The Florida Gators will be spending Christmas in Atlanta.. and they are thrilled about it.
Think back a year, to 2017. The Gators had a losing record, couldn’t even make a bowl game, and had their head coach fired before Halloween.
Fast forward to 2018, and a new coach in Dan Mullen, UF’s former OC under Urban Meyer. The Gators won 9 games in the regular season, were in contention for the SEC East Division title until late in the season, are ranked 10th in the CFP Top 25, and will now play 7th- ranked Michigan in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl December 29.
Yes, the football future is bright in Gainesville.
The Gators opened the season with six wins in their first seven games, and headed to Jacksonville for a much-anticipated matchup with Georgia, with SEC Championship Game implications on the line. However, the 7th-ranked (at the time) Bulldogs pulled away in the second half to win, and start the Gators on a 2-game losing streak.. that almost became three if they hadn’t recovered to beat South Carolina, then Idaho and Florida State to finish 9-3. The goal then was to receive a New Year’s Six bowl game invitation, which they did from the Peach Bowl.
“I’m proud of our team of how they have embraced everything this year and finished strong and now they get the reward of playing in a high-profile bowl game for the opportunity to win 10 games,” Head Coach Dan Mullen told reporters after UF accepted the Peach Bowl bid. “We will have some more time off to focus on academics and get our bodies right before we get back to work, prepare for the game and enjoy our time in Atlanta, which is a special city for us and our fans.”
As Mullen and his coaching staff continues the recruiting push, a bump from nine wins is expected in 2019. QB Feleipe Franks had his inconsistent moments during the season, but finished strong at the end and will enter spring football as the number-one guy under center. Emory Jones played sparingly, and he is more of the dual-threat QB that Mullen prefers. So far, they have a verbal commitment from four-star QB Jalon Jones from Richmond, VA, who is also a dual-threat player. But you get the feeling that Mullen’s QB of the future isn’t on the roster yet.
The Gators are loaded with skill players, but three seniors on the offensive line will have to be replaced.
The UF defense was one of the best in the country this season, and most of the starters are underclassmen. However, there are several juniors who will consider leaving early for the NFL Draft, like spectacular edge rusher Jachai Polite, who is already projected to be a first-round pick.
Mullen and everyone who follows Gator football, knows that recruiting will improve in the next few years, and the head coach gets the players he wants, to come to Gainesville. 24/7Sports Composite Team Recruiting Rankings has them at number-19 in the country, which is not good enough for now.
Dan Mullen expects more. And so do Gator fans. And they look to be back on the right track.