It was just one game and yeah, sure, it was an Eastern Michigan team that has never entered a game against an SEC opponent and left the field victorious but there is something going on in Gainesville.
Kurt Roper and Will Muschamp are building something and one game may have been just enough of a preview to give national pundits a reason to believe that the Florida Gators are for real this season.
“Bringing Kurt Roper in, which was one of the best hires in college football this season, seeing Driskel healthy and not just trying to regain himself with his health, he’s really advancing himself as a player,” SEC Now host Joe Tessitore said. “The offense was awesome. I know it was against Eastern Michigan last week, but I thought the offense was absolutely awesome. I think this is a very, very good football team with a chance to develop itself and be a great football team.”
In just one game Roper was able to do the most important thing he was tasked to do upon accepting the offensive coordinator position at Florida — he restored hope in the fan base. A hope that was lost during a seven-game losing streak in 2013. With 65 points and 655 yards of offense, Roper brought fun back to Gainesville, an emotion that hadn’t been felt when the orange and blue offense was on the field for quite some time.
“65 points is hard to score,” former LSU and Dallas Cowboy defensive lineman Marcus Spears said. “I know how it looks; ‘ah they played Eastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan is terrible.’ It’s 11 guys over there that are trying to stop you from scoring. So when you can do that, and make the progression that they made from last year to this year it helps.”
Even before Roper electrified the fan base with his up-tempo offense he energized the players. The Gators would be the first ones to tell you that they got down on themselves in 2013. The “woe-is-me” mentality that Muschamp spoke of was real and it was cancerous in the locker room.
An overhaul of the offense had Florida’s skill position players walking a little taller, sticking their chests out a little farther and talking the talk even before a ball was kicked off. To some, they sounded too braggadocious for a bunch that finished dead last in the SEC in total offense.
They knew something that most didn’t. They saw the offense in practice. They ran it and they knew that with the talent they had on the roster it would work.
“Look at what Kurt Roper’s done offensively, he’s really given these guys an opportunity to play in space and be successful in space I think that’s gonna really help this offense,” Tim Tebow said. “Coach Muschamp, he’s always done a great job with his defense all the way back to when we played him in 2007 against Auburn. You know he – I think both sides of the ball are gonna be awesome this year and really help turn this Florida program around from a 4-8 team to a team that has a chance really compete in the east.”
What’s that Tim? Compete in the east? That thought seemed alien maybe just months ago. After last week, it doesn’t seem so out of left field and Saturday the Gators will have a chance to take that first step towards making Tebow’s statement a reality. A 28th consecutive win over Kentucky will give Florida a 1-0 record in SEC play.
If the Gators can keep taking care of business and Georgia knocks off South Carolina at 3:30 before the Gators kick off, there may be a defacto SEC EAST championship game in Jacksonville this season and that, in Tessitore’s opinion, would be enough to get the Gators into the first ever College Football Playoff.
“The way it’s playing out right now, the SEC champion is in I don’t care what their record is,” he said. “I mean, you can’t look around this league — and now that you realize what Texas A&M is and you realize that LSU with all their young talent what they are. If you win this league, you cannot tell me you’re not one of the top four teams.