts. In others, it begins when the Super Bowl ends. In a college town like Gainesville, the season really starts when conference play begins. So, it starts Wednesday at 5 p.m. when the Gators take on Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. I could give you a scouting report on the rebels, how they have some nice wins in an 8-4 season or how they lost to Samford the last time out. But this game, like all of the others this season, will come down to which Florida team shows up. The one that makes a lot of threes or the one that turns the ball over a ton? The one with the All-SEC center that dominates or the one that sees him spend too much time on the bench in foul trouble, It feels like with this team, every game is winnable and every game is losable. Buckle up.
15. I tried really hard to work around injuries and COVID to have a good fantasy team for our Tailgate Show. It almost worked. Got to the semifinals. And then I was steamrolled. So, now I can pay attention to the important things – like which team wins instead of which player scores. I have a feeling the playoff are going to be really good. And Cooper Kupp has made me a Rams fan again.
16. And I guess I’ll start paying attention to the NBA now. Sigh.
17. Dr. Football feels a little like George Costanza that time he made a killing in the stock market. You know, flashing your wealth around. Except – in this case – it is still pretend money. I was 4-0 against the spread to take me to 53-40-3 for the season. Not too shabby. Picking against the Gators has been easy money this year. Even the pretend money.
On to this week and some big games with some big spreads:
* Houston is getting 2.5 points in the Birmingham Bowl on Tuesday against Auburn. I remember my first Birmingham Bowl. And that’s all I have to say about that. And take Houston.
* In the Mike Leach Liberty Bowl, Texas Tech is getting too many points, so jump all over the Red Raiders.
* The Duke Mayo Bowl has raised awareness of the differences in this country. You either love mayo or you hate it. I’m a fan. I will also take South Carolina and the nine points against North Carolina.
* Purdue Is getting 4.5 in the Music City Bowl against Tennessee and the only thing that may be interesting about this is that if the Vols lose the SEC East will have four of its seven teams finish below .500. That’s not good. Take Rocky Top.
* Both of the national semifinals are difficult picks because the spreads are so large. Georgia is a 7.5-point favorite over Michigan and while it is hard for Georgia fans to get the taste of the SEC Championship Game out of their mouths, I still think the Bulldogs are going to end their title drought. But I will still take Jim Harbaugh
S team with that many points. And I can’t give 13.5 points to Cincy against Alabama, so take the underdog.
18. We were looking for something that wasn’t a Christmas movie Sunday night and my oldest daughter was pushing “Rushmore.” I thought I had seen it but I really hadn’t watched more than a snippet here and there. So, we did and it was great and the soundtrack was tremendous. As a result, a “Rushmore” playlist today:
* “Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl” by The Kinks.
* ”Ooh La La” by The Faces.
* “The Wind” by Cat Stevens.
* ”A Quick One, While He’s Away” by The Who.