Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.
1. The case for Florida
Florida finished 4-8 last year. Missouri finished 12-2. Missouri outgained Florida by 349 yards when the two teams met last October. Naturally, Florida polled ahead of Missouri at SEC Media Days.
If you knew nothing about college football's general balance of power, this would make no sense whatsoever. It might say a little bit about perceptions of Missouri (though that returning starter total is awfully low), but it says more about perceptions of Florida.
Florida was absolutely dreadful over the second half of last season and enters 2014 on a seven-game losing streak. Even dipping into 2012, the Gators have lost eight of nine games against teams ranked in the F/+ top 50 (all seven in 2013, two of the last three in 2012). It's as if they spent all of their mojo and good karma winning 2012's silliest, most confusing game -- a 33-point win over South Carolina in which they were outgained by eight yards, a result that has the likelihood of lightning striking the same spot twice or Bugs Bunny actually sawing Florida into the ocean -- and have been paying for it ever since.
Still ... Florida is Florida, with blue-chippers and The Swamp and two national titles in the last decade. The Gators will forever receive the benefit of the doubt.
And besides, it's not like there's not cause for optimism (even if the bar for optimism is lower than it was a few years ago). For one thing, Florida's seven-game losing streak came with quarterback Jeff Driskel injured; using Adjusted Points, the Gators were almost 20 points better over the first five games of last year and did still go 11-2 in 2012. He was a big reason for that. And Gators head coach Will Muschamp did bring in a new offensive coordinator (Duke's Kurt Roper), his third in four years. Roper's high-efficiency, spread-lite approach could be a nice bridge between the gritty, plodding offense Muschamp seems to prefer in a perfect world and the more wide-open attack more suited for his personnel.
Beyond that, the Florida defense is still the Florida defense. It lost its edge when the injuries piled up last fall, but it will still feature plenty of athletes in the front seven and perhaps the best young set of corners in the country. If the offense is donating anything to the cause, the defense will hold up its end of the bargain like it did in 2012.
Muschamp's preference for manball reduces Florida's margin for error, but the Gators won 11 games just two seasons ago. It's not like they're that far from doing the same. The end of 2013 saw a low point so much lower than we thought possible, but high points are not that far in the rearview.
2. The case against Florida
Look at this chart. Look specifically at the last four years.
Was 2013 the outlier, or was 2012? Since going 26-2 in 2008-09 and finishing first and second, respectively, in the F/+ rankings, the Gators have ranked 34th, 34th, fourth, and 48th (which also includes one coaching transition). The Gators were impacted by injuries last fall, which accounts for a good portion of the slippage, but there's reason to believe that it was closer to the current norm than 2012 was. Muschamp inherited a team ranked 34th and has produced an average ranking of 29th. (Average offensive ranking: 63rd.) A lot went into making Florida so poor last year, but the baseline might not really be that high with Muschamp in charge.
As I find myself saying often, recruiting rankings expire. Any major reason for assuming a top-25 performance out of Florida this year is based at least in part on recruiting rankings and potential. But an offensive line with former four- and five-star recruits (not to mention two three-year starters) ranked 102nd in Adj. Line yards and 100th in Adj. Sack Rate last year. A receiving corps full of blue-chippers returns just one regular who averaged better than a dreadful 5.1 yards per target.
Players like Quinton Dunbar and Kelvin Taylor had their moments, but can a simple coordinator change really change that much? And if it doesn't, are we putting too much pressure, then, on a defense that needs to find a pass rush and two new safeties?
Florida's probably not going 4-8 again in 2014. With a schedule that features home games against four teams projected 75th or worse and two road games against teams projected worse than 50th, the odds of a bowl trip are pretty high. But Florida's 2013 product may have actually been a lot closer to the baseline standard than we want to believe, and at this point, it's up to the Gators to prove that statement wrong.
