Best case Florida: Depth issues aside, McElwain flourishes in first season
New blood brings optimism and in Florida’s case, an upgraded offense.
In due time.
Coach Jim McElwain’s plan to speed-up the Gators this season with an exciting scheme could be a challenge with a first-year starting quarterback behind an offensive line replacing four (possibly five) starters.
Treon Harris has experience including multiple starts to his credit following Jeff Driskel’s struggles last season, but has never been asked to carry the team while Will Grier’s a redshirt freshman with no playing time.
So what’s the most the Gators can accomplish this season? It’s hard to say in a wide open Eastern Division.
Best case scenario SEC series
2014 record: 7-4, 4-4
2015 best case: 9-3, 5-3
Closer look: Despite all of the obvious challenges last season, the Gators were a cancelled game against Idaho away from winning eight games — but it still wouldn’t have been enough for Will Muschamp to keep his job. The schedule didn’t do any favors unlike this season where Florida avoids a road trip to Alabama for a home bout with Ole Miss, a game that looks more winnable on paper. The Gators have a chance to be 4-0 and ranked in the Top 25 heading into that pivotal matchup on Oct. 3 if they can beat Tennessee for an incredible 11th straight season. The loser of that contest damages its chances in the East race during the final weekend of September. Florida’s toughest game is at LSU on Oct. 17, which follows a physical contest at Mizzou the previous weekend. If the Gators can split those two, they’ll have a shot at a respectable — perhaps above average finish — this season. We’ll say they do.
Silver lining: After battling Georgia in Jacksonville on Halloween (oh the intrigue), Florida could end the season with four straight victories if things fall into place for the Gators health-wise. Decimated by injuries during the 2013 campaign and missed opportunities down the stretch last season, Florida’s forgotten how to close. A squandered lead against South Carolina in the Swamp ended Muschamp’s reign, so the Gators will have a little extra incentive when they head to Columbia, S.C. mid-November. No longer blessed with a Heisman quarterback and returning NFL talent at nearly every position, Florida State doesn’t appear to be as dominant heading into this fall as the Gators try and end in the regular-season finale. A 4-0 November would likely vault an attractive eight or nine-win Florida into a New Year’s Day bowl.