“But Florida is a total mystery this year.”

I think Bill Connelly’s preseason preview of the Gators is spot on, but that’s probably because it neatly fits in with my preseason expectations (duh).

First, from a historical preference, Mullen is a step up from Jeremy Foley’s last two choices.

Muschamp and McElwain had solid résumés. But neither had been a P5 head coach before.

Mullen has nine years of not only P5 head coaching experience, but SEC head coaching experience.

And he led historical overachievement at Mississippi State. In the 50 years before his arrival, MSU’s average percentile rating was 57 percent. In his nine seasons, it was 75.4 percent. His Bulldogs finished ranked in the AP top 20 three times and won six bowls. He raised the bar significantly in Starkville.

Any further context you want to add is even friendlier. You know, like how how Florida’s offense had an average Off. S&P+ ranking of fifth during his last three years as OC in Gainesville (2006-08) and has had an average ranking of 65.4 since.

On paper, this is very likely to be at least a good hire for Florida. I would be floored if the Gators weren’t at least top-15 good soon. (They’ve only hit that mark twice in the last seven years.) On the field, this was a nearly risk-free hire.

That has to be tempered by the program’s less than auspicious start under Mullen’s watch.

So why isn’t there more energy emanating from Gainesville? This hire got a good grade from everyone who grades such things, but “Florida’s going to be back soon!” buzz — like what we saw from Scott Frost’s Nebraska hire — has been minimal.

Recent headlines haven’t helped. Something in the neighborhood of seven Gators were allegedly involved in a confrontation involving gamblers and BB guns (and a frying pan). This came after a few key players were suspended or booted for “misusing school-issued funds” last fall. It’s a lot harder to get your program to achieve when your two-deep is randomly Thanos-ing itself.

Meanwhile, though July recruiting rankings are as conversational as they are consequential, Mullen hasn’t done himself any favors there either.

Then there’s the product on the field. Florida didn’t bottom out in exactly the same way that Tennessee did last season — while UT’s Butch Jones was very much fired for on-field performance, McElwain’s dismissal was blurrier, and the Gators were decent for half the season. Still, as with Jeremy Pruitt at UT, Mullen is facing a Year Zero season while figuring out what kind of building job he’s got.

Florida’s got plenty of individual talent, even if this latest stupid scandal continues. It’s hard to set 2018 expectations until we know the timeline for the rebuild…

There’s always one team every year in the SEC that I have a hard time getting a handle on before the season’s start and I’m starting to think this year that team is Florida.  Read Bill’s complete post and you’ll get where I’m coming from on that.

He’s projecting the Gators to go 8-4, with three tight games (LSU, Missouri and South Carolina).  That looks about right to me, but I’m not sure how meaningful a range of 6-6 to 9-3 really is, other than any of it is better than 4-7.

22 Comments

Filed under Gators, Gators..., Stats Geek!

22 responses to ““But Florida is a total mystery this year.”

  1. Derek

    UF and LSU are the 2 teams that could either be near the top of their division or crater. The rest I think we have a pretty good handle on. Those two could win anywhere between 10 (with a bowl game) and 5.

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  2. Hogbody Spradlin

    Maybe Florida’s back to being “they’d be great if they could get out of their own way.” The state is certainly well stocked for recruiting, and I don’t yet see any more than a 3 way competition for the best recruits, same as always. Mullen may be a better head coach than they’ve had, but he’s still going to need top 10 recruiting classes to bring it back, maybe top 5 classes. Even Nick Saban told Mal Moore in his job interview “I’m not worth a damn without the best players.”

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    • Derek

      Like CMR did, Mullen can do somebody damage and make some noise with 10th to 6th rated classes. But you’re not going to have a chance to win the conference if you’re in the teens. And UF is looking up at that right now.

      Saban and Kirby really do need top 3 classes. I’ll be very interested to see how much Pruitt can get done with less than that. A formula that eliminates the run with 6 in order to play nickel most of the time needs lots of talent everywhere. Pruitt was great with lesser players here vs. finesse, spread running teams. Power running teams killed us because we couldn’t set the edges.

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      • Anonymous

        Power running teams killed us because we couldn’t set the edges.

        While you said that, the 2014 Florida Gators just bounced another inside zone play outside for a 14 yard gain as Leonard Floyd abandoned the edge in an attempt to backdoor the play.

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    • Atticus

      Its MUCH more than a 3 way competition. Bama and UGA take Florida players, so has Clemson and Ohio State.

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      • The Dawg abides

        Yep. Currently we have commitments from the number 1 and 7 ranked players in Florida and lead big for number 9. The gators highest ranked commit is number 42.

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  3. Sam Johnson

    They may not be stellar human beings, but Mullen and Grantham can coach more than a little. UF will be solid, not great on D. They could be really good on offense, though. Mullen will play Emory Jones because he is the typical dual threat guy Mullen likes. Almost any other year, Jones would have been the top QB prospect in the Georgia. (Frying Pangate will cost him one game max). QB play is what UF has been lacking. The O line is experienced, they are deep at running back, and surely at least one of the transfers will give them some leverage at wide receiver. My humble prediction is that they get to the cocktail party with only one loss. Should be fun to crush their new found hope.

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  4. 3rdandGrantham

    Sorry if I’m belaboring this, but IMO UF is going to struggle for the foreseeable future. First off, they don’t have a QB, and there are none in the pipeline that would be considered a game changer. Second, their recruiting has been mediocre for quite a while; now it’s borderline horrid. Even worse, Mullen and staff can’t seem to connect with recruits, and even the recruits themselves have commented about not ‘feeling’ UF.

    With that said, UF this year could surprise as they have quite a few senior starters who were recruited by Muschamp. But after this year, however, I see a continued decline barring a total turnaround in recruiting.

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  5. They have gotten their first positive recruiting news in a while, adding a couple of players. They had dropped all the way to 36 in 247 rankings. I think they are now 11th in the conference and want to say 26th or 27th over-all. Their boards have literally melted down over UGA’S continued success (of course the Dawgs are cheating – and will never get caught – which makes it rather easy to claim someone is cheating). Net-Net, they need to win some football games or their progress isn’t going to be as quick as some of us thought it would be – including their alumni and fans.

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  6. Brandon

    “And to be certain that no other Zook was ever hired, he decreed, henceforth, all Gator coaches shall have last names beginning with the letter ‘M”.

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  7. Dawg in Austin

    Does Year Zero = Throwaway Season?

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  8. siskey

    Senator, The article references Florida’s S&P + ratings & ratings over 50 years. Do you know where we can see that? I don’t think I’ve seen it before.

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  9. The other Doug

    “It’s a lot harder to get your program to achieve when your two-deep is randomly Thanos-ing itself.”

    Great line.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 69Dawg

    Somebody needs to coach the UF players on bringing BB guns to a gun fight. Now going to live very long doing that.

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