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Florida Gators

Gators still hold strong in our weekly power rankings

Jamil King

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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This past week was another one of disappointing football for fans of Florida Football. In the NFL, all three teams lost. While the only winners of the week were Miami, Florida Atlantic, and USF. Two of these teams will crack my top 5, with one being left out.

Let’s see how the rest of the top 5 breaks down:

Florida Gators- The Gators hold onto the top spot, despite dropping last week’s game to LSU. The game was much closer than the scoreboard reads off. The Gators were in it until late into the fourth quarter before a Kyle Trask pick would result in the Tigers going up two scores.

Florida played one of their better games of the season in a hostile environment. They still have a lot in front of them and control their own destiny in the SEC East race.

UCF Knights- UCF got a much-needed BYE after dropping 2 of their last 3 games. The Knights are still the second-best team, as of right now because no one else has stepped up to take it from them. They will look to bounce back with an easy opponent at home against East Carolina. Then, they will hope for some upsets within the conference to get them back to the AAC Title game.

Miami Hurricanes- The got a big ACC win last Friday night. They were able to win at home and against a ranked Virginia team in a sloppy affair.

The Canes will have another winnable game this week against Georgia Tech. The question for this team still remains: can they get consistent offense?

Jarren Williams could be back at QB, despite N’Kosi Perry winning last week and almost completing a comeback against Virginia Tech. If the Canes can prevail against the Yellow Jackets then again at Pitt, they will head into the Florida State game with a lot more on the line.

Florida Atlantic- The Owls continued their winning streak last week, pushing it to four in a row. Since losing against a pair of top 20 teams, including a top 5, they have been playing some of the most consistent ball in the state. They have a huge game this week home against Marshall.

A win here puts the Owls in an excellent position in the Conference USA standings and sets up a big game in two weeks against Western Kentucky.

Jacksonville Jaguars- The only NFL team to appear are the Jags. Despite losing to the Saints for their second loss in a row, they make the list.

The Jags have lost both games by a touchdown, each showcasing they are in each game. And, QB Gardner Minshew is giving fans in North Florida something to get excited about this year.

With college teams like FSU getting blown out and USF at an ugly 3-3, the Jags are the right call.

They should bounce back against the winless Bengals. Jacksonville is still hanging around at 2-4 in the division, if they can win against the Bengals and Jets, they will play the Texans in London for a potential swing game in the division.

Jamil King is a young draft pick working his way up the depth chart on the F.F.I. roster, who enjoys watching and writing about all of Florida’s football teams.

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Florida Gators

Gators down stretch look very familiar

Matt Zemek

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It sounds like an insult, but it’s not: Gators are McElwain 2.0

It does seem like an insult to say that the 2019 Florida Gators, under Dan Mullen, are a better version of Jim McElwain’s SEC East champion Florida teams. McElwain was not a beloved coach. He didn’t enjoy coaching at Florida. He didn’t handle the prominence or the pressure of the job very well.

Dan Mullen enjoys coaching the Gators. He relishes pressure. He has performed well in the SEC for a long time, as a head coach and offensive coordinator. He is so many of the things McElwain wasn’t.

Few men in college football scheme receivers open better than Dan Mullen. He has a gift for play calling, and he squeezed a lot out of his Mississippi State teams. One can very reasonably say that he took the Bulldogs as high as they could fly, as far as they could go.

That is pretty much what Mullen has done with this 2019 team.

He has had a backup quarterback for most of the year, not Feleipe Franks. He has had a below-average offensive line which simply cannot facilitate a consistent or especially productive running game.

He has had Jabari Zuniga, arguably his best defensive player, healthy for a tiny fraction of the season. Jon Greenard has been injured for multiple games as well.

Everywhere you look, Florida has been limited. Everywhere you look, Florida has not had the ideal players it would want to face Georgia and LSU.

Speaking of Georgia and LSU, Florida had to play those two teams this year. It also had to play Auburn and Miami and still has Florida State on the slate.

If you were to tell Mullen that he would have his best players within the context of an injury-free season, this 2019 course of events (in terms of wins and losses and style of play) would have been noticeably disappointing. Yet, given the injuries and the limitations, Florida being 6-2 in the SEC and 9-2 overall is pretty damn good.

Adjusted for circumstances, Florida has done as much as it realistically could have been expected to do. LSU is the best team in college football this regular season. Florida gave the Tigers a good test for three quarters and were outplayed in the fourth. There isn’t much more one could have asked from UF in that game.

The Georgia game was certainly a disappointment, but if you’re going to say that Florida and Georgia have the same levels of talent, please turn in your college football analyst card at the door.

That is not a credible assertion.

We can talk about recruiting in a separate conversation or column, but in 2019, Dan Mullen has coaxed a 9-2 record – likely to become 10-2 with a win over Florida State – from a limited roster with a lot of backups playing extended snaps at hugely important positions.

Florida is winning games without style points. It is managing situations and handling challenges.

Sound familiar? These were the two SEC East-winning seasons under McElwain, the only two seasons in this decade (which is about to end) when Florida went to Atlanta.

The 2019 Gators share the ragged, uneven quality of McElwain’s teams, but the coaching and adaptability are better. The number of losses is lower. The ceiling for the program is higher.

McElwain 2.0 feels like an insult, until you look below the surface and see what is truly being compared.

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Florida Gators

Georgia clinched SEC East- eliminated Gators Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders

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John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Any hope the Florida Gators had of working their way back to Atlanta and the SEC Title game, through a potential backdoor, ended Saturday night. That’s when, the Georgia Bulldogs outfought their rival Auburn, 21 – 14 giving them a 6 – 1 record and the SEC East title for the third consecutive year.

Earlier in the afternoon, the Gators had done their part to set up a possible late season rally to win the division by smothering the Missouri Tigers on the road 23 – 6. That improved Florida to their final SEC record of 6 – 2. However, because they lost head-to-head 2 weeks ago to the Dawgs in Jacksonville, it meant the Gators had to have Georgia lose both of their remaining games, including next week at home with Texas A&M.

Georgia made sure that didn’t happen, as D’Andre Swift ran for 106 yards and Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm threw three touchdown passes. That included the eventual game-winner to tighten Eli Wolf from 5 yards out that put Georgia up 21 – 0 after three periods.

Auburn put together a tremendous rally behind freshman quarterback Bo Nix, who threw for 245 yards and a touchdown and ran for another TD to pull the Tigers within 21 – 14 with seven minutes to go.

Auburn got the ball back two times with chances to go and get a tying touchdown and both times, the Bulldogs held them on downs. The last one coming in the final minute of the game when Nix was sacked on fourth down inside his own 15-yard line to clinch the win and title for Georgia..

The Bulldogs, who were ranked fourth in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings still controls their own destiny to the playoff by winning out and winning the SEC title game.  Of course, likely standing in their way is that top-ranked LSU, who is unbeaten heading into play Saturday night and will be the other team trying to make the final four.

The best case scenario now for the Gators is to win their remaining game with rival FSU at the Swamp in two weeks and then look to be in a possible “New Year Six” game, most likely the Cotton Bowl.

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