The Back Nine comes at you after a wild weekend and the pleasure of having friends in town for the game. Gator fans, you only have one more home game, which still seems odd to me.
10. It was a bad Saturday. Gators lost. Braves’ season ended. It was a bad day. It makes it worse that after a Saturday and Sunday of writing, I have nothing else left to say about the defense for the Gators. Well, that’s not true. I do have some stats to lay on you. But they are almost frivolous because any of you who have watched this defense know enough about football to know a bad defense when you see it. It is literally embarrassing.
11. The biggest stat that is making the rounds in social media is that Florida ranks last in the country out of 131 FCS teams in third-down defense. LAST! There is no excuse for that. I thought about adding up the yardage on the 51 third-down conversions, but it would take too much energy for something you already know, that this may well be the worst defense that Florida has ever put on the field. It is a defense that is on a pace to shatter the UF record for most first downs allowed in a season (274 in the COVID season).
12. One more stat and then I will leave the defense alone. Florida is also on pace to destroy the school record for punts forced in a season. The record is 43 in 1971 (second year of Doug Dickey and a 4-7 record). Florida has only forced 18 punts in seven games. That is fewer than three per game and in three of Florida’s seven games (USF, Tennessee, LSU) – two losses and a near loss – Florida has forced a total of two punts.
13. The question is why? Why is this defense so bad? Is it the personnel? Is it coaching? Is it the schedule? I think it’s a combination of all three. You cannot give the coaching a pass despite a roster that is not very good on that side of the ball. I know Corey Raymond was a big get for Billy Napier, but the pass defense is 87th in the country and many of the 21 missed tackles in the LSU game came from the secondary. Patrick Toney is playing a lot of soft coverages and all of these stats are not going to look good on his resume. But the players clearly are not very good if they were historically bad under Todd Grantham and now have a chance to break all of the records for defensive futility under Toney. Florida’s defensive staff needs to utilize this bye week for some self-examination.
14. I said going into the game that Anthony Richardson had to play well, not spectacular, for Florida to win. He played well enough and his 81-yard TD run was spectacular. He wasn’t sharp the whole game, but he was certainly good enough for Florida to win the game. So was Ventrell Miller, who gave an impassioned speech to his team during the second half and another one after the game when he implored his teammates not to quit the way they did a year ago. Before the season, I said Florida was two injuries away from a 6-6 season – Richardson and Miller. Now, it appears to simply be a 6-6 team with those two players.
15. As the Tennessee-Alabama game was going back and forth in the fourth quarter, I kept wondering if this was the best game I have ever seen. It might have been because I like a lot of offense when I have no dog in the hunt. I think Bryce Young was making a Heisman move before his team fell short, but now I would have Hendon Hooker at the top of my list. Did you see the referees under the goal posts haul butt off the field after they signalled the kick good? They knew what was coming. Tennessee happily paid for new goalposts and the $100,000 fine for storming the field. Which is why Greg Sankey and I have had the discussion about the fines being meaningless and him wanting to put some teeth into the penalties. Good luck with that.
16. The Braves were worried about the wrong team from the NL East. They chased, caught and passed the Mets, but the Phillies knocked them off. That’s all I have to say about that. Why the Braves decided not to pitch in the playoffs is a mystery.
17. Despite a “bad beat” when FSU decided to start playing in the second half against Clemson and covered the spread, Dr. Football went 3-2 on The Picks for a season’s record of 19-15. On to this week:
* Ole Miss is giving 2.5 points at LSU and I guarantee you that Jayden Daniels does not put up the kind of passing numbers he did in Gainesville. I am definitely taking Ole Miss and giving the points because I don’t think LSU is anything special. The Tigers just looked that way against Florida.
* Syracuse is getting 14 points at Clemson and these Tigers seem to be reminding people that they are still around with a 13-game winning streak over two seasons and a record of 33-4 in its last 37 true road games. I think the Orange will see a burst bubble this week. I’ll take Clemson and give the points.
* Duke is getting 8.5 points at Miami. It is a battle between two of the teams with the least amount of home-field advantage in the Power 5. I’ll take the ‘Canes.
* Texas A&M is giving 4.5 points at South Carolina in a game between two of the biggest disappointments in the SEC. Both, however, will score in the 30’s on Florida’s defense (Hey, I thought you were finished). I’ll take the Aggies.
* UCLA is undefeated, but is a 4.5-point underdog at Oregon, which says a lot about that environment. I’ll take the Fighting Chip Kelly’s and the points.
18. My wife gave me an early birthday present and took me to see The Head and the Heart Thursday night at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and it was awesome with a capital A. My three favorite songs from the concert make up today’s playlist:
* “Virginia (Wind In The Night).
* ”Lost In My Mind.”
* ”Rhythm and Blues.”