2013 Schedule & Results
|Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 7-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 48|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L||5-gm Adj. Avg.|
|31-Aug||Toledo||62||24-6||W||29.9 - 6.5||W|
|7-Sep||at Miami||36||16-21||L||26.9 - 13.4||W|
|21-Sep||Tennessee||72||31-17||W||23.0 - 14.0||W|
|28-Sep||at Kentucky||97||24-7||W||33.2 - 21.9||W|
|5-Oct||Arkansas||87||30-10||W||22.2 - 14.2||W||13.0|
|12-Oct||at LSU||17||6-17||L||21.9 - 22.1||L||8.3|
|19-Oct||at Missouri||14||17-36||L||7.0 - 29.9||L||1.0|
|2-Nov||vs. Georgia||22||20-23||L||22.7 - 27.8||L||-1.8|
|9-Nov||Vanderbilt||50||17-34||L||27.2 - 18.0||W||-2.2|
|16-Nov||at South Carolina||10||14-19||L||21.4 - 18.8||W||-3.3|
|23-Nov||Georgia Southern||N/A||20-26||L||14.5 - 40.4||L||-8.4|
|30-Nov||Florida State||1||7-37||L||18.6 - 21.2||L||-4.3|
|Points Per Game||18.8||113||21.1||15|
|Adj. Points Per Game||22.4||106||20.7||8|
3. Off a cliff ... hit a brick wall ... wheels came off ... insert your cliché of choice
Through five games, things were going mostly according to plan. Jeff Driskel had an awful game in a loss to Miami -- Florida doubled Miami up in total yardage, but Driskel had two interceptions, got sacked twice (including on the final snap of the game), and lost a fumble -- but that was still a pretty unlucky outcome.
Driskel got hurt, but Tyler Murphy stepped in and ran the show reasonably well. UF beat Kentucky and Arkansas handily, leaning on a great defense and a semi-competent offense.
But a trip to LSU exposed the flaws of both Murphy and the remaining UF offense, and a trip to Missouri finished the Gators off. They gained 391 yards and allowed 827 in these two games, and as the injuries began to mount on defense, things took a turn.
- Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Florida 27.0, Opponent 14.0 (plus-13.0)
- Adj. Points Per Game (next 7 games): Opponent 25.5, Florida 19.0 (minus-6.5)
After playing about two touchdowns better than average over the first five games, Florida was almost three touchdowns worse in the final seven. The offense went from mediocre to terrible, and the defense went from dominant to slightly above average.
There were signs of life in big games. The defense shut Georgia down after halftime and allowed the Gators to turn a 23-3 deficit into a 23-20 loss, and despite losing Murphy to injury as well and all but refusing to pass the ball, they still led South Carolina, 14-13, heading into the fourth quarter. But the last two games were an absolute nightmare. First, they figured out a way to lose to a banged-up Georgia Southern squad that had not yet made the transition to FBS. Then, after a competitive first quarter, they were summarily thumped by eventual national champion Florida State.
There was just nothing fun about 2013, was there?
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.5%||101||Succ. Rt. +||88.7||100|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||30.5||84||Def. FP+||99.4||66|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||3.5||112||Redzone S&P+||77.6||117|
|Q1 Rk||87||1st Down Rk||112|
|Q2 Rk||79||2nd Down Rk||72|
|Q3 Rk||93||3rd Down Rk||94|
4. Efficiency first
The new offense
The new offense
There was nothing particularly good about Florida's offense. Even when Driskel was behind center, we were dealing mostly with degrees of mediocre. Muschamp and coordinator Brent Pease aimed to run as much as possible and avoid putting their quarterback-of-the-week in awkward situations.
Instead, because Florida couldn't actually run efficiently, Florida ended up belonging to the run-run-pass-punt approach to offense. When Skyler Mornhinweg took over for Murphy, it became run-run-run-punt.
