Can the Gators make another magical run?

by Sam Forman |@samwforman |

Welcome back to our SEC schedule breakdown, We start week number three with my pick to finish 10th in the SEC. So far I have picked Auburn to finish 14th, Kentucky 13thSouth Carolina 12thMissouri 11thMississippi State 10thVanderbilt 9th, and Texas A&M to finish in 8th.

The Pick: Florida

League Finish: 7th

Division Finish: 3rd

SEC Record: 5-3

Overall Record: 8-4

Bowl Game: Belk Bowl

This year the Florida Gators won’t be heading to Atlanta and they won’t be the SEC East Champions. Jim McElwain had a great first season in ‘The Swamp’ as he led the Gators to an SEC East title.

However, if you look at how the season ended for Florida you realize the Gators weren’t as good as they looked. Had it not been for a great start with Will Grier starting under center Florida never would have made it to Atlanata.

You could also say they got lucky to get off to the 6-0 start they had. They only managed to beat Kentucky 14-9 and Tennessee handed them the game on a silver platter.

You can also make a strong case that their 38-10 beat down of Ole Miss was a fluke.

That’s not why we are here and while it is important to look at last season to gain perspective for the upcoming season, you also need to remember it’s a new season and a new team.

For Florida they lost both Grier and Treon Harris to transfers. Which means the Gators don’t have an experienced quarterback on their roster. It was also a drama filled offseason for the Gators and you do have to wonder if those distractions will carry over into the season.

Florida will take a step back in McElwain’s second seasons and finish third in the SEC East, which is good for a seventh place finish in the league.

Week one Florida vs. UMass. Sat, Sept. 3rd
The Gators will start the season off with an easy win in week one when they play UMass. Luke Del Rio will get a half or so of football to get a good rhythm going with the offense. The Gators defense will be dominant in this one, look for the defensive back formally known as Jalen Tabor (now Teez) to start the year off with at least one pick.

Week two Florida vs. Kentucky. Sat, Sept. 10th
Anytime you head to Gainesville, Florida in the early part of football season you know it will be hot. The tempter will play a factor in this one and I’m not completely sure Kentucky can handle the heat. You know what they say if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen and Florida’s defense will be cooking up the right recipe to stop the Wildcats. Kentucky heads home with the loss and the Gators start the year 2-0.

Week three Florida vs. North Texas. Sat, Sept. 17th
The Gators step back out of SEC play to take on North Texas and will once again get an easy win. This is a trend in the Gators scheduling over the last several years. That’s one reason why you can never tell how good the Gators truly are until we get later into the season and why we ask the same question every year, how did they go form so good to so bad. The Gators never really see a real test till week four, once again Florida starts off 3-0 and looks good to start the season.

Week four Florida @ Tennessee. Sat, Sept. 24th
The Gators head to Knoxville riding an 11 game win streak in the series with the Vols. The last time Tennessee beat Florida it was 2004 and the Vols took home a 30-28 win. That was also the last time the Tennessee faithful saw the Vols beat the Gators in Neyland Stadium. The streak has been close to ending the last two years, but somehow Florida has found a way to win. Last season it was a 28-27 win, where the Vols defense handed the Gators the win. In 2014 it was a 10-9 victory for the Gators, despite the fact that Florida didn’t score until the fourth quarter. So, how will 2016 go? Well for the last two years I have picked to Vols and seen them give the Gators the win. However, I’m still picking Tennessee to win this year and I am convinced this is the year the Vols snap the streak. Tennessee is once again the better team for the third year in a row. The senor leadership on this year’s Tennessee team is its heart and soul and won’t let another collapse happen. Vols win and the Gators get their first loss on the season.

Week five Florida @ Vanderbilt. Sat, Oct. 1st
The Gators make their second straight trip to the Volunteer state looking to avoid the same fate as last week. Last year the Commodores almost ruined the Gators homecoming week festivities, but fell short losing 9-7. It could be a similar score this year as well. Florida and Vanderbilt will both have two of the SEC’s best defenses, but their offenses won’t be near the same level as their defenses. This one is honestly a swing game and could go either way. While I gave a lot of thought into picking Vandy, I have to go with Florida to win this game.  The reason? Florida’s defense finds a way to make a big play late and they have the deeper bench witch will play a role late.

