The Florida Gators are going to win the national championship — in something this year, probably, even though Grant Holloway’s off winning world championships and there’s no Kelly Barnhill or Amanda Lorenz to anchor the softball team and a loud and alarmingly stupid share of the fan base thinks Mike White is smoke and mirrors because understanding basketball is hard or something.
But this is one of those starts for Florida’s football team that makes Scooter Magruder’s favorite like sound like it might just apply to those Gators of the gridiron, too.
Florida is 6-0. It has beaten Miami, Kentucky, and Auburn in close games that were tests of mettle. It has blown Tennessee-Martin and Towson away, and obliterated Tennessee as if it were another one of those T schools. It has done this with a backup quarterback now having thrown exactly half of the passes thrown by Gators this year, and with a running game that has broken like five big runs in six games — largely without the dynamic playmaker everyone was hoping would get 10 touches a game, mind you — and with a rotating cast of stars on defense.
We’ve been here before, as Florida fans, in 2006 and 2008 and maybe in 2015 and 2012 and 1996. An older, wiser fan than I reminded me this weekend that Florida beat Vanderbilt by a single touchdown in 1996; that year also featured Peyton Manning’s closest loss to Florida, and ultimately the “echo of the whistle” loss to Florida State. The 2006 and 2008 teams were galvanized by losses and steeled by internal belief.
The 2012 team — Will Muschamp’s #FNB Gators, doomed to be underrated forever — had the closest arc to this year’s team thus far, I think, in taking everyone by surprise in a coach’s second year by being good enough for a long stretch before transforming into just plain good. (The equivalent to the Jordan Reed fumble would be unfathomably painful.) But 2015 saw that arc mapped to a Year 1 in a way that shocked the world ... and then left Florida fans stunned when the trajectory suddenly changed.
Those are six seasons in Florida’s last 30 that went all the way up or nearly there, and they are surrounded by several more similar years. Florida has been 6-0 seven times since 1995 — in 1995, 1996, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2019 — but has been 6-1 or better through seven games an incredible 17 times since 1990, including in every year from 1993 to 2001.
We have seen these seasons — many of them, really. Florida has been in this hunt for SEC and national titles before, even if fewer of the forays have happened in the most recent past than the middle distance. We think we know what might be coming.
And while we’re hoping for the highest heights, we should also be ready for failing to win gold in a season of silver linings.
To reiterate: These Gators have gotten here with borderline three-star quarterback Kyle Trask having to shoulder the load for an offense that struggles to run block and has some deficiencies in pass blocking, and with Florida’s defense mostly without its best player and one of its best pass-rushers. They have both underwhelmed — failing to cover the spread in road contests at Miami and Kentucky — and overwhelmed, in throttling each of four foes that came to The Swamp by double digits and the foursome by a composite score of 141-16.
But isn’t focusing on the overwhelming the fun part?
Florida is playing with house money. Florida fans, being who we are, might bet the house anyway. That’s the point of all this, right? Why even root for a team if it doesn’t endow you with the privileges of talking cash shit to all in earshot?
I will admit that I was once that fan, and I know, based on years and years of analytics, that many, many Florida fans still are. (Thousands of Florida fans like bragging about Florida being good; film at 11.) Scooter, a genius with a deep connection to the beating heart of being a fan, knows full well that “THE FLORIDA GATORS WILL WIN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP” is going to feel true even if it has no chance of being true — and feel a whole lot sweeter when it does.
But I think there’s something sweeter still to say:
The Florida Gators have won the national championship.
And I’m willing to wait for — and savor — that.