We don't know for sure what Kurt Roper's approach will be in Gainesville; Pease's own Boise State background didn't give us much in the way of predictive help. Muschamp brings his own preferences (run, run, run, and don't hand the defense a short field) to the table. But we know that Duke was very balanced in 2013, running and passing at rates almost exactly equal to national averages. The Blue Devils employed all sorts of short passes that, in conjunction with the run game, helped them both stay ahead of the chains and set up the occasionally deadly play-action pass.
This sounds great in theory, but the success of this will depend both on better run blocking and more consistent running (for my own preferences, that means more Kelvin Taylor and less Mack Brown). It will also require Florida to overcome its fear of the forward pass.
Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Skyler Mornhinweg||6'3, 212||So.||3 stars (5.5)||44||63||344||3||1||69.8%||1||1.6%||5.3|
|Jeff Driskel||6'4, 230||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||42||61||477||2||3||68.9%||4||6.2%||6.8|
|Will Grier||6'2, 190||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)|
|Treon Harris||5'11, 178||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)|
|Mack Brown||RB||5'11, 209||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||148||543||4||3.7||2.6||34.5%|
|Kelvin Taylor||RB||5'10, 209||So.||4 stars (6.0)||111||508||4||4.6||4.6||34.2%|
|Matt Jones||RB||6'2, 235||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||79||339||2||4.3||4.7||29.1%|
|Jeff Driskel||QB||6'4, 230||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||13||72||1||5.5||2.4||53.8%|
|Valdez Showers||WR||6'0, 194||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||12||103||0||8.6||7.2||58.3%|
|Skyler Mornhinweg||QB||6'3, 212||So.||3 stars (5.5)||5||1||0||0.2||1.7||20.0%|
|Mark Herndon||RB||5'9, 195||Jr.||NR||4||32||0||8.0||4.2||75.0%|
|Brandon Powell||RB||5'9, 177||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Quinton Dunbar||WR||6'2, 195||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||59||39||548||66.1%||20.2%||41.1%||9.3||82||9.7||70.1|
|Ahmad Fulwood||WR||6'4, 202||So.||4 stars (5.9)||25||17||127||68.0%||8.6%||17.6%||5.1||-73||4.3||16.3|
|Valdez Showers||WR||6'0, 194||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||20||18||102||90.0%||6.8%||55.6%||5.1||-85||4.4||13.1|
|Mack Brown||RB||5'11, 209||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||14||11||57||78.6%||4.8%||33.3%||4.1||-64||4.1||7.3|
|Demarcus Robinson||WR||6'1, 205||So.||4 stars (6.0)||13||6||43||46.2%||4.5%||50.0%||3.3||-44||3.3||5.5|
|Kelvin Taylor||RB||5'10, 209||So.||4 stars (6.0)||10||5||37||50.0%||3.4%||37.5%||3.7||-32||2.5||4.7|
|Matt Jones||RB||6'2, 235||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||7||5||25||71.4%||2.4%||57.1%||3.6||-33||3.6||3.2|
|Gideon Ajagbe||FB||6'2, 234||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||5||4||28||80.0%||1.7%||60.0%||5.6||-16||5.8||3.6|
|Hunter Joyer||FB||5'11, 232||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||5||2||12||40.0%||1.7%||100.0%||2.4||-20||1.0||1.5|
|Clay Burton||TE||6'4, 248||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||4||1||12||25.0%||1.4%||0.0%||3.0||-10||5.3||1.5|
|Latroy Pittman||WR||6'0, 208||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||4||2||18||50.0%||1.4%||N/A||4.5||-10||0.0||2.3|
|Tevin Westbrook||TE||6'5, 257||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||4||3||30||75.0%||1.4%||100.0%||7.5||-4||8.1||3.8|
|Andre Debose (2012)||WR||6'0, 190||Sr.||5 stars (6.1)||4||2||9||50.0%||1.5%||75.0%||2.3||N/A||1.8||1.4|
|Chris Thompson||WR||6'0, 170||So.||3 stars (5.6)||2||2||13||100.0%||0.7%||100.0%||6.5||-7||2.2||1.7|
|TE||6'6, 255||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||81||43||395||53.1%||16.9%||47.9%||4.9||-182||4.9||34.2|
|Alvin Bailey||WR||5'11, 187||RSFr.||4 stars (6.0)|
|Moral Stephens||TE||6'3, 247||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
5. Balance requires passing
Quinton Dunbar had seven catches for 98 yards against Miami, four for 91 against Georgia, and six for 77 against Vanderbilt. He is a former four-star recruit with solid size and obvious speed. In theory, he could be a nice No. 1 receiver. In theory, big Ahmad Fulwood could be ready to be a solid No. 2 -- he was used basically on tight end routes last year, and Roper could take advantage of that while also giving him shots downfield.
