One of the dirty little secrets of this year in college sports? I think the Florida Gators might stand to benefit from it, at least in the short term and on the football field.
From the different rigors of a 10-game schedule to the potential advantages of having top-tier medical facilities and workers in their city, the Gators seem like they’ve at least avoided throwing snake eyes in this year when everything else is crapping out.
Florida’s two additional SEC games are a somewhat difficult one — at Texas A&M, but without many fans at Kyle Field — and a home game against Arkansas, almost certainly the easiest prize available. And though I think you’d rather have those games swap dates on the calendar, that ideal would only be marginally better — and given all the smoke about Florida and Alabama being pitted against each other, what actually got slated seems like a reprieve.
Florida’s annual date with LSU also looks likely to be a game the Gators should be favored in by a touchdown or more, with the Tigers’ post-championship exodus of talent to the NFL being followed by a midsummer exodus of players to the NFL Draft process. If Florida can get through that LSU game undefeated, it’s going to be favored in the rest of its regular-season matchups not involving Georgia.
And that Georgia team is one that lost inarguably its most accomplished and maybe its most talented quarterback about a month before the season opened. Florida has a player at QB who’s been in Gainesville since before the last presidential election, and its backup has been part of every spring and fall camp of the Dan Mullen tenure. If you believe continuity might be especially helpful amidst a year of chaos, it’s hard to argue against Florida having it, and at the most important spot on the field.
Florida’s also benefited from a fair few advantages as a member of the SEC and a school that waits to begin its fall term. The SEC’s timing of its fall practice window allowed most member programs to have full fall camps if they weren’t impacted by COVID-19 cases — and Florida, unlike LSU or Missouri or Tennessee, seems to have kept cases low enough, at least when it comes to football, to not be disruptive.
Everyone responsible for Florida having a season has seemingly done enough to make that happen for now, and while that could still change, it sets up these Gators with the opportunity to make their best-case scenarios into reality.
And, hell, isn’t there a chance that this bizarre year blunts most of the ill effects of the worst-case scenarios? Say Florida starts 4-0, then loses Trask to injury in an awful loss to Missouri after that start, and is poised to go 7-3 or 6-4 — but a spike in post-Halloween party COVID-19 cases among offensive linemen for the week of the Georgia game results in its cancellation. Sure, that would be a painful way to essentially drop out of the running in the SEC East and the conference as a whole, but would it be worse than lining up against the Bulldogs at full strength and taking an L?
I honestly think — callous though this is, given the ravages of COVID-19 in Florida and in the United States as a whole and my strong suspicion that playing through a pandemic is a bad idea — that Florida football has a slightly better outlook on this year in terms of team goals than it did in February, thanks in some part to the ways this season has shifted.
I’m curious: Do you think so, too? Am I totally off base? Or am I wrong to think this way at all, given the strife and suffering on the way to this moment?