I’M CRASHING THE BCS (AGAIN)… IN 2016, PART II

I should be happy that my newly adopted college football team won its Week 1 game vs UMASS (24-7) last Saturday.

But, a poor performance by the Gator’s offense (led 10-7 at the half and didn’t put the game away until 4Q) likely convinced the members of the AP Poll to drop Florida out of the Top 25 to start Week 2.

Let’s face it, since Florida was the 25th ranked team, it technically should have clobbered UMass, an independent team who recently went through a “total gut job of a rebuild” and is now being referred to by some as “UMess”.  Ouch

Still, there is hope that Florida could return back in the Top 25 as it heads into the heart of its 2016 schedule against ranked teams like Florida State (3), Georgia (9), Tennessee (17), and LSU (21).

If the offense can run the football better, the O-Line hold its ground, the receivers hold onto the football and the quarterback (Luke Del Rio) raise his QBR beyond 41.2, there’s still a chance this team could do some damage & gain back respect.

However, the inside buzz is not one of positivity that the team will show flashes of its 2015 record when it won the SEC East Division and finished 7-1 against SEC teams.  In November, they lost the last 3 games of the season to Florida State, Alabama and Michigan.

The good news is that the Defense still looks legitimate and the new QB shows potential.

We’ll just have to wait and see how the season unfolds for the rest of the SEC Eastern Division which, as a matter of fact, is struggling early.

The Streak

One of Florida’s biggest rivalries will be on showcase this weekend when they take on the Kentucky Wildcats at home.

While Kentucky has not beaten Florida since 1986, the game on Saturday takes on more relevance because over the last three years, Kentucky has been getting closer to snapping the streak: (Florida won 24-7 three years ago; 36-33 in triple-overtime two years ago; and 14-9 in Lexington a year ago).

So, what will happen this year if Florida continues to struggle, particularly on offense? A loss for the Gators against KY would likely make it too far out of reach for Florida to climb back into the AP’s good graces.

As for Kentucky, the team is predicted to finish .500 this season (with a little luck).  The offense has apparently been revamped, but there are questions about its defense.  Week 1 saw KY collapse after leading big in the first half vs Southern Miss.  Still, there is cautious optimism about this Wildcats team due to the roster of talented young recruits that have been fostered under head coach Stoops’ four-year tenure.

History

The Florida Gators football team plays for the University of Florida, located in Gainesville, about 120 miles north of Orlando.

1906 was the team’s first season and since then, it has won 3 National Championships (1996, 2006, 2008), 8 Conference Titles, 11 Division Titles, produced 3 Heisman winners, and its overall record is 701-404-40 (.630).

Florida currently competes in the SEC “East” Division (since 1933) along with Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.

(The SEC is divided into two geographical regions (east & west).  The “West” Division includes Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M.)

The Gators play its home games in the “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium”, which seats 88,548 people and is referred to as “The Swamp”.

Much of the team’s largest successes came under Coach Steve Spurrier’s dynasty (1990-2001) when they won 6 conference championships & 1 national title and Coach Urban Meyer’s reign (2005-2010) when he took the team to 2 conference championships and 2 national titles.

(Note the Urban Meyer connection between my 2 college football picks??)

Since then, Florida has had only mild overall success which has correlated with its national recruiting classes:

  • 2012 (3rd ranked recruiting class in US);
  • 2013 (4th)
  • 2014 (8th)
  • 2015 (23rd)
  • 2016 (14th)

Coach Jim McElwain took over the team last season (2015) with a bounce-back in the standings and obviously, recruiting.

One of McElwain’s biggest recruiting successes came with the acquisition of his current starting quarterback Luke Del Rio, a redshirt-sophomore whose father is Jack Del Rio, former NFL linebacker and current Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders.

The young Del Rio started his collegiate career at Alabama in 2013, but did not play a game while there. In 2014, he transferred to Oregon State and became that team’s backup, but was essentially asked to transfer out when a new head coach took over at the end of the season.  He was recruited hard by McElwain while he was coaching Colorado and now they are working together in Gainesville.

