Florida probably will be ranked in the preseason Top 25 come August, an idea that is totally ridiculous and based mostly on the program's historical cachet, yet somehow it still seems reasonable. I did it myself in January, allowing the Gators to share the 25th spot with fellow underachiever Michigan, with the assumption that at least one of them will snap out of it and be a semblance of the team it's supposed to be. Florida could finish 4-8 or 11-1 in 2014, and neither result would be surprising. We've seen both in the last two seasons, and no team is under more pressure next fall than the Gators, who have withered away into one of the most unwatchable teams in college football, all the more difficult to stomach since their in-state archrivals from Tallahassee have returned to the pinnacle of the sport. Any hot-seat list will include Will Muschamp at the top, because while a mulligan usually can be granted for an injury-ravaged season, losing the final seven games in a row to finish under .500 for the first time since 1979 -- and losing to Georgia Southern, an FCS team that didn't complete a pass -- is unforgiveable. While it's easy to criticize with the benefit of hindsight, the hiring of Muschamp really never fit the image of Florida football in the first place. Florida made its name as an innovative program among major colleges, with the Fun 'n' Gun and spread option giving the program a defined identity. In between Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, Florida failed by hiring Ron Zook, a defensive coach and accomplished recruiter who has flamed out as a gameday coach, and now, for the last three years, the reins have been in the hands of Muschamp, the former Texas defensive coordinator who probably would have fit best a Woody Hayes staff. A good head coach is a good head coach, and a good defensive coach could succeed at Florida, in theory. Still, it's an odd shift in direction, given that the fan base came of age with Florida on the cutting edge of offensive football. It just makes it easier for fans to grow disenchanted with the direction of the program, sooner rather than later. Fans really care only about winning, but if you're going to lose, there at least needs to be some entertainment value. Watching your team lose 49-38 may be unsatisfying, but at least scoring points creates the illusion of competence, offering some sort of hope that you'll someday out-score an opponent. Losing 17-6 in this era of football screams everything is hopeless, creating an existential crisis of fandom, in which one wonders why it's worth investing so much time, energy and money on such an unsatisfying product.
Florida coach Will Muschamp must adapt to survive
Sports On Earth | Feb 20