It just won’t show up, no matter how many times I stare at the Florida Gators 2015 football schedule.
There’s no Florida-Auburn game this year, which means there will be no immediate chance for Tigers defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to rain havoc down on his former Gator team, or to be humiliated by a Florida offense he never could get kicked out of neutral.
It’s a shame for those of us who crave drama on a Saturday afternoon, with a little bulletin-board buffoonery on the days leading up to the game just for added spice.
Think back to April, when new Florida head coach Jim McElwain began to set the table for lowered expectations by the noting lack of depth he inherited on the offensive line. Muschamp jumped on that, remembering how McElwain had previously answered questions with the confident approach that he could win with anybody, even his dog Clarabell.
“Said he could coach a dog and win,” Muschamp said when asked about McElwain’s poormouthing of Florida’s depth. “Heck, (does) he like the dog better than his players?”
Muschamp won’t be able to resist popping off during Florida week, either, whenever it first comes around. He’ll revert to the skyrocketing “Coach Boom” role that he perfected in a previous time as Auburn’s defensive coordinator, and he would have loved even more taking on the Gators right away after being fired as their head coach last November.
Don’t make the mistake of categorizing this guy as wholly incompetent just because he went 17-15 against SEC competition as Florida’s head coach and, worst of all, lost to Georgia Southern.
I wrote in December of 2010 that Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley would be rewarded for his bold move of hiring Muschamp, and wrote again in November of 2013 that Foley needed to cut the guy loose because it wasn’t working. In between those two columns, however, and to this day, I never stopped believing that Muschamp is one of the strongest defensive coaches around.
During his previous stint at Auburn, Muschamp prowled and jumped and fist-bumped on the sidelines at the Swamp as the Tigers pinned the first loss on Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy season. One year earlier, in 2006, the Gators won a national championship, but not without taking a loss at Auburn, their only one of the season. In each case, Florida scored only 17 points and Muschamp got a lot of the credit for that.
Now he’s getting $3.7 million per season over the next three years to run Gus Malzahn’s defense, and even though he’s the highest-paid assistant in college football, most of that total comes from what Florida still owes him. He has no reason to feel mistreated by Foley, who gave Muschamp one more season than necessary to straighten things out, but Muschamp is an intense competitor who also probably never quite got over the indoctrination of playing football at Georgia. He just can’t help being who he is.
So here’s how it plays out. The coach Florida fans couldn’t wait to get rid of is in line now to torment the Gators and everyone else in the SEC, on and off, for the next several years.
Auburn isn’t a contender for the national title according to media consensus simply because Alabama is a little down, or because Malzahn is a terrific playcaller. Having Muschamp there to shore up the Tigers’ porous defense is as important a reason as any.
Still staring at the Florida schedule and still no Auburn game popping up. That’s bad news for the TV networks, who would have fought each other for that matchup, and good news for the Gators, who are much better off playing LSU and Ole Miss from the SEC West this year.
There aren’t any easy teams in that division, but going up against Auburn right now would do McElwain no favors at a time when he really could use a few.