The Florida Gators are doing better than most programs, but doing better than most isn’t the standard by which fans judge the program. This is not a crisis situation, but it is a complicated situation, and 2017 could do a lot to resolve the sense of where the Gators stand, for better or worse.
How Did They End 2016
The Gators ended 2016 in much the same way they ended 2015. They lost to Florida State in their rivalry game, which is a very big deal for the school each year, and they then lost the SEC Championship Game to Alabama by a large number of points in a game that wasn’t particularly close. Florida did good work through early November in each of the past two seasons, fighting past Tennessee and Georgia to win the SEC East and earn a spot in the SEC Championship Game, but against Florida State and Alabama, two of the more powerful teams in the sport of college football, the Gators clearly had no answers. It used to be under Urban Meyer that Florida generally got the better of both Florida State and Alabama, and that fact of recent dominance is exactly what makes the current situation seem so inadequate. Yet, winning two straight SEC East titles is still very good. Florida doesn’t have huge problems relative to winning its division and being better than 80 percent of college football programs. The Gators only have problems in terms of winning SEC championships and beating Florida State. For Florida, though, this is a big problem in ways that wouldn’t apply to other programs.
Austin Appleby had his run at quarterback, and Luke Del Rio was hit by an injury. Now Malik Zaire – the transfer from Notre Dame – will try his hand at quarterback for the Gators. Zaire played behind DeShone Kizer at Notre Dame and knows what it is like to exist in a contentious, complicated quarterback situation at a high-profile program. He will probably welcome the change of scenery, but the SEC is not an easy conference for a quarterback to master. Zaire represents the foremost change to the Gators’ personnel.
Coaches on Jim McElwain’s staff also moved around. Mike Summers is out as offensive line coach, and Geoff Collins is out as defensive coordinator to become the head coach at Temple. Randy Shannon and Chris Rumph share that duty.
The offensive line is the big piece which needs to make things work. Giving Zaire time will be crucial in Florida’s evolution in the SEC East. A solid performance up front should give the Gators enough to win the division again. The other important note attached to the offensive line is that Summers was regarded as an excellent offensive line coach. The group must now learn how to thrive without Summers. That will be something to follow in the early part of the season.
What To Expect From The Gators This Year
Florida is not ready to beat Alabama or Auburn in the SEC, but it could beat everyone else if everything goes right. Florida still has a strong defense. Merely modest offensive improvement should give the Gators what they need.
Record Last 5 Seasons
Schedule and Outlook
The Gators will get a stiff test right off the back as they’ll face the Michigan Wolverines on a neutral site. They’ll have a brief respite with Northern Colorado in Week 2 before diving into their SEC schedule with Tennessee at home in Week 3.
The non-conference schedule is about as tough as it gets as they close the season with Florida State. However, the SEC schedule isn’t that bad. There’s no Alabama on the radar and they get to host LSU, which gives them an edge. They only have three true road games – at Kentucky, at Missouri and at South Carolina. They could win all of those games. So where do they net out?
Florida winning nine games, losing at least four, winning the SEC East, losing the SEC Championship Game, and losing to Florida State has been a normal season the past two years. Why not make it three?
Regular Season Win Total Prediction: Over 8
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