Spurrier vs. Meyer: How the Florida Gators' Two Top Coaches Stack Up

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Spurrier vs. Meyer: How the Florida Gators' Two Top Coaches Stack Up
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

College football fans, welcome to the real offseason.  For those of you looking at the date of this article in confusion, don't worry, I know that it's May. 

Some may cheer that the college football offseason is half-way over.  I say that it just started.  From the end of the BCS championship game to the final round of the NFL draft, football dominates the headlines.

There's the firing/hiring period, signing day, the Senior Bowl, Combine, Pro Days, spring ball, and finally the NFL Draft, more than enough football to curb anyone's gridiron appetite.

Unfortunately, we now go Atkins thin (football is carb heavy).  The concentration of meaningful headlines dissipates, and those looking to fill quotas on blogs, television, and other forms of media will scramble for news to keep people roped in until fall.

Since I consider most of the May–August college football news trivial, I'm going to attempt to stay away from that sort of sensationalizing. 

I don't care that Aaron Hernandez smoked pot at UF, so instead of crap like that, I'll focus on hopefully more interesting, reviews and looks from past seasons. 

I'd hope that I can offer a fresh take on recaps that, if not insightful, will at least be entertaining enough to stave off the football blues until we can get off this summer diet and back to a steady intake of tackles, touchdowns, and alcohol.

Today, I'm taking a look at UF's top two coaches' first five years, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.  

Because I'm feeling particularly stats–y, I've decided to look at more than just records and rankings.  I'll also look at offensive and defensive points per game and average margin of victory.

I've broken them up below into categories for each coach.  WARNING stats ahead!


Spurrier

Record/Rankings

1990: 9–2 (No. 12)
1991: 10–2 (No. 8) SEC Champ
1992: 9–4 (No. 11) SEC East Champ
1993: 11–2 (No. 4) SEC Champ
1994: 10–2–1 (No. 7) SEC Champ

Offensive PPG

1990: 35.18
1991: 32.83
1992: 27.08
1993: 39.46
1994: 41.38
Per Game Avg, five yearr: 34.79

Defensive PPG

1990: 14.18
1991: 15.91
1992: 23.67
1993: 18.77
1994: 18.31
Per Game Avg, five year:

Margin of Victory

1990: 21
1991: 16.92
1992: 3.41
1993: 20.69
1994: 23.07
Per Game Avg, five year:


Meyer

Record/Rankings

2005: 9–3 (No. 16)
2006: 13–1 (No. 1) National Champion
2007: 9–4 (No. 16)
2008: 13–1 (No. 1) National Champion
2009: 13–1 (No. 3) SEC East Champion

Offensive PPG

2005: 28.6
2006: 29.7
2007: 42.5
2008: 43.6
2009: 35.9

Defensive PPG

2005: 18.8
2006: 13.5
2007: 25.5
2008: 12.9
2009: 12.4

Margin of Victory

2005: 9.8
2006: 16.2
2007: 17
2008: 30.7
2009: 23.5


Stats Stats Stats

Spurrier's 1992 season is a nice edge of your seat roller-coaster on paper with only a +3.41 margin of victory.  The Gators lost three games that year, then lost the SEC championship to—guess who—Alabama.

That season's actual results are just as close as the paper suggests with the Gators averaging just +9.8 in the margin of victory statistic in their SEC regular season wins. 

If you think that was close, the Gators 2006 national championship season will give you a heart attack.  The Gators managed a +9 average margin of victory in their seven SEC regular season wins.

On the other end of the spectrum is the 2008 season, where the Gators rolled through the SEC like no other team in history.  The '08 Gators nearly matched the 1996 team's PPG output, and bested that squad's margin of victory.

That team dominated to the point that I named them third all–time in my Top Championship Teams of the BCS Era back in December, beating out a host of undefeateds including the 2004 USC Trojans.

But enough of the random observations and notes, let's get to some Spurrier vs. Meyer.  Much like their head-to-head record where Meyer boasts a 4–1 record over the OBC, Meyer's first five years at Florida hold the advantage over Spurrier's.

Spurrier's first five years will always be the acid test for a Gators' coach.  Approach his lofty 49–12–1 record, and you're on your way to Florida football immortality.

Meyer went as far as to best Spurrier with a 57–10 record as the Gators' coach.  Don't read too much into the 8 additional wins; college teams play a minimum of 12 games a year now, with the Gators playing 14 in three of Meyer's five seasons.

However, the three one–loss seasons are incredibly impressive.  Spurrier only managed to record two one–loss seasons in his 12 years at UF (1995 and 1996). 

While the two loss difference is not huge, Meyer's Gators have been in position to play for the national championship as late as the SEC championship game three times so far.

To date, he's made two such trips, missing his third last year at the hands of Saban.  The consolation Sugar Bowl gave Meyer his third BCS bowl in his first five years, the same as Spurrier. 

As far as the stats are concerned, Meyer's teams scored more points and gave up fewer, on average, than Spurrier's did.  Although, the difference between the two coaches' numbers isn't much.

Meyer managed just under one point per game more than and gave up just under two points per game fewer than Spurrier.  The total margin of victory difference is only 2.87 points between the coaches' first five years.

Three points barely seems relevant, but consider that this is an average over five years.  It actually translates to a difference of close to 200 points.

So what does this all mean?  Has the look back taught us anything?

It taught us that Meyer has the best start in Gators history.  He has Spurrier beat slightly in overall record and team production, and the two national championships seal the deal.

Spurrier isn't far behind though.  Despite having zero national championships, he reached the SEC title game in each of his first three chances.

There was no title game in 1991, but the Gators won the SEC outright.  In 1990, the Gators were suspended from postseason play thanks to a lingering probation, but posted the best–in–the–SEC record of 6–1.

Basically, the OBC would have led the Gators to a shot to play for the SEC Championship, or have won the league outright, in each of his first five seasons.

Ultimately, Meyer's higher highs make up for his slightly lower lows, passing both the paper–test and the eye–test as the most successful coaching start in Gators' history.

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