The Florida Gators Are The Nation’s No. 2 Team, With Ranking Comes Great Expectations

Remember 2006? Of course you do. The Florida Gators would finish the season as the nation’s No. 2 team according to the final BCS standings. And 2008? There were the Gators again at No. 2. How about 2009? The Alabama Crimson Tide held the No. 1 spot in the final rankings. Just last season? Alabama at No. 2. What do those teams have in common? They would each go on to victory in the BCS National Championship Game. But where did they start? And why am I asking you so many questions?

Jeff Driskel - Florida Gators

The Gators were No. 6 in the first set of BCS standings in 2006. In 2008, Florida was all the way down at No. 10. Alabama was No. 2 in 2009 (behind then No. 1 Florida). And the Tide were No. 2 in 2011. So the Gators weren’t in the top two of the first rankings during either of their title years, but the Tide were both times they won it all. Yes, were going somewhere with this.

On Sunday, the first BCS standings of the 2012 season were released and the top two spots were occupied by the programs that have won four of the last six championships. Alabama at No. 1 isn’t a surprise in even the loosest definition of the word. It was inevitable. There really is no debate on that, even if some will try. And even if some of those that would debate it should be our own Florida Gators.

Those Gators, though, they’re right there at No. 2 with the shock you were all looking for. In my own submission in the SB Nation College Football BlogPoll just one day ago, I had Florida at No. 3. I can’t argue the No. 2 ranking and won’t even try, but I did want to put it out there again that I wasn’t as generous. For a number of reasons really, but one in particular.

With high rankings come high expectations and maybe I don’t want to believe it all just yet. I was quite enjoying being the team that’s not supposed to be up there. After a 7-6 season, most of us Florida fans were thinking 9-4 was in the realm of possibility. We could see a perfect storm producing 10 wins, but we could also envision a season that brought eight. There were so many questions to be answered and improvements to be made that we just weren’t sure. And please keep in mind that being an optimistic fan is worlds different than taking a realistic approach of the situation before you. 2012 was to be an improvement on 2011. We could have seen 6-0 coming, but No. 2 was a shock.

You know how it goes, “If the season were to end today, we’d see another all-SEC national title game.” The season doesn’t end today, but yes, if it did, the Gators would face the Tide for the crystal ball. That scares me. It shouldn’t. After all, I’m a Florida fan and have been for most of my life (I’m not sure who I cheered for before I turned 5 years old and discovered the orange and blue), but it scares me because I’m not sure they’re ready. I was thinking everything would come together in 2013 and that would be the season the Gators could really make some noise. All of that came one season early. Or did it?

We’re at the halfway point of the season with games against South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida State still to come. Just two weeks ago, all three of those teams were in the top six. Today, they each have one loss, but they’re still three of this season’s better programs. Florida faces them all. 6-0 could very easily become 9-3. Then again, it could be 10-2. How about 11-1? Does anyone dare go to 12-0? We can ask that question. Not because we have the right to, but because there’s a real chance it could happen. That perfect storm isn’t 10 wins anymore. It’s higher.

South Carolina just lost to a team the Gators beat. Georgia lost to South Carolina. FSU lost to an ACC team they weren’t supposed to lose to. None of those losses guarantee future Florida wins, but they showed that there are ways to beat those teams. Put it all together and it’s all looking mighty bright in Gator Nation.

What happens from here starts on Saturday, but losses now bring an added disappointment. Expectations will do that to you. Before I’m lit up with “ALL LOSSES HURT!!!” let’s look at that statement. Some hurt more than others. Without expectations, they’re awful. With them, they take on an entire new meaning. Tell me, what was worse? Losing to the Seminoles in 2011? Or to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game? I know my answer.

The expectations aren’t going away and so we must accept them. Maybe even learn to like them. They increased after 3-0 and intensified after the win over LSU. Beat South Carolina and they may just be sky-high. I’ll be fine with that, but nervous. But I’ll take a good nervous over a bad one any day.

Week 6 BlogPoll: Where A New SEC Team Takes Hold Of The No. 1 Ranking

It’s the week six BlogPoll and there’s a new No. 1 in town. For me, that’s South Carolina. For most, it’s probably not new at all because I’ll go ahead and predict that Alabama still holds the top spot for the entire poll. Regardless, the Gamecocks’ win over previously unbeaten Georgia was enough for me to give them the top ranking – for one week at least. We’ll see what this upcoming weekend brings.

