Before Saturday’s game was even over, the tweets started pouring out of Gator Nation:
- We won’t be able to run the ball like this against LSU
- Those Driskel passes will be interceptions against LSU
- Can’t make those mistakes against LSU
And I thought I was the negative one. Gator Nation really has issues. We can’t enjoy a 38-0 blowout? We can’t celebrate the 26th straight win over Kentucky, tying an SEC record for longest streak ever? We can’t appreciate the growth in this team from last year, from the first game, from the Texas A&M game, from the first half of the Tennessee game? Please, everyone, take a deep breath.
Now if you’ve been an
Bourbon Meyer Our Two Bits reader for a while, you know I’m the resident pessimist. But even I have been able to reset my expectations for where this program is and enjoy this 4-0 start. Sonny Beam told me after the Bowling Green game that this isn’t the program I’ve known and loved since entering UF back in 1992. He said we have to drop the expectations to zero after two of the worst back-to-back seasons in over 30 years. And he was right. We aren’t the 90s Gators. We aren’t the mid-2000 Gators either. And if you can actually do this, trust me, your appreciation and enjoyment is going to go through the roof. Yes I’ve still been able to see the flaws. Yes I’ve still been frustrated. But overall, the only thing this team deserves right now is praise and respect.
I know 4-0 is nothing new for Florida. The Gators have started every season since 2005 with four straight wins, except for 2008 when Tebow couldn’t get a yard and made a speech with a promise. So alone, 4-0 isn’t exactly special in Gainesville. But again, reset the expectations. And then factor in that two of the four wins were road victories in hostile environments. In that same stretch since 2005, Florida has only started off 3-0 in the SEC twice and neither of those included two road wins. That alone is rare but the fact that two of the three have come on the road only magnifies it.
Then remember where this team was at the end of last year offensively. Add in a new offensive coordinator and a true sophomore quarterback who has started three games at the position and realize this is different. Note once in John Brantley’s career did he ever put together three starts that looked as good and as poised as the three Jeff Driskel is coming off. Now I know Brantley isn’t much of a comparison but he also didn’t take the reins as a true sophomore. And would you have thought Driskel could be successful without a wide receiver emerging as a consistent playmaker? Jordan Reed is the leading receiver by far and wide receivers account for only 23 of the team’s 59 receptions. And yet Driskel has still improved markedly in three games and looks like a future star.
Also remember that injuries have not been kind to Florida. If you were told Florida would rank 14th in scoring defense and 20th in total defense without Ronald Powell the entire year and with Jelani Jenkins, Cody Riggs and Dominque Easley missing at least one game, would you have believed we’d have the depth to overcome their losses? But while this defense still has to play better, especially with the pass rush, they’ve proven they are going to hold their own in the SEC.
Now factor in the offensive improvement with the defensive depth, while not forgetting about what might be the best pair of kickers in the league, and you have a team that is going to legitimately make some noise in the conference. I’m not ready to say Florida can win the East. Georgia and South Carolina (after an ugly first game) look very good. And again, the expectations are reset. It isn’t our birthright to win the SEC East every year. We have to fight, claw and scratch our way back to the top. This team is on the right track. Brent Pease’s offense is finding an identity. The penalties have been reduced. The ball is being protected. The different sets, shifts and player alignments have kept opposing defenses guessing. On the other side, Dan Quinn and Will Muschamp have developed a nice two-deep side that is forcing turnovers and not allowing any big plays.
Obviously after the bye week, the real grind begins. LSU, South Carolina and Georgia (with a sneaky trip to Nashville in between) make this just like any other October for the Gators – season defining. But I for one feel a whole lot different about it than I did before the season began.
As the Franchise pointed out to me, Florida hasn’t lost back-to-back games to Georgia since 1988-89. And although the Gators have dropped two straight to South Carolina, they’ve only lost six total to the Cocks in their history. The gambler in me says we’re due.
But again I remind you about reset expectations. We’ll be underdogs in the three games against the top-10 teams. We will be expected to lose all three of them. If we do, it won’t be the end of the world. We are not winning the national championship this year. Of course, it will be awfully hard to spin the rebuilding and the improvement without winning one of them. But I really believe we will win at least one of them and escape October with a 6-2 mark. That will put is within striking distance of a 10-win season and will be a huge step back.
Hold your heads high, enjoy the next bye week this week (I’ll be reintroducing myself to my family on Saturday) and get ready for a fun October. Don’t let a loss or two ruin it for you or the Gator Nation.
Here’s this week’s Top 25:
- Florida State
- South Carolina
- Kansas State
- Notre Dame
- West Virginia
- Ohio State
- Southern Cal
- Oregon State
- Mississippi State
- Louisiana Tech
- Iowa State