The Back Nine: Last opener vs. ranked foe ugly for Gators


Published: Tuesday, August 22, 2017 at 6:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 21, 2017 at 10:17 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after attending my fourth wedding in 17 months, which means I’ve had to wear a tie four times in 17 months. I’m spent.

10. Now that the official Associated Press rankings are out, we know that Florida is playing against a ranked team in its opening game for the first time since the 1987 season. Don't ask Gator fans how that went. For you millennials, Florida scored four points against Miami that day and they were not playing Canadian Football League rules. Certainly, it’s the most anticipated opening game in what feels like forever in part because it’s in Jerry World where the Gators have a 1-2 record … in basketball. I made the trip when Billy Donovan’s team went to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in 2013 and the Final Four in 2014. It’s an amazing building that is less than ideal for basketball, but something special for a football game. (If you are staying in Dallas, give yourself plenty of time to get to the stadium. Trust me.) I always chuckle when you hear a coach say his team might have worked a little harder in the offseason and camp because of a big-game opener. You know who else is working harder? The team you’re playing. It’s a wash.

11. We won’t have another Saturday without football until Jan. 6 of next year starting with this one and while you wouldn’t watch the games scheduled this Saturday if they were played in your backyard in November, there are some of us who are giddy with the thought of games that matter (kind of). In that way, this is the first game week of the season. Excited? We’ll see the first kickoff of the season at noon (OK, well, I will because it’s a tradition) and Charlie Strong’s debut and another game in Australia. I think it’s an excuse to grill out something special. Like I need an excuse.

12. If you believe in numerology, it may take away from some of the excitement of the upcoming Gator season. Let’s recap:

• 1967: The year after Steve Spurrier’s Heisman Trophy win, Florida went 6-4, finishing the season with losses to FSU and Miami.

• 1977: Remember the “woosh-bone?” Florida had the fastest backfield in the nation. The Gators also went 6-4-1.

• 1987: UF lost it’s only bowl game ever in Hawaii to finish 6-6.

• 1997: A year after winning the national title, Spurrier’s team lost the only games he lost to Georgia and LSU in his 12 seasons. The Gators did finish 10-2, but ended a streak of winning four straight SEC titles. Believe it or not, youngsters, this was considered a down year for Florida football back then.

• 2007: Tim Tebow won the Heisman. That was the good news. The bad news? Florida lost four games.

Of course, there was no eclipse during any of those years. So Florida has that going for it.

13. All of those Kentucky fans who think I have something against the Wildcats should know that my AP vote was responsible for all of the three points it received in the first poll. So there. I like the Kentucky schedule and I think Mark Stoops is doing a good job of building the program. That said, there’s a strange calm over Butch Jones that should worry everyone in the SEC East. Expectations are realistic in Knoxville. He seems to be enjoying that. It doesn’t hurt that his opening opponent next Monday night — Georgia Tech — just dismissed its best player from the team. I think I’ve officially gotten to the point where I’m starting to overanalyze everything. Let’s have some games.

14. And let’s not forget that Mary Wise’s volleyball team opens the season Friday night against the No. 1 team in the land, Texas, here in Gainesville. UF is pushing to get 6,000 fans in the volleyball team’s first-ever game in the refurbished arena. There is never a shortage of big-time events in this town if you like sports. If you don't, well, we can’t be friends. Of course, soccer has started strong as well. It was a cool gesture for the UF soccer team to ask for a patch to honor Becky Burleigh’s parents Ron and Nancy, who both passed away this year. Very cool.

15. Last year, I made my predictions for the NFL playoffs in the preseason and I was fooled by the Jaguars, who promptly went 3-13. Now, it looks like quarterback Blake Bortles will be looking for a job next year and the Jags probably won’t let him see the field again because he gets $18 million if he suffers an injury. So the state of Florida will feature the following starting quarterbacks (likely) in Week One — Jameis Winston, Jay Cutler and Chad Henne. Hmm. I’ll make my picks next week but I know this — two of those teams won’t be in there. It shouldn’t be hard to guess which two.

16. For those of you who have enjoyed the radio show I have been doing for the last two years, the majority of it with Tom Collett and the last few months solo, we are making a change at WRUF. Brady Ackerman and Shane Matthews will take over my 10 a.m. to noon slot starting Thursday and I’m moving to the Tailgate show with Jeff Cardozo and Zach Abolverdi (did I spell that correctly?) from 4 to 6 p.m. Couldn’t be more excited. Well, I could be. I could be doing it with Tom Hanks and Scarlett Johansson. But I am excited.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from author John Carvalho, an Auburn alumnus — “From now on, Clemson will be known as ‘Auburn with an eclipse.’ " This is in reference to the old joke that Clemson is “Auburn with a lake.” And there was an eclipse Monday. If I have to explain the Tweet, maybe it wasn’t that good.

18. It has already been a rough month, losing Glen Campbell, Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis. I’m starting to realize that as I get older I’m going to see more and more people I was huge fans of leave us. With that in mind — and a little late — the ultimate Campbell playlist:

• “Galveston.”

• “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife.”

• “By The Time I Get to Phoenix.”

• ”Rhinestone Cowboy.”

• “Gentle On My Mind.”

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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