The Argument for Florida
by Mike Fink
The Florida Gators have become one of the rising teams in the SEC East and in college football. In a sport that is dominated by a few teams, we can see a sleeping giant in rise and return to the glory years that they saw under Urban Meyer.
Under Jim McElwain, the Gators had a slight surge as they won a weakened SEC East for two years in a row before falling off the map in 2017. Enter one of the new great coaches in college football, Dan Mullen. The Gators improved every season under Mullen, going 10-3 in his first year and 11-2 in his second year (last year). Mullen has also changed the culture in Florida, competing with the top schools in recruiting (#9th best class according to 24/7) and building a team that isn’t only one of the best in the SEC but is one of the best in the nation. In three short years of Dan Mullen coaching the Gators, they have already become National Championship contenders and this could be the year Mullen takes them back to their first championship since 2008 (it took Ed Orgeron three seasons to build a contender, Mullen is entering year three).
Florida tends to constantly have NFL caliber talent on their roster but constantly underachieve. What makes this year any different than the past ten? One big difference is Kyle Trask. Trask started after Felipe Franks got injured and never looked back. He struggled at the beginning but emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Kyle Trask is the best quarterback the Gators have had since Tim Tebow in the National Title years, if he continues to improve as expected, Trask will lead one of the best offenses in football and might be one of the top quarterbacks selected in the 2021 NFL Draft (or he can become the next Jake Fromm). The SEC witnessed one of the talented quarterback classes in conference history last season, with Florida’s opponents having to replace Jake Fromm, Joe Burrow, and Tua Tagovailoa*, suddenly Kyle Trask is one of the best returning quarterbacks (if not the best).
The Gators have always had talent on the roster. In Dan Mullen's third season, he has brought in his guys and the roster is completely his at this point. Kyle Trask can take the Gators to the next level with the surrounding talent.
Another factor to keep in mind as the Gators emerge is the schedule. The Gators were poised to have an easy schedule with a few big games like Georgia in Jacksonville. With many conferences expected to only play in-conference games, the schedule becomes even easier for the Gators. The SEC East is good but not great, and in the 8 games Florida is expected to play, they will only have two or three really challenging ones. It’s a safe bet to say that if the SEC only plays within conference, Florida will finish with a 7-1 or 8-0 record, this will have them play in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta for the right to play in the College Football Playoff. This will likely be the most important game for the Gators, like LSU the year before, a win in the SEC Championship game would prove their legitimacy and show that the Gators are back.
The Florida Gators already have one of the best rosters in the nation. With a potentially shortened season, the emergence of one of the best coaches and emergence of one of the best quarterbacks in the country could be just what the Gators need to put them over the top. The last time the Gators were a dynasty, they had Urban Meyer as their coach and Tim Tebow as their quarterback, do they have either at this time? Probably not but this is the closest they have been to having since those days.
*Alabama isn’t on the Gators schedule but is the likely opponent for the Gators in the SEC Championship game if the Gators do indeed make it.