Florida Locks Up SEC East, but Gators Prove They're Not Playoff-Worthy

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 7, 2015

Florida head coach Jim McElwain
Florida head coach Jim McElwainKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The story of the 2015 SEC East division champion Florida Gators will be filled with the phrase, "well, actually."

Florida's defense didn't miss a beat from the one former head coach Will Muschamp produced that was consistently great.

"Well, actually, slowing down the likes of Georgia, Missouri and Vanderbilt isn't exactly the football equivalent of landing a man on the moon."

Any win is a good win, and Florida should enter the rivalry with Florida State at the end of the year with 10 already on its resume, despite an offense that struggled on Saturday.

"Well, actually, the SEC East is a joke, and Florida needed a late field goal to beat the 3-6 Commodores—who had 31 passing yards...for the game."

Florida QB Treon Harris
Florida QB Treon HarrisKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida got over another hurdle on Saturday when it survived a scare from Vanderbilt, and now quarterback Treon Harris has the chance to get right against South Carolina and Florida Atlantic.

"Well, actually, how come Florida only beat the Commodores 9-7 and Harris regressed in his third straight start?"

Saturday's win over Vandy—which included four turnovers, only 93 rushing yards and a rather lackluster 3-for-13 mark on third downs—was so painful to watch, that McElwain was forced to apologize for his team's performance according to Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun.

This Florida team has gone through enough adversity during the 11-month McElwain experience to fill a central Florida lake, and now it's limping into the home stretch with a one- (or "no")-dimensional offense, massive kicker problems and a running game that's as Jekyll-and-Hyde as any in the country.

Heading into mid-November, the Gators have one loss and could enter the Georgia Dome on Dec. 5 with College Football Playoff hopes on paper.

That's about the only place they exist, though, because the Gators have proven over the last two games that the passing game Harris showed against LSU when he tossed for 271 yards and two touchdowns—his first start since the suspension of starter Will Grier—was more the exception than the rule.

Florida QB Treon Harris
Florida QB Treon HarrisJohn Raoux/Associated Press

Nobody had a clue what would happen at quarterback even through two games this year in Gainesville.

Grier won the job on the road in the SEC opener vs. Kentucky, promptly tossed 10 touchdowns in six games, led a remarkable comeback against Tennessee in the closing minutes and was promptly suspended for a year for violation of the NCAA's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

In his absence, Florida has started to resemble those teams of the Muschamp era rather than the one that averaged 31 points per game coming into Saturday's game.

On special teams, it's even more depressing. 

Injuries had forced Florida to hold open kicker tryouts, and the uncertainty of newcomer/future dentist Neil MacInnes was a prevailing storyline in Saturday's win over Vandy. When forced into a huge decision, McElwain went with injured veteran Austin Hardin to nail the 43-yard game-winner. 

If touchdowns are a struggle and field goals are a question mark, Florida's trip to the Georgia Dome will look more like a victory lap for the SEC West champion than a de facto playoff quarterfinal.

Luckily for Florida, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic should provide the opportunity for the Gators to fix their glitches before the biggest games of the year.

After Saturday's performance, though, that seems easier said than done.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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