Valdez Showers could thrive on exactly the type of snap-and-throw plays that Roper utilized with great success in 2012. There are almost too many four-star recruits to count here, including a couple (redshirt freshman Alvin Bailey and freshman tight end Moral Stephens) who weren't tainted by the terrible performances of 2013. And hey, Andre Debose is back!
Combine this set of receivers-with-potential with a quarterback who is reasonably efficient and accurate and has more than a year of starting experience under his belt, and you can start talking yourself into the Florida offense a bit.
But no unit in the country bears the burden of proof more than this one. Florida had all the same potential last year, and the year before, for that matter. Until Driskel and his receivers prove they're worth fearing, and until Muschamp proves that he can be completely hands-off and not force high run percentages on a coach who wants to pass, then it's pretty easy to doubt.
|Chaz Green||RT||6'5, 300||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||19|
|Max Garcia||C||6'5, 294||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||12|
|D.J. Humphries||LT||6'5, 290||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||9|
|Tyler Moore||RG||6'5, 325||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||6|
|Trenton Brown||RT||6'8, 350||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||5|
|Trip Thurman||LG||6'5, 305||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0|
|Roderick Johnson||LG||6'5, 308||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Cameron Dillard||C||6'4, 297||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Drew Sarvary||RG||6'6, 310||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Nolan Kelleher||OL||6'5, 311||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|David Sharpe||OL||6'6, 336||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
6. Can the offensive line be saved?
It was a chicken-and-egg situation for the line last year. Did it perform terribly, therefore dooming the offense to second- and third-and-longs? Or were the Gators so predictable in their attack (well, "attack"), so awful at quarterback, and so shaky in the skill positions that no line could succeed?
If it's the former, then things could change pretty quickly. Thanks to injuries, Florida does return five players with starting experience up front (51 career starts) despite losing four others, and while the recruiting hasn't quite been as highly rated on the line, it's been good enough. But let's just say that offenses that rank in the triple digits in both Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate, then lose two three-year starters and two other contributors, don't tend to receive (stop me if you've heard this before) the benefit of the doubt.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||37.9%||21||Succ. Rt. +||125.0||6|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||31.5||37||Off. FP+||104.5||17|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.0||49||Redzone S&P+||142.9||3|
|Q1 Rk||18||1st Down Rk||13|
|Q2 Rk||4||2nd Down Rk||1|
|Q3 Rk||11||3rd Down Rk||20|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Dante Fowler, Jr.||BUCK||6'3, 261||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||12||40.5||7.5%||10.5||3.5||0||1||3||0|
|Jonathan Bullard||DT||6'3, 270||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||11||26.0||4.8%||2.5||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Leon Orr||NT||6'5, 305||Sr.||4 stars (5.9)||12||18.5||3.4%||4.5||2.5||0||0||0||1|
|Darious Cummings||NT||6'1, 297||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||11||12.5||2.3%||3.0||1.0||1||1||1||0|
|Bryan Cox, Jr.||DE||6'3, 260||So.||3 stars (5.7)||8||5.0||0.9%||2.0||2.0||0||0||0||0|
|Joey Ivie||DE||6'3, 271||So.||4 stars (5.8)||3||2.0||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Caleb Brantley||DT||6'2, 295||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)|
|Jay-nard Bostwick||NT||6'3, 294||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Jordan Sherit||DE||6'4, 247||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Thomas Holley||DT||6'3, 312||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)|
|Gerald Willis||DE||6'2, 255||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)|
|Khairi Clark||DT||6'2, 308||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
7. The pass rush is a bit of a concern
Six Florida defensive linemen and six linebackers averaged at least 1.0 tackles per game in 2013, which is a decent measuring stick for counting. Of these 12 players, four played in all 12 games for the Gators: Dante Fowler, Jr., Leon Orr, and second-string linebackers Jarrad Davis and Neiron Ball. First-round pick Dominique Easley played in three, weakside linebacker Antonio Morrison played in eight, and so many others missed at least one or two.
