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Weekly Recon, Week 12: Who has it better than Florida? Few teams the Gators play

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Florida may have three losses, but the Gators are having better seasons than all but a couple of the teams on their schedule.

South Carolina v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Previously:

I’ve been wanting to run a regular post scouting Florida’s opponents for years — and I really do mean years — but haven’t found the time or the format to do it. So I’m just going to suck it up and write it, call it Weekly Recon, and publish it Wednesdays.

This week, we’re ... pretending today is Wednesday! Again! And that I didn’t miss posting something like this last week!

Charleston Southern: 4-5; No. 210 in Sagarin; lost to Florida, 53-6

The Buccaneers have actually fallen off in Sagarin considerably since the last Weekly Recon despite winning a game. Losing 37-3 to a Monmouth team that sits just inside the top 200 of Sagarin will do that, even if the Bucs rebounded with a 16-0 shutout of Gardner-Webb last week.

Are the Buccaneers having a better season than Florida? Hell no.

Kentucky: 7-3, 5-3 SEC; No. 48 in S&P+; defeated Florida, 27-16

Since moving to 7-1 with a win over Missouri that required pulling an entire warren of rabbits out of the top hat piece from a game of Monopoly, Kentucky is 0-2 with losses to Georgia and Tennessee by 17 points each.

The loss to Georgia obviously makes sense: Georgia’s better, and has a functional offense. But losing to Tennessee, and in the fairly uncompetitive fashion Kentucky did, has to be a painful pill to swallow for the Wildcats, who have zero wins in Knoxville in my lifetime and trailed 17-0 to this Tennessee team few would say is even mediocre.

Kentucky’s best team in a decade finally got rid of one curse at Florida, sure, but the ‘Cats are so bad on offense that even games against Middle Tennessee State and Louisville are far from gimmes and unlikely to be blowouts. Is a season that included a top-10 ranking as successful if it ends with an 8-5 or 9-4 record?

Are the Wildcats having a better season than Florida? This is the toughest call of the bunch, I think, because Kentucky obviously beat Florida, but has foundered after getting as close to the mountaintop as Kentucky has since, like, Bear Bryant.

I think Kentucky fans are probably slightly more pleased with this season than Florida fans are with theirs, but it’s marginal — and it’s got to be a little depressing that an average good season for Florida and an all-time season for Kentucky don’t look so different.

Colorado State: 3-7, 2-4 Mountain West; No. 118 in S&P+; lost to Florida, 48-10

Many teams get better as their seasons progress. The Rams have not done so.

After scratching out wins over truly woeful San Jose State and merely bad New Mexico squads in early October, Colorado State’s last three games have been double-digit losses, with a 39-point squashing by Nevada last week coming after their second bye. The Rams, by virtue of playing Hawai’i in Hawai’i, were one of just a handful of teams to have two byes this year ... and they returned from their second one to lose by 39.

Also, head coach Mike Bobo shouldn’t even be running the dang ball, because Colorado State is No. 128 in Rushing S&P+, or third from last nationally.

Are the Rams having a better season than Florida? No.

Tennessee: 5-5, 3-4 SEC; No. 70 in S&P+; lost to Florida, 47-21

I’d like to congratulate Tennessee on being the team that Kentucky was playing when the Wildcats’ various lucky charms wore out entirely, and on inexplicably being only team other than Georgia to fully solve Kentucky’s run defense.

Tennessee also beat a very bad Charlotte team 14-3 two weeks ago, averaging under 20 yards a drive, punting seven times, and rushing for a not-a-misprint 20 yards on 26 carries with sacks included.

That same team would run for 217 yards on Kentucky a week later. And while I realize that on Kentucky is not a phrase that will impress anyone reading this for whatever reason in two years, these Wildcats are still No. 27 in Defensive Rushing S&P+ after being gutted by both Georgia and Tennessee, so that figure is genuinely impressive.

I’m not sure the Vols are, as a whole, but that was a good win.

Are the Vols having a better season than Florida? Nah. The wins over Auburn and Kentucky are nice, but both of those teams ended up being a bit overrated by virtue of the SEC being a bit overrated in a year with few genuinely good teams. Jeremy Pruitt has a couple of wins to point to as potential building blocks, but he’s got a ways to go to make Tennessee good, much less great.

Mississippi State: 6-4, 2-4 SEC; No. 19 in S&P+; lost to Florida, 13-6

No. 19 in S&P+ and .333 in conference play is a feat, isn’t it? Sipp State has had the misfortune of playing two of the East’s three beasts and having to play LSU and Alabama with a dysfunctional passing game, and yet it somehow hasn’t allowed 30 points in any game this year, and gave up more points to Kentucky than to Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Wins over Auburn and Texas A&M mark the Bulldogs as the SEC West’s clear No. 3 team, and 8-4 shouldn’t be hard to get to with just Arkansas and Ole Miss left on the schedule. But that schedule that set up for a special year in Nick Fitzgerald’s senior season turned out to be more treacherous than originally imagined.

Wonder if the coach who plucked Fitzgerald from obscurity to make him a star leaving Starkville for greener pastures had anything to do with that.

Are the Bulldogs having a better season than Florida? Obviously not.

