When Florida fans look north, it’s easy to develop major envy.
Georgia has crushed opponents during a 6-0 start in Kirby Smart’s second year. Georgia looks like a pit bull on both sides of the ball, with playmakers packed between the hedges. Georgia seems primed to treat the rest of the SEC East with the same care a monster truck shows a scrapheap special.
And the Gators resemble a tricycle with a missing front wheel.
These are rough days for Florida. Jim McElwain is scuffling in his third season in Gainesville. There are injuries galore and enough suspensions to make a man go bald. The Great Quarterback Search has led the Gators in circles. Recent dramatic finishes should have fans rushing to pack a defibrillator before the next watch party.
For Florida, there’s no relief in sight.
For Georgia, the good times are ready to roll.
Smart’s success in Athens should create pressure on McElwain. Florida fans should become antsy with Georgia enjoying gains on the field and on the recruiting trail, especially after 5-star quarterback Justin Fields committed to the Bulldogs last Friday. Georgia is hot right now.
But there’s no reason why the Gators must surrender the SEC East for years to come. