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The Alligator Army Weekly Open Thread, Vol. XXXVI

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We’ll next see the Gators in a month, at the Outback Bowl.

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Florida’s football season is now essentially over, save for the Gators’ trip to Tampa for the Outback Bowl against Iowa on January 2nd.

(Life is apparently a beach at the Outback Bowl, you guys.)

It will be challenging for some Gator fans to wait several weeks to get the taste of two bitter losses out of their mouths. And there will surely be plenty of fretting about whether Florida will be able to notch a victory over the Hawkeyes, or if they will end the 2016 season on a three game skid as they ended the 2015 season.

The Gators finished this year pretty much where I expected them to before the season began. I anticipated that Florida would lose three or four games, without an SEC Championship Game appearance, and the Gators lost four games - but that included their date in Atlanta with the top-ranked Tide.

And while it went mostly as I expected it to, I do understand how it can be easy to hope for more when it is technically within reach. Florida did at one point enter the top-10, the Gators did win the SEC East, and Florida upset an LSU team that no one gave them a chance against.

I honestly thought that the Alabama game went better than I expected it to, and that despite the final score the Gators played with effort and had a good game plan. But Florida could not overcome mistakes and execution issues, and depth and injury issues. The Gators did have a chance to get the game within ten in the third quarter but failed to cross the goal line against the nation’s top defense.

Despite the unsavory outcome of the last two games, I think we have a lot of young talent that gained important in-game experience and that will contribute in the bowl game, and for seasons to come. But Jim McElwain’s Gators will ultimately be judged on wins and losses, and on their ability to defeat rivals like Florida State and contend for the SEC title against teams like Alabama.

I’m not pushing the panic button yet, as we sit here in year two, yet to play in a bowl. But I know that a lot of Gator fans are restless, and have concerns about the direction of the program. Here’s hoping that Florida finishes the year with a bowl game win, and with recruiting success.

And as always, this Weekly Open Thread is for any and all comments on any and all topics, with the rules of commenting decorum still applying.