Florida’s Outback Bowl date with Iowa is less than a week away. It came up fast, as things always seem to do during the holidays — looking at you, sketchy fruitcake.
And the month-long sprint to National Signing Day that will officially begin in earnest on January 11 — part of the critical six-week stretch between now and Signing Day, because schools are jockeying for position even during this dead period, trust — is almost as close.
So I want to give you a hypothetical choice, one I think you’ll find hard.
Option A begins with a bowl blowout. Austin Appleby comes out against the Hawkeyes and has his best game in his fourth meeting with Iowa, throwing for over 300 yards and multiple touchdowns with no picks. The tandem of Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine combines for over 100 yards. Tyrie Cleveland continues his late-season emergence with a true breakout game. And Florida’s defense, proud and playing for draft position, shuts down the Black and Gold.
But that doesn’t matter when it comes to recruiting, surprisingly. Florida fills out its class in January and February, getting to the just over 20 prospects the Gators are interested in, but misses on all but one or two big names, and also loses an important commitment somewhere along the way. The conventional wisdom about the necessity of a big bowl win for this program proves wrong.
Option B, on the other hand, is close to the reverse. Florida plays Iowa well for a half, but a more motivated Hawkeyes squad proves its mettle against another uninterested bunch of Gators, who fall by double digits in Tampa. Appleby struggles, and the offensive line can’t open holes for anything; the defense starts strong, but tires, and lets up a third straight game of more than 30 points.
And yet: That doesn’t matter to recruits, who see playing time up and down Florida’s roster as a result. With copious touches still available on offense, Florida reels in another top-tier receiver or two, and with no established quarterback, the Gators can add another prospect to the mix at the position. An already impressive secondary class becomes one of the best in school history, and a big-name defensive tackle decides to become Florida’s first to commit and stick since Caleb Brantley.
And after months of recriminations, Florida is resurgent in the final month of this recruiting cycle, finishing with a top-10 class that impresses analysts and fans alike.
Your choice, to be clear, is between bowl glory and recruiting success. You only get one.
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