LSU: 8-2, 5-2 SEC; No. 18 in S&P+; lost to Florida, 27-19

When last I wrote this piece, I finished the LSU section with this prediction:

Please believe this team is about to lose miserably to Alabama.

That happened, with the Tigers getting blanked on their home turf and looking positively inept on offense in so doing — but the more troubling result for the Tigers over the last fortnight was probably their 24-17 win over Arkansas. It’s okay for LSU to not be as good as Alabama, because no team is; it’s way less okay for LSU to let a bad Arkansas team hang around for four quarters and for an offense that is the same old good-but-not-explosive LSU attack to not be able to exploit even the lesser teams on the Tigers’ schedule.

LSU leads a sextet of SEC teams that occupy spots No. 18-23 in S&P+, and is arguably having the best season of those teams by virtue of having eight wins. But if LSU hadn’t staged its unlikely comeback against Auburn, LSU would probably still be somewhere in that pack and have outperformed its second-order wins ... and yet wouldn’t have the inside track to a New Year’s Six bowl that this team does.

Are the Tigers having a better season than Florida? Almost as tough to say as with Kentucky, but LSU has a shot at 10 wins that Florida doesn’t have and has a better chance of making a New Year’s Six bowl. And though the loss to Florida stings LSU fans who love to pretend that Florida isn’t in many ways LSU’s No. 2 rival at present, the loss to Alabama assuredly stings worse.

So I’m leaning yes, but would hear arguments.

Vanderbilt: 4-6, 1-5 SEC; No. 83 in S&P+; lost to Florida, 37-27

My presumption is that Derek Mason remains employed at Vanderbilt, rather than outright fired or fired effective at the end of the season because Vandy still doesn’t have a permanent athletic director in place to search for Mason’s successor.

But it’s possible that Mason, whose efforts seem to have plateaued, is still safe at Vandy because a 4-6 record with one SEC win isn’t that bad, historically, and I think it’s possible to justify keeping Mason if the Commodores at least split their final two SEC games against Ole Miss and Tennessee.

The trouble will be getting those wins, especially given this Vandy team’s penchant for coming up just short. The ‘Dores are 1-4 in games decided by seven or fewer points, and the one win coming over Tennessee State while the four losses have come to three SEC foes and Notre Dame should tell you all about which teams Vandy can and can’t close out.

Are the Commodores having a better season than Florida? Nope.

Georgia: 9-1, 6-1 SEC; No. 3 in S&P+; defeated Florida, 36-17

This feels like a weird and underwhelming year for Georgia, which I think — and I think most would agree — was significantly better a year ago. Yet here the Dawgs are, No. 3 in S&P+ and with only UMass and Georgia Tech between them and a play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

Maybe the primary difference between 2017 and 2018 Georgia is the degree of dominance: The 2017 Dawgs did more to flatten foes outside of their bizarre regular-season loss, racking up eight regular-season wins by 25 or more points; this Georgia team, by contrast, has three, and they game against Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.

Still, this is obviously an excellent team having a very good year.

Are the Bulldogs having a better season than Florida? Yeah, obviously.

Missouri: 6-4, 2-4 SEC; No. 27 in S&P+; defeated Florida, 38-17

All Mizzou had to do to win two SEC games was play an unusually flat Florida squad that never mustered its customary rally from a deficit and outlast a Vanderbilt outfit with the killer instincts of a cow that isn’t part of the Diablo games.

See? Things got easier for you eventually, Tigers.

Are the Tigers having a better season than Florida? Nah. 8-4 looks likely for them, but that’s either par or one-over for the final season with an NFL-bound QB, and the ways the losses happened were brutal more than once.

South Carolina: 5-4, 4-4 SEC; No. 49 in S&P+; lost to Florida, 35-31

Did anything about the way South Carolina played a week ago seem like fun to you?

Did anything about it seem familiar?

I rest my cases — and, in retrospect, I was probably more than a bit too forgiving of Will Muschamp’s tenure at Florida.

Are the Gamecocks having a better season than Florida? Only if you define your season by success against Missouri and Missouri alone, something that no program does.

Idaho: 4-6; No. 167 in Sagarin; faces Florida Saturday

Again, Idaho is bad and I would like Florida to win Saturday’s game by many points.

Are the Vandals having a better season than Florida? Are you high?

Florida State: 4-6, 2-5 ACC; No. 87 in S&P+; faces Florida November 24th

Finally: You can be No. 87 in S&P+, have five of your six losses come by at least three touchdowns, and still technically have a chance of making a bowl game.

Sure, FSU would have to beat Boston College and Florida to do that, but c’mon: Those games are at home, and the Seminoles have wins over Samford, Northern Illinois, and Wake Forest at home. Those teams are all .500 or better!

And, hell, FSU is almost favored this weekend against a Boston College team that will be playing without its starting QB. And eight of 11 Tomahawk Nation writers who are still close enough to the salt of the earth to record their picks in a blog post rather than on a podcast have the Seminoles pulling this one out. Things are looking up!

What could go wrong?

Are the Seminoles having a better season than Florida? Not yet, but there’s definitely still time for Florida to fire Dan Mullen and install a bad head coach so that these Gators might lose to FSU, I guess.