Tuesday Thoughts: Why Miami is the biggest game of Billy Napier’s career

Florida football is set to kick off their 2024 campaign against the Miami Hurricanes in week one inside The Swamp. Entering his third season as Head Coach, Billy Napier and his Gators’ squad desperately need a win on August 31st. Florida holds an 11-14 record in two seasons under Billy Napier, a resume that doesn’t sit well with Gator Nation, and rightfully so.

My expectation when Napier landed in Gainesville was to have this team competing by year three. There’s no doubt that Dan Mullen left the roster in shambles with his lack of recruiting at the end of his coaching stint, but with the rise of the transfer portal, it shouldn’t take four years to get the Florida Gators competing in the SEC.

Sportsbooks across the country have Florida’s over-under win total set at a measly 4.5 wins. Part of this is due to Florida’s daunting schedule, and the other part is they haven’t shown enough on the field to warrant anything higher than that. There’s a real possibility that Florida improves on the field in 2024 but doesn’t have the wins to show for it. The issue is a lack of wins is not going to fly in year three, and it shouldn’t.

That brings us to week one. Florida not only needs to look the part against Miami, but they need to win.

Napier will go up against Mario Cristobal, who holds a 12-13 record in two seasons at Miami. While Cristobal is known for recruiting, he is not a good game day coach and hasn’t been at any point in his career, even dating back to his days at Oregon. Both Napier and Cristobal have had on-field coaching lapses that are inexcusable throughout their first two seasons. With the talent level expected to be fairly similar, this matchup will come down to the preparation. Who has the better gameplan, who makes the in-game adjustments, who has their team ready to play. It has to be Billy Napier.

Why does it have to be Billy Napier? Because if Florida can’t beat Miami, they will have an awfully tough time handling the rest of their schedule. The last five games of Florida’s schedule (Georgia, Texas, LSU, Ole Miss, and FSU) is one of the toughest stretches in college football history. All five of those teams finished in the top 12 of the final 2023 AP Poll, while four of them finished in the top 10. Three of those five teams return their starting quarterback from the 2023 season.

Florida has not ended seasons well under Napier, dropping the final five games in 2023 and the final three games in 2022. It’s so critical that Napier and the Gators’ grab wins when they can in 2024, and Miami is an extremely winnable game, at home, in front of a sold-out crowd.

Not only do fans across the country expect wins in 2024, but recruits do too. Napier and his staff have been preaching to high-rated recruits that Florida will be better on the field this season, that they will surprise some people. Dropping this game would not only be a bad look for the Gators, but for the recruits that are interested in attending the University. Many players, including four-star safety Hylton Stubbs, are waiting to see how Florida looks in the 2024 season before making a final decision.

Florida vs Miami is the biggest game of Billy Napier’s career. We need to see a different team on August 31st.

The Gators are currently two-point underdogs vs Miami, according to Odds Shark.
















Nick Marcinko
Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Telecommunications. He is passionate about all sports but specifically baseball and football. Nick interned at Inside the Gators and worked part time with Knights247 before joining the Gator Country family. Nick enjoys spending his free time golfing and at the beach.