A few points:

• Alabama has an elite defense. South Carolina has a defense I’m literally scared of. Being scared ranks slightly higher than elite status. No. 1 goes to the Gamecocks.

• The SEC took a slight hit with only three teams in the top 10 this week. Of course, that’s because the two teams that fell out were beaten by two others that stayed in.

• The AP Poll had the Gators as high as No. 4, but I’m more inline with the Coaches Poll. I was impressed with the comeback victory and am very happy with where Florida’s defense is headed, but I’m still cautious. October isn’t close to being over.

• Florida State taking the biggest dive had nothing to do with them being Florida State and everything with them giving away a 16-point lead to an unranked team. One of these years, we’ll stop saying the ‘Noles are back until we’re actually sure they’re back.

• Yes, that’s Duke at No. 23. It may not last long, but the Blue Devils make my top 25.

It’s October 1 And The Florida Gators Are In The Top 10 (Of 1 Of The Polls At Least)

It’s October, which in college football means the real season has started. Plenty has happened over the first month of the season to make us all believe we know where the 2012 season is headed, but until now it meant little and we can’t predict the future as much as we think we may be able to. What does mean something, until it doesn’t, is that after the first five weeks of the season, the Florida Gators are a top-10 team. That’s only the case in one of the two major polls, but as fans we’ll take it, even if some of us don’t consider it to count for much.

Jeff Driskel - Florida Gators

Count me among those. While I’m happy (or content, or pleasantly surprised) with the state of the Florida Gators at the moment, I don’t put too much into that top-10 ranking. September is a trial of sorts during which teams find their way. While 4-0 is exactly where we’d want the Gators to be and 3-0 in the SEC is an added bonus, we all remember what October one year ago gave us. It wasn’t pretty and a month we hope to forget sooner rather than later.

Does that mean I’m not impressed with Florida’s play thus far? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. In fact, as stated above, I’m pleasantly surprised with what the Gators have put together. There are questions still to be answered and some holes to be filled, but overall the product we’re seeing on the field is headed in the direction we all had hoped. There’s still the very real possibility we have an 8-4 season on our hands, but if Florida continues to improve and show some of the positive signs they have, we would all be pleased with what the future will bring.

But we’re not there yet. We’re at the end of September, which means there are two-thirds of a season remaining and the biggest challenges are still to come. The No. 10 ranking in the AP Poll is nice, as is the No. 11 spot in the Coaches, but they are just that – nice. Sure, the Gators can climb even higher, but they can fall just as easily. In the blink of an eye by the name of October really. Let’s take a look at recent history, shall we?

(more…)

Predicting The 2012 SEC Football Season Game By Game (If Each Team Played 1,200 Games)

I guess it’s not that weird, but it is different. We here at The Bull Gator started this last season and figured we might as well continue. (We’re still not sure where our inspiration came from, but we’ve seen similar things done elsewhere, so thanks to anyone that may be doing something like this.) This is our way of predicting the 2012 SEC football season. It’s more than just win vs. loss. Instead, it’s how many times a particular team might beat another. Averages, if you will.

Instead of picking Team A over Team B, we tried to determine how many times we thought Team A would beat Team B if they played each other 100 times. While Team A may be heavily favored over Team B, there’s always that chance of an upset and we try to take that into account. Need an example? Here you go:

If the Florida Gators and Bowling Green Falcons played 100 times, you think the Gators would win 75 of those games. You feel the same way for each of the remaining 11 games on Florida’s schedule. That’s 12 matchups and 75 wins per game. 12 multiplied by 75 is 900; 900 divided by 100 (because in reality, the Gators don’t play each team 100 times; they play each team once) is 9. Therefore, based on your win number for each game, you believe Florida will end up with 9 victories in 2012 for a record of 9-3. Yes, you have technically predicted the Gators to win every game, but a 75% chance of winning each time out is far from perfect.

We set two rules for this exercise. One rule is obvious: A single game must have consistent results. If you believe Florida would beat Texas A&M 75 times, then you also believe Texas A&M would beat Florida 25 times. The other was set to force each of us to pick an overall winner: No matchup can be 50-50. You have to go one way or another even if your chosen mark is 51-49. Ultimately, we’re attempting to predict outcomes and there are no longer ties in college football.

Now that the lengthy (although much shorter than last year’s) explanation is over, here are the results. Discuss, agree with, argue against below.

