David Wunderlich poses the question whether Florida can top its 2021 six regular season-win mark this year. Here’s how he breaks down the schedule comparison:
- Non-conference: drop FAU and Samford, add Utah and Eastern Washington. USF goes from road to home, FSU from home to road.
- SEC rotation: drop home vs. Alabama, add road vs. Texas A&M
- SEC regulars: home vs. Kentucky, Missouri, LSU and South Carolina; road vs. Tennessee and Vandy; switch sidelines in Jacksonville vs. Georgia
It is a tougher slate of games. Replacing FAU with reigning Pac-12 champ Utah takes a game from a sure win to a very real potential loss. A&M won’t be as good a team as Alabama was last year, but some of that is mitigated by a site change from the Swamp to Kyle Field.
Balance that off against how the Gators wound up managing to lose six games last season, though.
- Loss 1: 31-29 to future national title game participant Alabama. No shame there.
- Loss 2: 20-13 at UK, which was a Mullen conservative road play calling special with more than ten offensive line penalties. Plus the Wildcats got touchdown off a blocked field goal return and a short field following a pick.
- Loss 3: 49-42 to LSU in a “Todd Grantham what the **** are you doing?” special. Plus, they still almost came back to tie it late despite losing the turnover battle 4-0.
- Loss 4: 34-7 to Georgia. It was never going to be a win, but it would’ve been closer if not for an epic offensive meltdown before the half.
- Loss 5: 40-17 at South Carolina. The Gators let UGA beat them twice by not showing up the next week.
- Loss 6: 24-23 in overtime at Missouri. One last Mullen conservative road play calling special to send himself off by.
I do like that “The Gators let UGA beat them twice” line, by the way.
By the way, it’s pretty clear that somewhere along the way, Mullen lost the team and that contributed to the six-loss season. I hate to admit it, but talentwise, Florida was a better team than its record showed. The question is how quickly — okay, whether, if you prefer to phrase it that way — Napier can get buy in from his team. (Remember, even Smart needed a season for that.) And he’s got to get that when the schedule toughens up.
I’m not seeing nine wins for now, so the question is whether the Gators can cobble seven or even eight wins together. I have a feeling the answer to that lies in whether the SEC East is improving or if that’s just a mirage.