Florida Gators Will Muschamp in a Must-Win Situation Against Tennessee

Jim FolsomContributorSeptember 18, 2013

Will Muschamp faces a big game against the Volunteers.
Will Muschamp faces a big game against the Volunteers.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

If the Florida Gators lose to the Tennessee Volunteers this week, Will Muschamp will be in trouble.

Could it be possible for a head coach who improved from 7-6 in his first year to 11-2 in his second year to be on the hot seat three games into his third year? If the Gators lose on Saturday to the Volunteers, the answer will be "yes."

How can this be? There are several factors that make it so, not the least of which is the fact that Florida fans are spoiled.

Before you judge the Rowdy Reptiles though, ask yourself, if your favorite school won four national championships in less than two years in college athletics' two major sports, would it be difficult for you to get excited about a team that has gone through three years of mediocrity?

Before you say, "Whoa, wait a second, how is 11-2 with a trip to the Sugar Bowl mediocre?" let me remind you that while the Gators were winning games last year, they were not exactly pretty.

Remember homecoming, when they had to rally to beat Louisiana Lafayette in the last two minutes? Or how about having to come from behind to beat the Vols, who missed going to a bowl yet again? Then there was a close win over the Missouri Tigers, who missed going to a bowl, and also an ugly win over Jacksonville State.

Now add in an ugly win over the Toledo Rockets to start this season and an absolutely wretched performance to give one away at the hated Miami Hurricanes, and you see why there is grumbling in Gainesville about this coach.

Will Muschamp grew up in Gainesville as a Gators fan. He spent his college days getting steamrolled by the Steve Spurrier offense while he played safety for the Georgia Bulldogs.

One would think he of all people would know the Gators are at their best when they think about offense first. But he has from his first day as head coach continued to emphasize defense and running the football right at people on offense.

This style of football works for some schools, but it has never worked at Florida.

Florida has had three successful eras. The 1960s under Ray Graves had some very good teams. Those teams gave us Steve Spurrier at quarterback and produced the school's first Heisman Trophy. They also had John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez, a record-setting passing combo.

Then there was a lot of disappointment until Spurrier took over in the 1990s and had the "Fun-n-Gun" offense putting the ball in the air early and often, running up big wins by the bushel.

Then there was Urban Meyer and his spread offense. They were a quick-strike, big-play offense as well when they were at their best. Forty- and 50-point blowouts were not at all unusual.

Gator fans would almost rather lose 38-35 than win 17-10. So losing games 21-16 with five trips to the red zone that produce no points can make them downright unpleasant.

Another sin that Mr. Muschamp seems to commit over and over is losing to the teams he cannot afford to lose to. Urban Meyer beat Miami, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State. In his six years, he lost a grand total of two games against those four teams. In a little over two years, Muschamp has four losses already to those four. He really cannot afford another one this week.

A loss to Tennessee this week would be especially rough coming off the Vols' worst loss in years a week prior. In UT fans' worst nightmares, they never dreamed there would be a day when another college football team could beat them by 45 points. Just when they think they have bottomed out, they hit a new low. This would be a most unfortunate time to drop a game to them.

It would behoove Muschamp to take the reins off his offensive coordinator and quarterback this week and throw the ball once in a while more than five yards down the field. He may want to get really crazy and throw it on first down once in a while too.

Florida has more talent than Tennessee. Playing conservatively is doing the Vols a favor. Keeping the game close is a good way to lose.