Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain’s inaugural season as the headman in Gainesville was by all accounts a success. A 10-win season is nothing to scoff at and certainly not something that anybody in good conscience would say they predicted before the season began.
When you dig deeper into Florida’s schedule, while 10-wins is still impressive, the number could begin to seem like fool’s gold, propped up by beating bad teams.
Of Florida’s 10 wins, only three came against teams that finished the 2015 season with a winning record (Tennessee, Ole Miss, Georgia) and the record of those 10 opponents was just 57-66. Conversely, Florida’s four losses came to teams that all finished well over .500 on the season, and Florida was competitive in just one of those games.
“That’s a knock on us,” All-American cornerback Jalen Tabor said Tuesday. “When we see those big teams we can’t come to play or we’re not in the Swamp we’re not the same Florida Gator team.”
The way the season ended in particular was even more frustrating given how strong Florida’s 6-0 start to the campaign truly was. In three consecutive losses to end the season, Florida was outscored 97-24, gave up 1,244 yards as a defense and were out gained by opponents by an average of 176.4 yards per game.
“That was so sloppy last year,” said Tabor. “Florida State, Michigan and Alabama, we still got that taste in our mouth.”
Earlier in the spring, center Cam Dillard said that McElwain has been telling the team that they made it to the SEC Championship game last year and that this year the team should expect to win it. Florida will need to get over the hump against the better teams they will face. The schedule is filled with easy games in UMass, North Texas and Presbyterian, all games Florida should have no trouble winning handily. A late September trip to Knoxville will be an early test before the LSU Tigers come to town, followed by Georgia and a trip to Tallahassee. If Florida is able to run the gauntlet and make it back to Atlanta, the best team in the SEC West will await them. Those games, the marquee events are the games Florida needs to start winning.
“Those games this year we’re pretty much looking forward to,” Tabor said. “We see Florida State every year. Hopefully Alabama we meet them back again in the SEC Championship, that’s where we expect to be. So, hopefully we get those games back. And LSU, we play them again. When those teams come around we really need to lock in and show people we can win those games.”