Week six Florida vs. LSU. Sat, Oct. 8th
The Gators will be 4-1 entering this game and look to get their third SEC win. However, they will be hosting one of the nation’s top teams in LSU. Leonard Fournette will be too much for Florida’s defenses to contain. LSU will also be able to do what Tennessee did to the Gators and out power them, wearing them down in the process. LSU proves to be to physically strong for Florida to hang with and the Gators falls to 4-2 on the season and 2-2 in SEC play.

Week seven Florida vs. Missouri. Sat, Oct. 15th
Florida will enter this week in a very sticky spot, two losses in the SEC East probably means you are out of the title pitcher in the SEC. For the Gators that means every game is a must win to get to Atlanta for a second straight year. This game could be low scoring, as once again two of the league’s best defenses matchup aaainst each other. With the talent on Missouri’s defense it is not out of reach to think this game could be close in the fourth quarter. If Florida hasn’t found its quarterback by this point in the season, Missouri could still this one. Even if the Gators have their QB figured out he will have a short leash on mistakes he can make verses the Tigers defense. Florida finds a way to win a close one in ‘The Swamp’ and moves to 5-2 on the season.

Week nine Florida vs. Georgia. Sat, Oct. 29th
It’s the ‘World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party’ and the game will once again have SEC title game implications. The Dogs and the Gators are two of the three teams that have a chance to win the SEC East this year, Tennessee being the other. Not to give anything away for future installments of this series, but both teams should have at least one SEC loss by this point, possibly two. Now, let’s just revisit the fact I stated earlier. Two losses in the SEC could mean missing out on the SEC title game. Three losses will defiantly mean no trip to Atlanta in 2016, both teams could enter this game with two losses in league play. To say this is a must win game for both teams is an understatement. It’s a rivalry game, both coaches will won’t to prove they are the better coach in their first meeting and each team wants to win the division. However, only one team can. Will it be one of this two teams? That’s for a later issue of this series, but back to this game. The Dogs get the win thanks to their running game and hand the Gators their third loss in SEC play, eliminating them from the SEC East title hunt.

Week ten Florida @ Arkansas. Sat, Nov. 5th
If there is a fourth SEC loss on the Gators schedule it’s this trip to Fayetteville. The Hogs will be on a role late in the season and playing some of the best football in the SEC. However, while my mind tells me to pick Arkansas something just tells me Florida wins this game. Maybe it’s a late interception by Teez Tabor or some other strange event, but I just feel like Florida gets it done on the road. However, if the Hogs do win and there is a good chance they can, both teams seasons will go far different than expected. Florida moves to 6-3 and 4-3 in SEC play.

Week eleven Florida vs. South Carolina. Sat, Nov. 12th
The much anticipated return of Will Muschamp to ‘The Swamp’ is finally here. The Gamecocks will be far form a good team in 2016 and Florida will be an average team. The Gators defense will be too much for South Carolina to handle and Florida’s offense will be able to have plenty of success verses USC’s defense. The Gators ruin Muschamp’s return to Gainesville and move to 5-3 in the SEC.

Week twelve Florida vs. Presbyterian. Sat, Nov. 19th
This game is a joke, the worst part about college football is a power five team playing a small school this late in the season. Florida will get win number eight in a joke of a college football game.

Week thirteen Florida @ Florida State. Sat, Nov. 26th
The Gators and Seminoles meet up for their annual SEC vs. ACC rivalry game. There is a clear favorite in this game and it’s the ACC school. FSU could be on the verge of a return to the College Football Playoffs in 2016 and will be the far superior team. The Seminoles embarrass the Gators in Tallahassee, in a game that is over early.

Florida will have a shot at a nine-win season with a bowl win and at 8-4 in the regular season it’s hard to say they took a step back in Jim McElwain’s second year. Now, if they loss a couple of those swing games on their schedule like Vandy, Arkansas and Missouri we will be having a different discussion.

However, for now the Gators luck run out from early last season and we see they have a long way to go to become a national power again.

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