Looking to the 2012 season, no one in the world imagined the Florida Gators would find as much success as they did this year. Most people predicted the Gators would have another 6-win season. And, it still looked like that could easily happen several games into the season. However, the Gators found themselves getting past LSU. And, they made it past South Carolina. And, they even got to end the regular season with a victory over in-state rival Florida State. Will Muschamp’s team finished the season 12-2 and ranked #9 (AP) and #10 (USA Today) in the polls. Still, with all they accomplished this season, the Gators and their fan base have to be feeling a bit empty handed.
Now, it is always great when your team does better than expected. Gators fans had a lot to be excited about this season. The team was absolutely loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Will Muschamp is just getting comfortable a couple of seasons into the head coaching job. Quarterback Jeff Driskel showed leaps and bounds of growth throughout the season. Running back Mike Gillislee showcased brilliant ball carrying skills in almost every single game. Defenders like Matt Elam, Jelani Jenkins, and Dominique Easley helped make the Gators defense one of the most feared in the land. There was definitely plenty of reasons for fans to cheer this season.
With that said, there were probably just as many reasons for fans to cringe and cry this year. It’s a shame that they couldn’t take advantage of the plethora of talent more this season. The team never quite figured out how to play as a unit. It was basically the exact opposite of the 2012 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (a team that wasn’t particularly overly skilled, but played very well as a team and henceforth found plenty of success). The Gators have placed very near the top for a long time in recruiting rankings. It makes sense that they were a force to be reckoned with, but they shouldn’t have had the troubles they did this season. As I said before, they had tons of talent going both ways, but they still had tons of gaping holes left on the field. Driskel and his receivers basically never developed any sort of an efficient pass game. The team actually ranked 118th in pass yards per game….. And, the powerhouse defense was extremely inconsistent at points (and was completely exposed by a certain Big East offense). The Gators are currently sitting at #1 in 2013 recruiting rankings. They have to learn to take advantage of the talent on roster!
Another issue the Gators had this year was consistency. Each week this team looked completely different. They went from a terrific come-from-behind victory at Texas A&M in week 2 to very, very, very nearly losing to the Sun Belt’s Louisiana Lafayette in the Swamp in week 11. They went from absolutely running over Kentucky and Vanderbilt to beating Missouri by a measly 7 points. They went from beating LSU and demolishing South Carolina to losing a turnover war with Georgia. It was seriously anybody’s guess what this team would look like on a weekly basis. Consistency is vital to keep the fans happy.
Execution is the last major issue the Gators suffered through in 2012. This one is simple. They just didn’t win when it mattered. It is terribly unfortunate to have a one-loss regular season and miss out of your conference championship. But, they lost to the one SEC team they couldn’t afford to lose to: Georgia. The Gators actually fumbled the ball in the red zone on the drive that would have won that game. They lacked execution. They did a good job in beating the rival Seminoles to keep their National Title hopes alive. But, Will Muschamp may have spoken too soon on that matter. After the game in Tallahassee, Muschamp was asked where he feels like his team should be going next. Muschamp was very confident in his answer: the Gators deserved to be in the National Championship. Well, they didn’t get that bid. And, they didn’t get the powerhouse conference opponent they expected in the Sugar Bowl. But, they did get a big surprise when they showed up to the game. Louisville became the second Big East champ in two years to just spank a major conference opponent in a BCS bowl (2011 WVU vs Clemson). Teddy Bridgewater tore the Gators defense to pieces and put on a nice first showing for his 2013 Heisman run. Louisville actually scored on the first play from scrimmage in both halves (pick-6 in the first, Bridgewater TD in the second). If Louisville did all that to the Gators, just imagine what Alabama would have done to them. Sorry Muschamp, but you have to be realistic about the state of your team. They have to be able to execute in the key moments to truly be ready for a national title.
12 total wins. 7 SEC wins. Beat Florida State. Beat South Carolina. Beat Johnny Football. Beat Les Miles. Mike Gillislee. Matt Elam. All of these made 2012 a very good season for the Gators, who were not expected to do very well at all. But, unfortunately for them, they did not win a national title. They did not win the SEC. They did not win their division. They got smashed in their bowl game. The players aren’t wearing any rings from 2012. The school didn’t collect any trophies. The Gators played very, very hard and didn’t bring anything home to remember this season by. Maybe thing will change next year for them. If so, they must learn to use their talent, be more consistent, and execute in big games. If not, Muschamp will go another year waiting for that National Championship.