One of the greatest TV shows ever completed its run earlier this year. In Lost’s final season, an alternate universe was played out simultaneously with the current one. You were given a glimpse of the lives of the characters based on two distinct and different timelines of events. It got me thinking about the alternate universe for Florida fans if Steve Spurrier had stayed at Florida back in 2002.
January 4, 2002. Your typical morning in the Spurrier household. Jerri’s out back tending to the roses, Steve’s upstairs putting on a polo and a pair of khakis before heading for the driving range. The Ol’ Ball Coach is still stinging from his team’s collapse in the final regular season game of the year. That loss to Tennessee in a game rescheduled because of 9/11 had the potential to be a program changer at Florida. It cost Florida a berth in the SEC title game and likely a shot at a national title. But Spurrier shook it off, as he has most things in his life, and didn’t do anything rash.
The 2002 season was a magical one in Gainesville. The offense was completely unstoppable. After finishing second in the Heisman race the year before, Rex Grossman took it to another level, teaming up with Taylor Jacobs and Earnest Graham for one of the most prolific offensive attacks in Gators history. Grossman took home the Heisman easily over Carson Palmer and Ken Dorsey. The Gators knew they were headed for big things when they upset #1 Miami in the opener at the Swamp. From there, the Gators rolled to an undefeated season and a meeting with Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes were no match for the Gators speed and were blown out 41-14.
Florida has remained a constant national title threat ever since. That 2002 offseason appeared to be a real turning point for Spurrier. He was faced with some real adversity and something clicked inside him and with his teams. Charlie Strong’s return as defensive coordinator shored up the weakest area for the Gators and lead to pure dominance in the 2000s. The Gators won back-t0-back titles in 2005 and 2006 with Chris Leak breaking most of Grossman and Danny Wuerrfel’s records in route to another Heisman for a Florida QB. After rebuilding years (the Gators lost a ghastly four games combined in those two years) in 2007 and 2008 that saw Alabama led by Mike Shula and Tim Tebow win titles, the Gators returned to glory in 2009 with new stud QB John Brantley leading the offense back to its elite levels. Spurrier’s success with the true pocket passers at Florida has been revolutionary… the Fun N’ Gun swept across the college football landscape to the point that almost every successful program runs a version of it.
Some other interesting notes about the past nine years… yes, Tebow found some success at Alabama with head coach Mike Shula. The Tide returned to glory briefly before collapsing after Tebow left school early before the 2009 campaign. Shula was fired earlier this year and replaced by a young upstart in the coaching ranks, Lane Kiffin. Notre Dame briefly returned to the national stage under its head coach Urban Meyer. But Meyer resigned in 2009 and entered the priesthood.
…and scene… must have eaten some prolific mushrooms last night.
Anyway, back in the real world, today we face our worst nightmare come true. Spurrier will enter the Swamp today with another shot at trip to Atlanta. But instead of leading the Gators, he’s carrying his Cocks. If things go his way, it is going to be a surreal experience seeing our Father, our Maker dancing his way to the SEC championship with another team. I know Florida has found itself these past couple of weeks. But there is nothing but trepidation today. The Ol’ Ball Coach has us in fear. My first pick of the day… South Carolina +6.5 (buy up to 7).
Lousiana Tech -16
Arizona State +4.5