Florida head coach Will Muschamp
In just one month, Florida head coach Will Muschamp's seat has gone from room temperature to scorching hot. The third-year head coach of the Gators has seen his team lose three straight, fall to 4-4 on the season, drop out of the race for the SEC East title and face the possibility of bowl ineligibility.
If Florida loses to Vanderbilt this weekend, it still has clashes with Top 15 teams in South Carolina and Florida State left on the schedule. That'd likely put the Gators at 5-7 and would give them their first sub-.500 record since 1979.
That would be unacceptable, and at that point, all bets would be off for Muschamp.
He has addressed the importance of bowl eligibility for his team.
"I meet with the football team on Mondays and kind of outline where we are and what we need to do" Muschamp said. "We just touched on it briefly, and nothing more than that."
Muschamp has a 22-12 record at Florida and a 13-9 record with the Gators within the SEC. For reference, former head coach Ron Zook had a 23-14 record in his three years at Florida, with a 16-8 record within the conference.
Sure, the Gators have had a laundry list of injuries that made it nearly impossible to contend for the SEC East title. Nine Gators have suffered season-ending injuries, including quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones and defensive tackle Dominique Easley.
|Year||Overall Rec.||Conf. Rec.||Points For||Points Against|
If Florida makes a bowl game this season with a 6-6 record or better, Muschamp will be in the same boat that former USC head coach Lane Kiffin was in last season.
The Gators have Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Missouri out of the gate next season. A 4-3 record over that stretch might get him fired midseason during the bye week, and even a 5-2 record wouldn't do much to cool it unless one of those wins was over Alabama.
Given the injuries, a bowl game would buy Muschamp a little bit of time. But there would be a wave of momentum among a vocal minority of boosters that would pressure Florida to cut ties now.
Getting those bowl practices would be huge for Florida.
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Despite an injury list that reads more like a novel, getting the younger guys—and even the players who have stepped in for players who went down—practice time in a camp setting with minimal game-plan work is huge for the development of the program. Injuries are a part of college football, and they'll be better prepared to step in when the time comes.
This is it.
Rarely—if ever—has a game versus Vanderbilt dictated the future of the Florida football program. But that's exactly where the Gators find themselves this weekend.
It's going to determine how long of leash Florida actually has with Muschamp. If the Gators find a way to win, that leash will be long enough to take Muschamp into next season. If they don't, it will only be long enough to take him to December.
Not exactly the stakes Florida fans expected to have at stake in early November.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.