Are You Ready For Some Football?

  

“Guess what’s back… Back again… Gator football’s back, tell a friend”

Slim Gator Shady

Its finally here. 

Well, almost.

We’re no longer counting days but hours.

Gator football is back baby! 

Is it just me or can you feel the excitement in the air? I get the feeling Gator Nation is more eager going into this season than any since 2009. 

A new coaching staff and some talented new recruits, particularly on offense, can tend to do that. 

But is that eagerness justified?

That’s the million dollar question.

The good news?

An eight month offseason of conjecture, postulation, and debate is finally coming to a close and answers to the many questions are close at hand.

Are you ready for some football? 

New Mexico State rolls into Gainesville on Saturday with wide eyes and an open pocketbook prepared to be the sacrificial lamb for the debut of coach Jim McElwain and company. 

While nobody expects this to be much more than a lopsided affair, Gator Nation has been conditioned to approach these cupcake games with fear and loathing after four years of Muschamp ball. 

Ah yes, good ole “offense? We no need no stinking offense” Muschamp. While subscribing to the belief that defense wins championships, Muschamp forgot the first part of that old saying. Namely, that it’s offense that wins games. You’ve got to win games before you can win championships.

Oh how the mighty have fallen!

A fan base that got spoiled with SEC titles and competing for national titles under Spurrier and Meyer has had to deal with becoming the laughingstock of college football under Muschamp. 

The low point was losing to FBS foe Georgia Southern and let’s not forget the infamous lineman on lineman blocking each other snafu.

Good times!

To make matters worse the fan base has had to endure the rise of bitter rival FSU back to championship levels and watching traditional SEC west dumpsters Ole Miss and Mississippi State surpass the Gators on the recruiting trail and in the standings.

“Gloom, despair, and agony on me…

Deep dark depression, excessive misery…

If it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all

Gloom, despair, and agony on me.”

Hee Haw Singers

Yes, Gator Nation is eager to see this program rise back from the depths of gloom, despair, and agony. 

That’s a given.

How quickly that can happen given the proven dearth of offensive talent and lack of experience on the offensive line and at quarterback remains to be seen.

Defensively, the Gators are deep and talented with a good mix of youth and experience. Led by All-American corner back Vernon Hargreaves, this defense is fast and physical and very well could be a top five defense by season’s end. 

For all the things Will Muschamp may have done wrong, the one thing he certainly did right was stockpile defensive talent. And with an upgrade in defensive coaching this unit has the potential to be great. It should keep them in every game. 

But…

There’s that pesky little thing called offense.

For a generation, Gator fans had become accustomed to watching some of the nation’s best offensive teams with Spurrier’s Fun n Gun and Urban Meyer’s version of the spread.

For the last five years, however, we have watched some of the nation’s worst. 

I’m reminded of the time when Tampa Bay Bucs head coach John McKay was asked post-game about his offense’s execution and his deadpan response was

“I’m all for it.”

Can the new staff overcome the offensive ineptitude of the last few seasons? Over time I’m certain. This season? That may be difficult.

By now we all know why. 

While it’s not likely we’ll see this offense at the top of the national rankings this season, particularly with the defensive gauntlet they face, it’s not necessary either.

If they can climb from below 100th nationally the last few years to top 50 this season, that in itself would be a success. It also could lead to an 8 or 9 win season, which may seem low by Gator standards but realistically would be a huge victory for this team.

While much of Gator Nation is looking for a return of the fun n gun and the deep ball, brace yourself, they’re more likely to see ground n pound. 

With Kelvin Taylor reportedly a step faster and more decisive and the arrival of true freshman Jordan Scarlett, expect Mac and Co. to ride those wheels early and often.

If you watched any Alabama games under Mac and Nuss, you saw a powerful running game and just enough of the deep passing game to keep defenses honest. That’s most likely what we’ll see this season.

And that’s fine.

Brandon Powell should provide some excitement as a “space” player and Demarcus Robinson, with first round potential, should give them a deep threat.

But while the passing game will be a work-in-progress the running game should be their staple this season.

And in an odd twist-of-fate, the winning formula this year should be a Will Muschamp wet dream: tough defense and a strong running game hoping to eke out a victory late. It worked well in 2012, but can they do it in 2015? 

We will know soon enough.

Less than 24 hours until toe meets leather in the Swamp.

Are you ready for some Gator football?

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