A few notes:

• The highlighted numbers under the SEC East standings are there to show the only place in the entire standings where we disagreed with each other. Although Vanderbilt ends up fourth overall, individually Willy had them fifth behind Missouri.

• The highlighted schools under the SEC West standings are for the two national title contenders. We both ended up with Alabama ahead of LSU in the SEC West standings; however, if you look at just our picks, that’s not necessarily true. I give the edge to Bama in every game they play, while Willy has LSU beating Bama 55-45. The reason the Tide still come out on top for him is because of greater average confidence in their 11 wins than the Tigers’ 12.

• Finally, the highlighted numbers in the individual team schedules show the games we disagreed on from a win-loss standpoint. Last year, we didn’t disagree on a single game! That’s right, not one. This year there were six, four of which involved Tennessee. I’m not proud to say that in all four of those, I have the Vols coming out on top, but that doesn’t change the fact that we both think their probably a 6-6 team.

There you have it, our long-winded way of predicting the SEC in 2012.

2013 Football Recruiting: DeMarcus Walker To Alabama Crimson Tide Over Florida Gators

2013 defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker has made his decision and it’s not good news for the Florida Gators. On Friday night, Walker committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide over the instate orange and blue. The decision isn’t surprising as many had pegged Walker as a member of Bama’s class.

Walker was on many a Florida fan’s wishlist, but fit may have played a role in his decision to head to Alabama. Walker feels he can play an important role for a team that has been at the top of college football for the past few years.

Although the announcement was predicted to bring good news for Bama, Florida may not have even finished second in the race. Auburn was in it until the very end for Walker and it seemed a sure thing that he would leave the state of Florida to play college football.

With plenty of names still on their board, recruiting is far from over for the Gators. Walker was a big name that got away, but one they were probably not banking on for a while now.

2013 Football Recruiting: Demarcus Walker Not Close To Decision, But Florida Gators Make Impression

Jacksonville, FL (Sandalwood) defensive end Demarcus Walker still has a healthy number of schools on his list, but the Florida Gators are gaining ground with the four-star recruit ($).

Last Friday, Walker visited Gainesville and had a chance to sit down and talk with the coaches; specifically head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The discussions went well and gave confidence to both sides. The Gators had a chance to meet with Walker one-on-one, and Walker felt his relationship with Muschamp and Quinn took a beneficial turn.

“You know at a point and time I felt that I really couldn’t trust the coaching staff there. I spoke with Coach Quinn and Muschamp and realized that I could trust them. They had always been nice to me but I guess the bond just wasn’t really there, but talking with Coach Muschamp you just really see who he really is and I liked that a lot.” – Demarcus Walker, 2013 Defensive End

The visit helped Florida gain ground, but the Gators aren’t at the top of Walker’s list just yet. Then again, no one program seems to be. Walker includes Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Southern Cal and Tennessee among the other schools he’s considering. He hopes to visit a number of schools during July and make his final decision on August 3. That could prove beneficial to the Gators as his final visit will be to Florida during Friday Night Lights on July 27.

All four major recruiting services list Walker as a four-star prospect. At his position – strongside defensive end – he falls between No. 3 (ESPN, which lists all defensive ends together) and No. 11 (Rivals). Overall, he falls between No. 43 (247Sports) and No. 120 (Rivals).

In terms of where he could end up, well, it’s anyone’s guess, but 247 and Rivals attempt to role the dice. 247 lists Alabama and Florida all alone in the “Warmer” category, while Rivals has Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Tennessee listed as “High.” Time will tell with Walker, but that time is quickly counting down to August 3.

2013 Football Recruiting: Athlete Derrick Henry No Longer Committed To Georgia Bulldogs

During the 2012 recruiting cycle, an athlete from the 2013 class jumped to the top of many wish lists. While programs focused on putting together their 2012 classes, they couldn’t help but notice Yulee, FL (Yulee) athlete Derrick Henry. One of the nation’s best in his class, Henry was a want of nearly every major program in the nation. Among those were the Florida Gators.

With a need a running back, wide receiver, and virtually every other position Henry could conceivably play, the Gators kept an eye on Henry. There was even a time when Florida was considered the leader. But not long after that news began to surface, Henry pulled the trigger and committed to Georgia. After 11 months and numerous other visits, Henry is a free agent again. On Wednesday, the athlete announced he was no longer committed to the Bulldogs.