Even if you have all the blue-chippers in the world, your production will begin to fray if you lose too many regulars, and Florida's defense was no exception. After playing at a top-five (or so) level for the first half of 2013, the Gators were only slightly above average over the last half and finished with a good, but not dominant, Def. F/+ ranking of 17th. After allowing no more than 4.0 yards per play over the first five games, they allowed 5.8 or better in six of the final seven and allowed 7.5 to a Georgia Southern team that rushed for 429 yards and passed for zero.
Four regulars are gone from the front seven, but it's hard to worry too much about this unit if it's healthy. With an offseason to prepare for these losses and work countless four-star youngsters into the rotation, the Gators will be fine. The run defense will be stout with a backbone of tackles Jonathan Bullard and Orr and linebackers Michael Taylor and Morrison.
If there's a concern beyond health, though, it's the pass rush. Florida ranked just 53rd in Adj. Sack Rate and must now replace leading blitzer Ronald Powell. Fowler could further blossom, and any number of blue-chip youngsters could emerge as passing-downs missiles; plus, Florida ranked just 40th in the category in Adj. Sack Rate in 2012 when the defense was dominant. This concern pales in comparison to injuries, but it's on the list, at least.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Michael Taylor||MIKE||6'0, 227||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||11||46.0||8.5%||3.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Antonio Morrison||WILL||6'1, 222||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||8||41.5||7.7%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jarrad Davis||MIKE||6'2, 225||So.||3 stars (5.7)||12||20.0||3.7%||2.0||0.0||0||1||1||0|
|Neiron Ball||WILL||6'3, 230||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||12||19.0||3.5%||1.5||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|Jeremi Powell||LB||6'0, 215||So.||4 stars (5.8)||7||3.5||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Alex McCalister||SAM||6'6, 246||So.||3 stars (5.7)||7||2.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Daniel McMillian||SAM||6'1, 225||So.||4 stars (5.9)||9||2.0||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Alex Anzalone||LB||6'3, 236||So.||5 stars (6.1)||10||2.0||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Matt Rolin||LB||6'3, 223||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jabari Gorman||S||5'10, 184||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||12||37.5||6.9%||2.5||0||1||7||1||0|
|Vernon Hargreaves III||CB||5'11, 194||So.||5 stars (6.1)||12||32.0||5.9%||0||0||3||11||0||0|
|Brian Poole||NB||5'10, 206||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||11||26.0||4.8%||2||0||2||3||0||0|
|Marcus Maye||S||6'0, 203||So.||4 stars (5.9)||12||13.5||2.5%||1||0||1||0||0||0|
|Keanu Neal||S||6'1, 203||So.||4 stars (6.0)||12||4.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Marcell Harris||S||6'1, 208||RSFr.||4 stars (6.0)|
|Nick Washington||CB||6'0, 190||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Jalen Tabor||CB||6'0, 193||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)|
|Duke Dawson||CB||5'11, 194||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Quincy Wilson||DB||6'1, 196||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|J.C. Jackson||DB||5'10, 196||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
8. Can you be young and experienced at the same time?
Florida returns senior safety Jabari Gorman, junior nickel back Brian Poole, and all-world sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III, who plays older than his years and apparently missed out any serious repercussions from what would have been an extremely dumb injury last week. That's a nucleus around which you can build a strong secondary. (Hargreaves and two walk-on freshmen would probably be a pretty good nucleus, too, come to think of it; VH3 is the key piece here.) Because of that trio alone, the UF pass defense should be fine.
