A word of advice for current Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain:
You better beat former Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp on Saturday.
Or else you, too, could be on the road to becoming South Carolina’s next head coach.
I’m only half-kidding.
Muschamp, fired from the Gators after four seasons of mostly mundane, mediocre football, will bring his South Carolina Gamecocks into town to take on a McElwain’s Gators, who have been playing mostly mundane, mediocre football since midway through last season.
Don’t think for a minute that McElwain has built up much street cred with Gator Nation simply because he took UF to the SEC Championship Game in his inaugural season last year. Just ask Muschamp how much he was embraced during his second season, when he won 11 games and took the Gators into the final week of the regular season with a chance to play for the national championship.
Gator Nation responded with a resounding yawn because they knew they were watching one of the worst good teams in the recent history of college football. The third-ranked Gators ended up in the Sugar Bowl during Muschamp’s second season, where they were outclassed by Louisville in game in which UF fans were so outnumbered by Louisville fans that locals began referring to their city as “Lou-Orleans.”
In other words, Gators fans weren’t sold on Muschamp after his second season; just as they aren’t sold on McElwain after his first season – a season in which his team won games with smoke, mirrors and one of the most dominant defenses in the country.
Let’s be honest, shall we? The Gators won the SEC East last year only because the SEC East was a tire fire. The division was so dysfunctional that Georgia ended up firing its respected coach Mark Richt and South Carolina was so bad that Steve Spurrier couldn’t take it anymore and resigned as the Gamecocks’ coach in the middle of this season.
And if you'll recall, Florida needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic when an FAU receiver dropped a potential game-winning TD pass in the end zone. The Gators also needed an unlikely 43-yard field goal from maligned kicker Austin Hardin to beat Vanderbilt 9-7 and a 63-yard miracle pass on 4th-and-14 to beat Tennessee 28-27.
It was nearly identical to Muschamp’s 11-win season in which Gators had to rally from behind eight times and needed a blocked punt on the last play of the game to beat Louisiana-Lafayette – a lackluster team from the Sun Belt Conference.
You want a statistical comparison, here you go: Muschamp’s fluky second season came with an awful offense that was ranked 103rd in the country. McElwain’s fluky first season came with an even worse offense that was ranked 111th in the country.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Gators fans don’t just want their football coach to win games; they want their football coach to win games with exciting offense. Most of today’s UF fans came of age in the 1990s when Spurrier was revolutionizing the SEC with his “Fun ‘N' Gun” offense. Florida fans not only want to be successful; they want to be entertained.
Which is why Muschamp was fired and McElwain was hired – to fix a boring, snoring offense and give Gator Nation what it wanted. So far, McElwain’s offenses have been as bad as Muschamp’s – if not worse. We’re in Year 2 now of the McElwain era and still there’s nothing on offense that the coach can point to that signifies progress. There’s no quarterback you can count on, no running back you can count on, no consistent playmakers you can count on.
The low point came last Saturday in the 31-10 loss at Arkansas – a team that was beaten 56-3 by Auburn in its previous game and gave up 541 rushing yards. The Gators? They had 14 carries for 12 yards against the Razorbacks and couldn’t score an offensive touchdown.
And in the wake of this embarrassing performance, now you have Muschamp returning to his hometown on Saturday riding a three-game winning streak and with a chance to potentially ruin his former team’s shot at winning the SEC East.
A word of advice for Coach Mac:
Don’t lose to Muschamp, who would like nothing better than to live up to his nickname and make Gator Nation go “Boom!”