Do you remember the last time Florida was picked to win the SEC East in pre-season? If you’re struggling to recall, that’s probably because it was seven years ago. The Gators have not been favored to go to Atlanta since Tim Tebow’s final season in Gainesville in 2009.
Florida finally broke the curse in 2015, after being picked to finish fifth in the East in Jim McElwain’s first season as head coach at Florida, reaching the SEC Championship game. McElwain became just the third coach in history to make it to the SEC Championship in his first season.
After beating all the odds last season to win the SEC East, the Gators aren’t being shown any love. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Florida has a ten percent shot of beating out Tennessee and Georgia for the East Title.
As the Gators fly under the radar once again heading into the 2016 season, it is only motivating them even more to erase all doubt against them.
“I’ll have a meeting with our guys and see if they want to play those games or forfeit them,” Jim McElwain said, referring to the Tennessee and Georgia games. “I guess we’re not very good is what that’s telling me.”
The Florida Gators have not lost a game to either of the two teams who are picked ahead of them in the SEC East, since losing 23-20 to Georgia in the nightmare season that was 2013. I was in third grade the last time the Gators dropped a game to the Vols, eleven years ago. Interesting fact, Tennessee is favored over Florida by eleven points, coincidentally the same number as the number of years since they have won a game against the Gators.
It’s no surprise to the players that they are yet again picked to finish behind two of their biggest conference rivals.
“Since I got to Florida it’s been happening each and every year,” said senior linebacker Jarrad Davis. “They always get the pre-season buzz and the pre-season hype.” He went on to say, “That motivates us even more to go out and just beat them.”
The Gators have made it a point this offseason to focus on themselves and control what they can control, instead of worrying about pre-season predictions. Marcus Maye returns for his redshirt senior season this year, hoping to right the wrongs from the end of last season.
“We see it, but we don’t necessarily pay attention to it,” said Maye. “We still go to work every day.”
Junior offensive lineman David Sharpe is coming in with a chip on his shoulder this season. He is ready to take on a leadership role for the Gators. According to Sharpe, the Tennessee and Georgia dates are already circled on the calendar as the team is preparing for the season.
Frustrations continue to build in Gator Nation as Florida is left out of the picture time and time again, but while Tennessee is being crowned 2016 National Champions in July, the Gators are working with the incentive to silence the pre-season talk once again. There is no need to fret over pre-season SEC East predictions, they are wrong almost every year anyways.