Florida Football: Are 2020 Gators and Dan Mullen media love legit?

Kyle Pitts, Florida football (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Kyle Pitts, Florida football (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

The 2020 Florida football team is the preseason media darling for the SEC East. Is this Dan Mullen media love legitimate?

The Florida football program is getting a lot of notice under Dan Mullen, but is he really building a new dynasty, or is this just fool’s gold like the start of the Jim McElwain era?

As we get closer to a possible 2020 college football season, that seemed a dream just a few weeks ago, the media click-clacks and keyboard cowboys have started revving up the preseason hype machine.

One of the more interesting, and seemingly ubiquitous, themes that has bubbled is the preponderance that the Florida Gators, and head coach Dan Mullen, are ready to dethrone the Georgia Bulldogs and take the SEC East division.

On the surface, this notion doesn’t seem all that inventive or innovative. For the better part of the 21st century, the Florida Gators have won the series with Georgia. In the 20 games played since 2000, the Gators have won 12. In fact, beginning with the Steve Spurrier regime (est. 1990), Florida dominated this series for nearly two decades, creating a foundational and generational expectation to win every year in Jacksonville at “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”.

That said, the script has flipped recently, and as the kids say, the Gators lost the plot in the last decade. Georgia has won six of the last 10 played and have won the last three straight.

So, why now? Why has the ever so concupiscent and specious media laid bare their monotonous 2020 predictions for a Florida Gator resurgence?

The first reason is an unheralded dirty little secret that is not so secret. The words you fair readers read are paid for by advertising and eyes. If no one shows up to click, the writer’s check is thinner than a John Waters mustache. These words, right here, are being paid for, hopefully. It’s just a fact.

Reality is Georgia has won the SEC East the last three years, and it is a boring read to predict that they will likely do it again. Nobody, other than Georgia fans, wants to hear or read that. And they wouldn’t read it. So, people don’t write it.

The second reason, and it is compendium to the first, is that no sportswriter must actually be correct. No one is held accountable for “getting it wrong”. I mean Danny Kannell has a job somewhere. Mel Kiper lives in a mansion. Or, two.

These are predictions. I would argue most sportswriters would rather be wrong and cash fat checks than the opposite be true. As much as I enjoy reading and listening to Barrett Sallee, Bill Bender or Brad Crawford, and I thoroughly do, as they are some of the best in the business, they aren’t out there trying to be the next Allen Ginsburg or Hunter S. Thompson finding truth with a capital T. The main truth in this business has zeros at the end, not a punctuation.

Still, the argument that Florida could win the SEC East this year isn’t completely without merit. On the face of it, Georgia has to replace the offensive coordinator, quarterback, running back and multiple offensive linemen from the 2019 (11-1) team. They have to do that without the benefit of spring practice. They also play Alabama and Auburn in the first half of the regular season.

Combine that with the fact that Florida should be a really good football team, after a (10-2) effort last year, with a legit quarterback in Kyle Trask, and one can see how it would be easy to roll out the “new car smell” of a prediction for a successful 2020 SEC East Florida Gators campaign.

This writer isn’t convinced. In short, Georgia returns a “blue-chip” ratio of 83 percent, while Florida is somewhere around 62 percent. There is a talent and depth gap. In addition, a Mullen coached offense hasn’t scored more than 17 points in a game against a Smart led defense in the last three times they’ve met as head coaches. But we’ll leave that for another article.

Florida Gators
Florida Gators /

Florida Gators

What I will posit, though, is that the media terra and establishment better be correct for Mullen’s sake. Florida Gators fans are not going to accept losing to Georgia for what would be a fourth straight year. If Mullen and company can’t unseat UGA this year, with all the aforementioned adversity, change, and tumult in Athens, Gainesville folks will start grousing.

It may seem silly, considering Mullen’s overall record as a head coach, and as head coach of the Florida Gators heading into his third year there. Dude has been successful by almost all measures. Incredibly successful. The kind of success that puts you on the cover of magazines and makes you the envy of other coaches.

But the one measure that means more than any in Gator Nation these days is beating Georgia and winning the East for the first time since 2016. A failure to do that in 2020 will turn these preseason prediction articles into “hot seat” paragraphs by early November.

The same scribes who now point to a preseason favorite Florida will switch to tsk-tsking fans for being “impatient”, while pointing to Mullen’s overall success, and lamenting “the state of the coaching business”.

But, Gator Nation won’t hear it, and if they stop showing up, the heat gets turned up.

You don’t believe me? Just ask Jim McElwain how quickly the temperature in Gainesville can rise. If you can find him. He was the Florida coach in 2016. The last time they won in Jacksonville and won the division.

He was gone after the next season.

dark. Next. 10 coaches who could be on hot seat in 2020