The news comes after a weekend Henry spent at Alabama – considered to be among his favorites. Also on that list is another SEC program, Tennessee. It seems more and more likely that Henry will end up in the Southeastern Conference, but Georgia may now be a long shot.

As for Florida? Well, the Gators could be as well. Since Henry’s commitment to the Bulldogs, the Gators have added Adam Lane and Kelvin Taylor. Although Henry has also been mentioned as a possible receiver or defensive back, Florida has added numbers at those positions as well. They could always use more, but a lot of time has passed with Henry.

The coaching staff may test the waters and see where Henry’s mind is now that he is no longer committed to Georgia, but nearly one year after being rumored as the leader for him, Florida has an uphill battle if they want to join in the fight again.

2013 Football Recruiting Report: Kelvin Taylor – Running Back – Belle Glade, FL

He’s the recruit everyone had their eye on, for a while now. Being the son of a former Florida Gators’ great is one thing; breaking the career state rushing record of another is one more. There are many things that turned Kelvin Taylor into one of the nation’s most sought after running backs; his connections to Fred Taylor and Emmitt Smith are just a couple. The 2013 RB more than lives up to the comparisons and the hype and on February 18, he made Gator Nation extremely happy.

The Rundown

Name: Kelvin Taylor
Position: Running Back
Height: 5’11″
Weight: 215
Hometown: Belle Glade, FL
High School: Glades Day
Class: 2013
Rankings: 247Sports – 5 stars, No. 1 RB, No. 13 Overall | ESPN – 4 stars, No. 1 RB, No. 21 Overall | Scout – 4 stars, No. 9 RB, No. 58 Overall | Rivals – 4 stars, No. 9 RB, No. 92 Overall
Status: Committed to Florida

The Report

It came down to two schools for Taylor: Florida – where his father played – and Alabama – the defending national champions and the program that recently produced Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. A tough decision for Taylor seemed like a no-brainer for Gators’ fans. The decision came early when Taylor committed to Florida, and although there’s plenty of time for him to change his mind, not many see that happening.

(more…)

2013 Football Recruiting: Caleb Brantley And The Varying Degrees Of A Commitment

On Monday, we learned that 2013 defensive tackle Caleb Brantley had adjusted the level of his commitment to the Florida Gators. The four-star DT from Crescent City, FL (Crescent City) stated via Facebook that he was now a soft verbal commitment to Florida, dropping his status down from solid verbal commitment. Brantley maintains he is still committed to the Gators and head coach Will Muschamp understands where the defensive tackle stands, but that he may have jumped into his commitment too early.

In addition to wanting to take visits to other schools, Brantley is concerned about the depth chart at defensive tackle. He seems like someone that wants to play immediately and were Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd to return for their senior seasons, the guess is Brantley wants to know what his role would be. He doesn’t want to spend his first season watching from the sidelines, but instead wants to learn on the job.

This development is hardly shocking and could be viewed as just another example of the way the recruiting world turns. Until a player signs his letter of intent, he is nothing more than verbally committed to a school. Whether we want to clarify that verbal commitment as solid or soft, it’s still nothing more than a recruit claiming which school tops his list in many cases. Brantley may still end up signing with the Gators – Florida still holds the lead – but he may sign elsewhere as well. At the moment, he’s being honest in saying that he may have jumped the gun and would like to learn a little more before he makes a final decision.

Brantley remains committed for now and has mentioned it would take a lot for that to change, but he does want to visit other schools and make an informed decision. Among those schools are Alabama, Florida State and USC.

Dear Alabama, We Know The Feeling

On Saturday, the Alabama Crimson Tide experienced something the Florida Gators football program is very familiar with. While in the Mal Moore Athletic Facility, a player’s father got his foot caught on a rug causing the crystal football on the top of Alabama’s most recent national championship trophy to fall to the floor and shatter.

The crystal football sits atop the trophy held in place by three small supports. In reality, it just sits there and isn’t connected to the trophy in any way. Florida found this out the hard way in 2008 when Orson Charles – then a recruit – bumped into a table holding one of the Gators trophies. The football fell to the floor experiencing he same fate as Alabama’s.

The trophy is handmade and valued at approximately $30,000. Its breaking wasn’t enough to get Charles to become a Gator; he would go on to commit to Georgia and play for the Bulldogs. No word on exactly which player’s father knocked over Bama’s trophy.