Can the Gators Find Salvation?

It is a new era in Gainesville. To update the numbers from last week, the Gators are now 8-8 in their last 16 games. During that stretch, they are 0-7 against teams ranked in the top 25. They’ve been outscored in those seven games 227-83, the average defeat being 20 points. Arguably, you have to go back to the probation-starved 1986 and 1987 seasons to find a time when Florida played this poorly in back-to-back seasons (and even then they had three wins over top 19 teams). Can you remember back that far? Were you even born then? I was 12 and living in South Florida, watching Miami and Florida State battle for supremacy every year with UF a distant joke. As I pointed out last week, even in the Zook era, Florida was competitive in big games and won a few of them. These current crop of Gators are not competitive; they are embarrassing on the big stage.

This is not going to be a “fire Will Muschamp” blast. Too many of you misread last week’s rant as a call for his head. That’s ridiculous of course. Muschamp has had seven games. He is a rookie head coach, implementing a vastly different offensive scheme and trying to get the best out of a roster of mostly freshmen and sophomores. But that doesn’t mean he’s done a good job so far. Frankly, Muschamp and his staff have done a poor job. The Gators are undisciplined, ill-prepared and overmatched on game days. The play calling has been suspect (three straight screen passes in one drive against Auburn). Player rotations have been questionable (#freegilly, Xavier Nixon). Development has been hard to see (has anyone improved from last year besides Caleb Sturgis until he was hurt).

Obviously, you have to give Muschamp time. The popular refrain this week has been to look back on Nick Saban’s first season at Alabama, a 7-6 stink fest that included an unsightly home loss to Louisiana Monroe. You’ll get no argument from me. Muschamp has to find the right players for his system. He has to find guys that will share his passion and fire for the game. You get the feeling right now half the guys are scared of him and the other half think he’s crazy. That has to change.

We have a bye week to lick our wounds and find someway to salvage the season. Otherwise, there is a decent chance this team limps to 6-6 and an outside chance it finishes with the first losing season since the infamous 0-10-1 1979 debacle. But to be completely honest, wins and losses no longer matter this year. It is all about finding some talent, finding some leaders and finding some players who will live and breath the Muschamp way. That is the way to salvation in 2012 and beyond.

This week’s poll:

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Oklahoma
4. Wisconsin
5. Boise State
6. Oklahoma State
7. Stanford
8. Clemson
9. Oregon
10. Kansas State
11. Arkansas
12. West Virginia
13. Virginia Tech
14. South Carolina
15. Houston
16. Nebraska
17. Michigan State
18. Michigan
19. Texas A&M
20. Georgia Tech
21. Auburn
22. Illinois
23. Arizona State
24. Washington
25. SMU

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