Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp
Let's face it, the Gator Nation is not used to the mediocrity that the last two seasons of Florida football has provided. At the very minimum, the Florida Gators are in the running for the SEC Eastern Division, if not the BCS title itself. The last two seasons have caused many citizens of the "Nation" to develop a serious case of Narcolepsy.
When Coach Urban Meyer resigned a second time after the 2010 season, the Florida football program was simply a mess. Some would argue that it was current Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen's departure after the 2008 season that started the downfall of Meyer's program. Nevertheless, when Florida lost to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game, it was the beginning of the downward spiral.
Will Muschamp is entering season two of his tenure as Florida's head coach, and everyone is doing their absolute best to forget season one. The Gators need to focus on baby steps to get back to the mountain top, so a trip to the SEC Championship game would be a significant accomplishment for Muschamp's future and the overall Florida Gators football program.
What do the Florida Gators need for that to happen? An act of God? Luck? Improvement?
Here are five keys to the Gators playing in Atlanta on December 1st, 2012.
This season the Florida Gators start their SEC conference schedule with two away games. First, the Gators make their first appearance ever at Kyle Field in College Station, TX to face the Aggies of Texas A&M on September 8th. Then they travel to more familiar territory in Knoxville, TN to face the Tennessee Volunteers.
This time the Gators only get one cupcake to kick off the season before facing more formidable opponents.
The Aggies enter the SEC West with a new head coach, Kevin Sumlin. What a way to begin play in college's toughest football conference. How quickly the Aggies can adjust to a new conference and head coach remains to be seen.
The Gators are entering into a stadium and facing a team they has very little experience. Thankfully, Will Muschamp's experience as the previous defensive coordinator of the Texas Longhorns could come in handy. It better, because it is crucial that Florida wins impressively to send a message to all future opponents and build confidence within his team.
Tennessee, on the other hand, is also in rebuilding mode, but a bit further along than the Gators. The Vols can thank current-USC head coach Lane Kiffin for gutting the team before leaving.
Now in his third season, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley could be on the hot seat if he doesn't compete in the SEC East. The last time the Vols represented the SEC East was in 2007, and the last time they won the SEC title was in 1998.
The Vols were ranked No. 105 in defense last season, but the Gators are going to need their "A" game if they expect to win. Too much is on the line for Dooley to not give the Gators his absolute best.
Many Gators are happy that the career of former starting QB John Brantley has come to an end. To say his senior season was an epic failure would be a huge understatement.
Now it's time to find his replacement, Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel.
Coming out of the spring Orange and Blue game, Muschamp would not commit to who outperformed who, but hardly anyone could blame him since they both played well.
Regardless, the Gators cannot afford a QB controversy entering into the 2012 season. To continue with the offensive renovation, a clear-cut starter must be named as soon as possible.
Some have even discussed a two-QB rotation system; that thought needs to go away as soon as possible.
It will be a tough decision, but as soon as Muschamp makes a decision it needs to be announced decisively.
One thing is for certain in 2012, the Florida Gators offense cannot get worse than it was in 2011. Ranked No. 98 in Total Offense in 2011, the Gators under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease can only improve, hopefully.
I guess they could get worse since there are 120 FBS teams, but for Muschamp's sake they better not.
In the pro-style attack, the offense must start with a power running game, and senior Mike Gillislee will be looked at first to get it going. However, if the offensive line doesn't control the line of scrimmage and blow open holes for the RB to run through, it will not matter much.
With the speed at WR, the passing game must become respectable and keep the secondary honest. If the RBs continue to see eight or more men in the box, then there will be plenty three-and-outs.
Ask any Gators fan, and they will tell you that the most bitter pill they must swallow is a defeat to the Georgia Bulldogs. Over the past 20 plus years, the Gators haven't had to take too much of that medicine.
Georgia hasn't won two in a row in Jacksonville since a three-game streak that took place between 1987-89.
If the Gators lose again to the Bulldogs this season, then Northeast Florida might experience a mushroom cloud above the Gator Bowl shortly after the game.
The Gators will face the Missouri Tigers every year going forward since they are now members of the SEC Eastern Division, and in their inaugural conference meeting the Tigers come calling on The Swamp on November 3rd.
The Tigers are coming off a 8-5 season and a victory over North Carolina in the Independence Bowl.
However, they are now entering the the lion's den, i.e. the SEC. All bets are off. They are about to be introduced to speed, power and southern hospitality.
All smack aside, the Gators cannot take them lightly. It is their last SEC game before the championship game in Atlanta, and a win may be crucial.