Will Muschamp needs to be careful, because he is entering very dangerous territory with the Gator Nation. Florida has a chance to go 8-0 and clinch the SEC East before November.
But we also have a chance to lose to Georgia in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1988-89. We also have a chance to get beat on Saturday and watch the Dawgs play for SEC Championship for the second year in a row. That would be the the first time that’s happened since Ron Zook was in charge in Gainesville. This is not an acceptable outcome.
Maybe at the start of the season we would have been a little more open to the idea. Would you have been pretty happy with a 7-1 record heading into the Missouri game back in August? Of course you would. It would show clear and definitive progress in a program that’s been backsliding since the 2010 Sugar Bowl. But the Gators are 7-0 now, and the expectation is to go 8-0, 9-0, 10-0 and 11-0 before we roll into Tallahassee. By then the expectation, thought to be completely unreasonable just a few short months ago, will be to go 12-0.
Muschamp has reawakened the monster.
Beat Georgia, and the season is unquestionably a success because technically we can raise a banner in our stadium (though only Georgia and South Carolina recognize a bid in the SEC Championship Game as a Championship in and of itself). The Gators will reassert themselves as top dogs (ha, sorry) in the SEC East under a third head coach. Lose to Georgia, though, and the perception will undoubtedly be that our run of UGA domination is over, and that the Dawgs are kings of the East until further notice.
Today these two programs appear to be on completely different trajectories. Florida is trending up while Georgia has plateaued. The Gators are a young team with a young coaching staff that’s way ahead of schedule, while the Dawgs are about to put yet another class of first-rounders into the NFL with no championships to show for it. Plus they’ll have another 10-win season that makes it difficult to force out the coach, ensuring that these results will continue for the foreseeable future.
If Georgia wins the Cocktail Party, though, all that gets tossed right out the window. All of a sudden, the Dawgs have essentially won the East. They have the talent to give Alabama a run and maybe even beat the Tide in Atlanta, which would almost certainly secure Georgia their first National Championship bid in three decades. At that point, Florida is playing catch-up to their former doormat.
It’s not fair to Muschamp because, like I said, 7-1 is a better season than almost any of us expected. The Gators would still have a chance to win out or maybe finish 11-2 with a solid bowl win over a quality opponent. Shoot, we might even finish in the top-10. Next year the Gators would be an early favorite to win the national title.
But we’re not Georgia. Counting wins, watching the end-of-the-year polls and waiting for next year is for the mutts up in Athens. We demand championships, and I expect we’ll get one.