Part of what makes being a Florida Gator fan so amazing is that when one sport concludes its season, you can simply switch your energy to the next team’s season. By now, it’s well documented that Florida became the first school to ever win unanimous national championships in football, men’s basketball and baseball (keyword unanimous, meaning not shared with other schools). And so as the Gator football program began to struggle, a large portion of the fan base began to count the days down until the Gator basketball team- a trendy preseason national champion pick- got underway.
But although the tenure of Jim McElwain came to an abrupt and somewhat surprising end following the Gators’ 42-7 loss to Georgia two weeks ago, by no means is the season itself over. On the contrary, Florida still has plenty to play for- even after getting pasted 45-16 by Missouri last week.
For starters, the Gators would love to make a bowl game- or more accurately, would hate to not make one. Sad as it may be that we’re in November with Florida at least two, maybe three wins away from bowl eligibility, we don’t have to look that far back in time to remember what it’s like to not participate in bowl season. Florida’s 43 bowl appearances are good for 14th all time, and now that five win teams are becoming more and more common in bowl season, it makes it that much more embarrassing to miss out.
On top of the pride and prestige, though, the extra practices would be huge for an overall green team that’s limped through the season with more injuries and suspensions than most programs deal with in a decade. The fact that this team is so young now means that it’s going to be an experienced squad next year barring any more nasty surprises, and an extra month of practice for them is critical to ensure their growth.
Florida also has a couple of scores to settle with two of its remaining three opponents. First up is a road trip to the other Columbia, this time the one in the Palmetto State, for a battle with Will Muschamp and South Carolina. No doubt the Gators would love to show up their old coach- and conversely, losing to Muschamp’s new team would be an embarrassment of what would have been unfathomable proportions before last week’s humiliation against the Tigers. Even with that loss on their record, though, a defeat to Muschamp would still serve as a dubious distinction given his utter failures in Gainesville, so it would certainly be preferable to avoid that.
But the far more pressing matter is the issue of the Gators’ archrivals to the northwest. No current player or coach on this 2017 team has ever experienced a victory over the Florida State Seminoles, and the only one who’s even come close was Malik Zaire as a freshman backup at Notre Dame in 2014. A loss to the similarly struggling Noles would mean not only the certain death of the Gators’ bowl hopes, but a series record five straight wins for FSU. And to be frank, with the way things have gone this year for Florida, that would seem like a fitting end.
But it doesn’t have to be.
The sun is setting on this season, and for Florida, 2017 has already had its fate sealed as a failure for the simple reason that no five loss season for Florida football can be considered anything else. There is still time to salvage something from it, though, and I personally implore these players to do so while they still can.