If for some reason you are optimistic about the state of the football program at the University of Florida, you might want to see a doctor. There is something seriously wrong with you. No matter what you try to tell yourself, the decay is deep in Gainesville. Even the eternal optimists who predicted 8 or 9 wins because of health and a new offensive coordinator and better luck know this now. The past two games proved it unequivocally. They are who we thought they were.
Don’t let the fact that Florida was tied with Alabama in the third quarter fool you. Don’t think the Gators “only” losing by 21 somehow shows improvement. That was an utter and complete whipping the likes of which haven’t been seen in Gainesville in
a long time 10 whole months. Alabama should have won that game by 50 or 60. The Tide’s numbers were staggering – 645 total yards, 449 passing yards, 28 first downs, 12 for 16 third-down conversions and 39:16 time of possession. The Gators’ numbers were right in line with what we’ve seen for a few years now – 200 total yards, 11 first downs, 9 for 28 passing, 3 turnovers. Florida showed zero competency on offense. Shockingly, they proved to be just as inept defensively. The one thing Will Muschamp could always hang his hat on – defense – is no longer a functioning unit. The blown coverages and big passing plays were obvious but what really killed were the missed tackles. I haven’t seen the stat anywhere but I’m guessing the Gators missed somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 tackles.
Jeff Driskel is a good person. He is a tough kid. He has dealt with a ton of adversity in Gainesville and always addressed it head on, with courage and conviction. I hope he has a long, happy life with a successful career in the field of his choosing. But he is not a quarterback who can play football in the SEC. He is not capable of reading the secondary and making the correct throw. He is not capable of reading fronts and knowing when to handoff and when to keep the ball on the read option. He is horribly inaccurate with any pass farther than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. And there is no way on Earth the Gators can be a great team, let alone a good team, unless the rest of the offense performs at an elite level. Demarcus Robinson and Matt Jones did it against Kentucky and saved the day. Against Alabama, no one else on offense was even above average. No one could make a play. In fact despite all of Driskel’s struggles, the play that summarized the day for me was Quinton Dunbar’s drop on third down in the first quarter. Florida punted and Alabama’s next play was the bomb to Amari Cooper to tie the game at 14. If the Gators aren’t going to be elite at every other offensive position, they can’t be successful with a mediocre quarterback.
So where does this leave us? Well as the great Dennis Green said, we all have to admit Florida is what we thought they were. A deeply flawed program that resides in the middle of the SEC pack. The Gators have no shot of beating elite teams. They have little chance of betting even good to great teams, barring complete self-immolation on the part of the opponents (Bama tried this for a 32 minutes and still won by 21). The rest? Well, they will be rock fights and history suggests losses more often than wins. That means that when you look at the rest of the 2014 schedule, Florida is assured of only one more win the rest of the way. There is one guaranteed loss to Florida State and one highly likely loss to South Carolina. LSU, Missouri and Georgia are games that lean as likely losses. Only Tennessee and Vanderbilt are SEC games that are winnable, but as I said both will be close and Florida will need to be lucky at times in those games to win. We are a program that should feel good when it makes a bowl game and has a winning record. We are North Carolina. We are Iowa.
Add it all up and there is little doubt that Muschamp’s days are numbered. Jeremy Foley, as blind as he’s been, saw what we all saw tonight. I vividly remember the Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska in 1996 as I’m sure Foley does. And tonight was worse. It is appropriate that the final nail in Muschamp’s coffin was Lane Kiffin. The Muschamp era can be summed up by saying that he was outcoached by Kiffin and it wasn’t close. Like most life threatening illnesses, just because Florida will survive after Muschamp doesn’t mean the recovery will be easy. Whoever is the new coach in 2015 will find a program as far removed from contending for any kind of championship as the Gators have been since 1986. It took four long years of .500 records and a Hail Mary coaching hire of a once-in-a-lifetime genius to resurrect the program. That’s what the Gator Nation now faces.
Knowing what we know and knowing who we are might actually be a good thing. Last week, there was a lot of anger and unhappiness after Florida beat Kentucky in a thriller. But given the state of the program, that’s just stupid. We should have enjoyed every minute of that game and felt on top of the world after the win. That’s the approach each of us should take for the foreseeable future. A win, any win, is to be celebrated like a championship. Enjoy them when they happen. Because lately and for the near future, they don’t happen very often.