Still, in losing Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs, Florida is tasked with replacing one of the better sets of play-making safeties in the country. Those two and departed corner Loucheiz Purifoy combined for 12 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and 19 passes defensed last year; Hargreaves is obviously good, and Gorman and Poole aren't chopped liver, but there's no guarantee that production can be replaced. There's also no guarantee that the latest batch of blue-chippers -- corners Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson, redshirt freshmen Marcell Harris and Nick Washington, etc. -- will acclimate as quickly as Hargreaves did.
The ceiling here is sky high, but there might be some glitches here and there.
|Johnny Townsend||6'1, 196||So.||29||42.0||5||8||6||48.3%|
|Kyle Christy||6'2, 202||Sr.||21||39.6||3||10||7||81.0%|
|Austin Hardin||5'10, 197||So.||51||60.8||18||0||35.3%|
|Austin Hardin||5'10, 197||So.||15-15||4-6||66.7%||0-6||0.0%|
|Francisco Velez||5'9, 178||Sr.||6-6||5-6||83.3%||1-2||50.0%|
|Vernon Hargreaves III||PR||5'11, 194||So.||3||10.0||0|
|Special Teams F/+||24|
|Field Goal Efficiency||108|
|Punt Return Efficiency||49|
|Kick Return Efficiency||20|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||124|
9. Still fine on special teams
Kyle Christy was Florida's best offensive weapon in 2012, and when he struggled here and there in 2013, he was replaced by another quality punter in Johnny Townsend. Despite Christy's "struggles" (which really weren't awful) and despite place-kickers having a range of no more than about 39 yards, Florida's special teams unit was still top-25 caliber. Any team that relies this much on field goals and field position needs great special teams, and the unit did its job reasonably well.
But that was thanks in part to since-departed return man Solomon Patton and punt returner Marcus Roberson. Without them, either new return threats need to emerge (certainly a possibility), or Christy needs to find his incredible 2012 range again.
2014 Schedule & Projection Factors
|29-Nov||at Florida State||1|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||20.1% (15)|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||4|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-2 / -1.8|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||12 (5, 7)|
10. Stock up early
Not that this was intentional, but Florida's schedule is set up rather perfectly for a bounce-back. Well, "perfectly" might be an overstatement -- there's nothing particularly rosy about a schedule that features five opponents projected 12th or better -- but at least three of the four toughest opponents show up in the final five games, and at least the Gators start the season with three of the four easiest.
If the Gators are anything but 3-0 heading to (gulp) Tuscaloosa, then this is almost certainly Will Muschamp's last season in Gainesville. But yeah, they'll be 3-0.
This is an odd time for Florida. Even in 2012, fan interest in Muschampball seemed to wane at times (it's certainly not particularly pleasant to the eye), and in 2013, when injuries forced him to get creative to avoid disaster, he couldn't do it. It's hard to be too pessimistic about a program that was 11-2 just one full season ago, but it's hard to be particularly optimistic about a team that looked as bad as Florida did for much of last year.
Thanks to recruiting and 2012, in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2014 the Gators get a faithful No. 30 projection, with a likely record of 7-5 (29 percent chance of 8-4 or better, 38 percent chance of 6-6 or worse). That's as good a starting point as any for expectations, but the odds of another 2012 are small.
And will 7-5 be enough to earn Muschamp a fifth year in Gainesville?