The University of Florida has been playing football for over 100 years now. But in that time,there are really only two "eras". There is the Spurrier Era (1990-2001) and the Meyer Era (2005-present). Had Florida beaten Alabama in last year's SEC Championship Game and gone on to win the BCS Title Game over Texas, there would be no argument as to which Era is the better one. But since that did not happen, there is a good argument,
Had the Gators won tit all last year, Meyer would be head and shoulders above every other Gator coach. He would have had back-to-back national titles, three out of four, and the school's only unbeaten season. That 'Bama loss was a huge one for Meyer. If you want a good Gator argument, have this one. You will get a pretty good split among the Gator Nation.
To be fair though. Spurrier had twelve years at the helm and Meyer has only had five. So let's just look at Spurrier's first five years to see how Meyer stacks up so far.
Spurrier's first year, 1990, the Gators were on probation. The Gators would have won the SEC Championship had they been eligible, and would have gone to the Sugar Bowl. They did "win it on the field" for the third time and did show quite an improvement from the train wreck Spurrier inherited from the previous coach.
Meyer's first year, 2005, was very similar. He took over after the Ron Zook fiasco. Meyer was able to take UF within one win of the SEC Championship Game (ironically a loss to Spurrier at South Carolina cost them the East Division). Meyer did beat Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State and Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
First year: Advantage Spurrier (only slightly)
Spurrier in Year Two took Florida to its first ever SEC Championship. They also beat Bobby Bowden and FSU for the first time in five years and also beat Georgia for the second straight time. A loss to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl put a damper on it though.
Meyer in year two, SEC and National Titles. He beat Tennessee, Georgia, and FSU again, won the SEC Title Game and shocked the college football world with a surprisingly one-sided win over #1 Ohio State in the BCS Title Game.
Year Two: Advantage Meyer
Spurrier's third year, the Gators win the first ever SEC East Title and advance to play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. The Tide wins 28-21 thanks to a Pick 6 Interception return by Antonio Langham of an errant Shane Matthews pass, the difference. 'Bama goes undefeated and wins the National Title (sound familiar?). Gators go on to win the Gator Bowl.
Meyer's third year, the Gators trot out one of the most potent offenses ever seen in college football. Tim Tebow is now a superstar in the college football world as he throws and runs for 55 TDS and becomes the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. But a porous defense is the Gators undoing and they lost to Georgia. As any Gator knows, if you lose to Georgia, it's bad year.
Year Three: Advantage Spurrier (slightly)
Spurrier in year four, leads UF to the first of four straight SEC Titles. They win the SEC Championship Game against Alabama in Birmingham and then went on to win the Sugar Bowl which at that time was the Gator equivalent of winning it all. A very fine year.
Meyer's year four saw the Gators come within a blocked extra point of going undefeated. The Gators won the last ten games of the season, most of them routs. They beat an unbeaten, number one ranked Alabama in a classic SEC Title Game, then beat another number one ranked Oklahoma for the BCS Title. They beat two quarterbacks that year who became the NFL's Top Draft pick (Matt Stafford. Sam Bradford). Meyer also put a serious butt whipping on Georgia, in retaliation for '07s loss and Georgia's entire team celebrating their first touchdown in the end zone, used all of his timeouts.
Year Four: Advantage Meyer
Spurrier's year five, Another SEC Title, another win over Tennessee and Georgia. But they blew a 28 point lead in the 3rd quarter in Tallahassee in what would forever be called "The Choke at the Doak". And then in the Sugar Bowl FSU won a rematch the is known as "The Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter"
Meyer's year five saw the Gators hold the number one ranking every week of the regular season. The SEC Title Game would be a battle of unbeatens, #1 Florida and #2 Alabama. There was so much riding on this game. The SEC Championship, the BCS Title Game berth, and the opportunity for the Holy Grail, the undefeated season. Florida comes out flat. A huge disappointment for the Florida Faithful, is Carlos Dunlap's suspension for DUI the week of the game.
However Florida goes on to pound undefeated Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. It was a very impressive performance, especially considering Alabama a year ago, in the same game,under similar circumstances, laid an egg against Utah.
Year five: Advantage Meyer
So as of right now, it's Meyer over Spurrier 3-2 in my estimation. But the next two years will be tough ones for Meyer to beat Spurrier. In Spurrier's sixth and seventh years, his teams went 24-2, with two SEC Titles, two National Title game appearances, one National Title, and one Heisman Trophy. Assuming Meyer stays two more years, most likely we are looking at slight advantage for Spurrier. If Meyer can duplicate one or both of those years, then it will leave little room for argument as to who is number one. I think you'd have to give it to Meyer.
Spurrier's last five years were still pretty impressive, but losing in "big games" hurt him. He racked up two more SEC East Titles and one more SEC Title (2000). He also won two Orange Bowl games and had a Heisman runner-up in Rex Grossman. But I believe if Meyer stays around Florida for twelve years, his last five will likely be a bit better than Spurrier's.