So far, the reviews of Del Rio have been positive.  Last week, at the season opener vs UMess, he completed 29 of 44 passes for 256 yards, 2 td’s and 0 interceptions.

But, what seems to be most impressive about him was his good game management, calm demeanor, and a general understanding and knowledge of the game.  Insiders also say that he got the starting job over graduate transfer Austin Appleby for his excellent “command of the playbook” and “preparation”.

Seems all Del Rio needs now is help by the receiving corps to hold onto the football (4 dropped passes in Wk 1) and better accuracy to move forward and help build success for this team.

Florida State Rivalry

Besides the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida has several other historical rivalries, particularly with other SEC teams.

Most notably, is with the Florida State Seminoles, representing Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

The first game in the series was played in 1958 and continue yearly generally as the last regular season game for both during Thanksgiving weekend in alternating home stadiums.

Despite the fact that Florida dominated early, and leads the series 34–24–2, it has become more balanced in the recent future. (From wiki: The series is tied 5-5 over the past ten meetings and 10-10 over the past 20 meetings.)

Twenty years ago, ESPN’s “College Game Day” made its first appearance in Gainesville to cover the Florida-Florida State game of the week and skipped only one year from 1995-2000, indicating just how nationally popular this rivalry had become. (Both schools were also ranked in the Top 10 from 1990 to 2000.)

For the past 30 years, at least one of the two teams has been highly ranked and in the conversation for the national championship which adds to the intensity, mirroring the likes of the Red Sox vs Yankees rivalry.

This season, Florida State is looking like that championship team; the Seminoles are ranked 3rd in the Top 25 AP Poll to start Week 2.

The Pride of the Sunshine

No respectable college football program would be complete without an excellent student marching band.

UF’s Gator Marching Band a/k/a: “The Pride of the Sunshine” is made up of over 360 students and performs at every Florida Gators home football game and other events all across the country and world.

Notable performances included the 1972 opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. and in the Walt Disney World 25th Anniversary Celebration in 1997.

In 2013, the band received The Sudler Trophy, an award bestowed on one university marching band every other year.  Considered “the Heisman Trophy of the collegiate band world”, the award represents identifying and recognizing excellence and which has made “important contributions” to the industry.

The Gator Chomp

Every alumnus of Florida does a gesture with their hands that resembles, well, a “Gator Chomp” to show appreciation of their Gators teams, whether its basketball, soccer, football, or any other sport they participate in.

It was started in 1981 when former UF band member Monty Musgrave and UF pep bandmate Rob Hyatt created the version of today’s Chomp at a Florida football game against Mississippi State in Jackson, Miss.

Hyatt & Musgrave were influenced by Mississippi’s tuba section playing the “Jaws” theme at the game and the school’s cheerleaders making a rhythmic motion with their arms.  When they got back to Gainesville, they created their Chomp as a song and cheer originally known as “Gator Jaws”.  It was unveiled the following week during Florida’s game at LSU and officially introduced it on Oct 10, 1981 during a game with Maryland at home.

Since then, it has taken off “like wildfire”.

Later, Florida had to settle a copyright infringement case with John Williams, the Jaws composer.  The result was a change of the cheer’s name to “Gator Chomp”.

Here’s a sampling:

Final Thoughts

The more I learn about Florida, the more appreciation I have for homegrown successes like this team.

Too bad that momentum isn’t with them now as I turn my head in their direction.  Or, maybe it will still come this year?

Regardless, I can feel a piece of my inner fandom becoming attached.  Which is after all, the purpose of this experiment.

Funny how I always wished for a legitimate Alma Mater to call my own.

But, I feel lucky that as an American I have this wonderful sport of College Football to experience and the freedom to choose any team I want to root for…

Of course, I still tuned in to watch Ohio State play last week and will probably do that again for the rest of the season.

I just wonder how I would handle the possibility that the Buckeyes and Gators could have to face off in a future Bowl Game (likely not this year).

Which team would I root for?

Stay tuned…

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.theladylovessports.com/contact.