The puns were everywhere in Urban Meyer's tenure. Florida coming back was Urban Renewal; Florida falling off was Urban Decay. And the Gators went from chomping to being chumps under Will Muschamp, if you let the punnier town criers tell it.
Jim McElwain's name doesn't lend itself quite so well to puns. Big Mac is easy, sure, and the McElwain Train pulls into the station every so often, but McElwain's just a regular guy with a relatively regular name, and there's not a whole lot one can do with it.
What he's done with the Gators is a whole lot and then some.
I'm going to Florida's Homecoming game (noon, ESPN or WatchESPN) for the fourth straight year — and the last three have involved a one-touchdown win that was excruciating, a blowout loss to Vanderbilt, and a blowout loss to Missouri. This time, Florida's a three-touchdown favorite to beat the Commodores, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Gators covered.
That's due to McElwain wringing better play out of his quarterbacks, mostly, and due to the residue of Muschamp's work to build an elite defense giving Florida's new defensive staff the tools to create a war machine on that side of the ball. But it's also due to McElwain leading a revival in the locker room, one that got players young and old buying into the idea that a couple of down years didn't mean spirits had to be down.
The Gators have played well in 2015, and with passion and heart that fans see and appreciate. It hasn't been a perfect season, and it hasn't been a flawless Florida team, but it's still one step from an SEC East title, and a restoration of the order Florida fans love to think is the natural one.
If — maybe when — Florida beats Vanderbilt on this Saturday, McElwain will deserve a lot of the credit for leading this revival, and he'll probably deflect a lot of it onto his players. That's what he does, as the consummate folksy college football coach, a man whose long career began in Montana and has led him to the furthest edge of the Deep South: He adapts, and figures it out, and gets along.
Florida's about four hours from earning the right to make the five-hour trip to the South's beating heart, and the SEC Championship Game. And the blood rushing through the arteries and veins of the Gators and their fans alike at this hour is a reminder that it's great to be alive.
There's only going to be one Game Thread today; leli and I will be be at the game, so you're going to have to deal with the single thread. However, we do have some content planned for after the game, so be sure to refresh the front page shortly after the game ends.
Also, I'm going with five predictions — but this week's aim is to nail all five.
- Florida will score first.
- Florida will not trail in the second half.
- Treon Harris will account for more than 200 yards of total offense.
- A Florida defensive back will make an interception.
- The Gators will win.