Florida football: This is the year to win it all

By now it’s exceedingly likely you’re tired of hearing about this year. I know I am. I’m tired of hearing how this year is unique or significant. I’m tired of the endless commentary fruitlessly searching for an optimistic spin on a nightmare that’s gone on for months now.

For one, a year is an arbitrary construct conceived to measure time. The events of 2020 really have nothing to do with 2020. Far too often in life we fall prey to our humanity, assigning, for whatever reason, meaning to these arbitrary slots of time. A year means nothing. As the calendar flips to January, the pandemic will not end, the economy will not fix itself, and the only thing that will have changed from the night before is the amount of hangovers per capita.

It wasn’t my intention to open a story about the Florida Gators with a macabre outlook that surely would have left you in a better mood had you gone without. My point is this: the world is in an uncertain place right now. There is no telling when things will change, if we will ever revert to normalcy or if, frighteningly, we already have. A year can mean a lot of things, but for the sake of our lives right now, this year means nothing. So with that deluge of negativity out of the way, consider this:

This year means everything for Florida football.

It doesn’t start on Jan. 1. It started with a visit to Oxford, Mississippi and while its end date is uncertain, it won’t last 12 months. For us as humans, a year is meaningless. For us as football fans, a year is all that matters. Forget the Gators themselves for a moment, and consider the state of college football today.

At the heart of all sports lies a cyclical nature of competition. For every dominant team will follow a down period, and college football is no different. For all of the dominant Nebraska and Miami teams of the past will come, well, the Nebraska and Miami teams of the present. In this day and age however, college football has been a world where a select few superpowers start the year with even a chance of contention - the Alabamas, Clemsons, Ohio States, Georgias, LSUs and Oklahomas of the world. It’s been a long time since Florida football was in that conversation. In a normal year, would it have made the discussion? Maybe. But for the Gators, the world chose a marvelous time to implode.

In a reflection of reality, college football is all over the map this year, a complete mess to put it kindly. Certain conferences have been playing for almost a month, while others will not even begin until such a time frame passes again. Many superstar players have deemed it more prudent to avoid playing altogether than to take the health risk. The list of unaffected programs is precisely zero. But among those taking the greatest hits are those programs which tend to be the greatest themselves.

Let’s revisit that list. Defending champions LSU had already lost Ja’Marr Chase to an opt out when it lost its very first game to Mississippi State. If that sounds bad, Oklahoma lost its spot in the top 25 altogether after losing to Kansas State and Iowa State in back-to-back weeks.

Georgia’s starting quarterback is a fourth string walk-on by the name of Stetson Bennett because the Bulldogs lost their No. 1 guy Jamie Newman to an opt out as well.

A conference-only schedule means ACC-bound Clemson will barely face actual competition until the postseason. Meanwhile, Ohio State hasn’t even hit the field. Only Alabama made it this far without major red flags, but this is a team that took a step back last year and then lost a starting quarterback, tackle, two wideouts, two defensive backs, two linebackers and a defensive tackle to the first 100 picks of the NFL Draft alone.

Enter Florida football, a squad that features continuity with a returning head coach in Dan Mullen and a returning Heisman favorite under center in Kyle Trask. Stars stud the rest of the offense, starting with tight end Kyle Pitts and backfield bruiser Dameon Pierce. The defense, while looking understandably shaky early on, is filled with veteran presences and should stabilize under a historically excellent coaching staff.

The team looked very strong in two games while other playoff contenders such as Oklahoma, UCF and LSU have already dropped off the map. Their toughest games of the season are against that LSU team and the same Georgia squad that tries to win 17-10 in lieu of a passing game. If we were to have that superpowers discussion today, want to know who would be an instant addition to the conversation?

None of this is to say the task facing the Gators is easy. As we have already seen this season, upsets can and will occur with even greater frequency than in normal years. Florida doesn’t have only Georgia and LSU to worry about, but feisty teams such as Texas A&M, Kentucky and Tennessee as well. The usual titans that tend to populate the FBS landscape have been reduced to roadblocks - obstacles by all means, but nothing remotely as otherworldly as their traditional standards.

For Florida football, if there ever was one, this is the year.

Photo courtesy of FloridaGators.com