The Florida Gators barely beat FAU last year. In overtime.
They edged Vanderbilt 9-7, struggling mightily to outscore a team that completed three passes for 30 yards.
Against Florida State, the Gators would have been shut out at home if not for a safety that the Seminoles gifted them in the fourth quarter.
Finally, in a bowl game that only Jim Harbaugh could love, Florida got rolled 41-7 by Michigan.
Is it any wonder that the Gators are flying under the radar at this week’s SEC Media Days in Alabama? Based on the results listed above, and the fact that coach Jim McElwain’s best quarterback from last season has transferred to West Virginia under the cloud of NCAA suspension, Florida’s ability to win a second consecutive SEC East title deserves to be doubted in every way.
The Gators offense has to be better this year for the simple fact that it can’t possibly get worse.
McElwain has four quarterbacks from which to choose, with everyone figuring that Luke Del Rio will be the one, but really, it all comes down to this assessment from the 2015 SEC Coach of the Year.
“We’ve really got good arm talent,” McElwain said, “and I’m looking forward to stretching the field vertically.”
Good arm talent is the beginning point for any quarterback. It’s the opposite of what Treon Harris displayed last year. It’s the reason every play felt like fourth-and-long in the season’s final month.
A little foot power comes in handy, too. That’s why McElwain put so much energy into flipping powerful place-kicker Eddy Pineiro’s commitment from Alabama to Florida in February. Austin Hardin, the Gators’ previous best, made five field goals last season and missed three extra points. That’s middle-school stuff.
So we’ll talk more in the weeks to come about specific players at specific positions and what kind of magic potion it’s going to take to beat Tennessee again.
For now it figures that the defense will be good and Antonio Callaway will find his way back in the lineup and McElwain will go into his second Gainesville season quite happy that nothing spectacular is expected of the Gators.
One game, that 38-10 rout of Ole Miss, is all it took last year to get people believing in Florida again.
One game, maybe that trip to Knoxville Sept. 24, could do it again.