There is one requirement for college football coaches: win. Win the easy games. Win your rivalry games. Then, of course, win championships. That is every major program’s expectation when hiring a new coach. Dan Mullen, Willie Taggart, Jimbo Fisher and Scott Frost all know that.
And on Saturday, Florida played its way out of any chance at a College Football Playoff berth in a 36-17 loss to Georgia. Feleipe Franks didn’t play well. UF’s quarterback threw for just 105 yards while completing 13 of 21 pass attempts. He added an ugly interception and a fumble on Florida’s 2-yard line, too. Luckily for him, the Gators’ goal-line defense bailed him out and only gave up a field goal.
Florida fumbled in each of the first three quarters. Running back Jordan Scarlett coughed up a costly one in the first 15 minutes that led to a touchdown. Back-up quarterback Emory Jones did, too, on a third-and-one botched option play. UF’s corners weren’t very good, especially after CJ Henderson went down to injury early, which allowed UGA quarterback Jake Fromm to throw to pretty much anyone he wanted.
Still, UF was very much in the game despite how the final score looks. Georgia only led 23-17 as late as nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Florida even led 14-13 at one point. The Gators didn’t play well, but their fight was admirable considering Franks’ woes and their lack of depth along the secondary.
The top-10 SEC showdown didn’t exactly mirror the days of Tim Tebow, when the rivalry was fiercer than ever and Florida was putting up 40-plus points. It did, however, live up to the hype in terms of TV ratings. Florida-Georgia was the highest rated afternoon game this season and was monumentally higher than last year’s matchup.
Gators fans shouldn’t immediately toss this season in the garbage. If Florida can reach 10 wins, which is doable considering their final four opponents are a combined 15-16, 2018 will count as a step forward. Heck, even throw in a bowl win, too. That doesn’t sound half bad if its lone losses are to teams ranked inside the top 11 — No. 6 Georgia and No. 11 Kentucky. Oh, and wins against No. 4 LSU and No. 21 Mississippi State. You can’t ask for much more in Mullen’s first season.
If anything, the sea of orange and blue that blanketed half of TIAA Bank Field should feel inspired. All Mullen needed to prove following a 4-7 record last season was that the program was back on its feet and could possibly be marching to the playoff in the next few years.
That is the Gator standard, after all.