What a difference a week makes. Yep, what a difference one long, miserable heart-breaking week makes. Just one week ago, Gator Nation was eyeing a match-up with the Florida State Seminoles with minor trepidation. Yes, everyone was well aware of the Gators’ recent offensive struggles but the team had found ways to win and deep down most Gator fans, despite what they said out loud, believed they would find a way to beat the hated Noles. They just had to, there was so much at stake and FSU had lost to a pathetic Georgia Tech team. But, of course, that is not what transpired.
Still, even though the offense struggled right from the start, the defense was smothering FSU so there was hope. As ugly as the Gator offense was, there were opportunities early. At one point Antonio Callaway was wide open behind the defense for what could have been an easy touchdown. Harris, under heavy pressure, bounced the football five yards short of Callaway. Make that throw and score that touchdown and the game might well have gone down differently. Florida might well be ranked in the top ten with hopes of beating Alabama and making the playoff. One play can literally make that big a difference in a season.
But, there were other potential turning points. The Gators, faced with fourth down just outside the twenty yard line, opted to forgo the field goal and attempt to convert the first down instead. That was the result of a complete lack of faith in the kicking game. As the game progressed, it became obvious yet again that the skepticism was well founded. Teams who can’t kick even short field goals do not win championships.
The defense continued to fight valiantly and Florida only trailed FSU in offense by two measly yards at halftime. Eventually, injury depleted depth and sheer disgust with their offensive void wore the Florida Gators defense down and Calvin Cook racked up a bunch of yards that were in no way indicative of the kind of game he had. It is so hard to watch a championship caliber defense derailed by inept offense for yet another season. Hopefully, head coach Jim McElwain will get Florida past this nightmare in 2016. It’s starting to feel like the movie Groundhog Day.
There are still two more games to play in this season and to say the Gators are not optimistic about their chances of upsetting Alabama in Atlanta is the understatement of the year. I have tried to come up with a way that Florida wins this game other than Alabama turning the ball over five times. There is one way. I agree with Nick that Florida has yet to truly utilize the things Treon Harris can do well so far this season. Plain and simple, the staff could not afford to with the lack of a backup for the position. Designing a game plan around Treon’s running ability puts him in danger of being knocked out of the game and maybe longer. It has been too big of a risk to take. Until now. To quote a former Secretary of State, what does it matter at this point? While I never want any player to get hurt and I’m not suggesting that it is OK for Treon to be injured, what I’m saying is that it no longer matters to the game plan. There is nothing to gain by playing it safe Saturday. It is time to turn Treon loose and let him improvise. Maybe something good will happen. Maybe not. But why not try?
That said, I could not have imagined that it was possible to be this pessimistic about an SEC Championship Game. This must be what it felt like to be Arkansas those times. Of course, I will watch the game. Of course, I’m thrilled to see the Gators in the game. And, I want them to ruin the championship hopes of Alabama and the SEC on Saturday. But, with our offense and what I expect from the SEC officials who will be looking to preserve the conference’s title hopes, I have little hope for a Gator win this week.
That leaves the bowl game to end what has still been a spectacular 2015 season. Florida will almost certainly be in either the Sugar Bowl or the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. With a month off to get healthy and design something creative on offense, I will be optimistic about the bowl game and 11-3 would be an incredible start for this new staff. It’s hard to believe that the season is almost over. It feels like it just started a couple of weeks ago. Soon, McElwain and his staff will get to opportunity to plug the holes that were leaking badly when they arrived. 2016 could be a very special season.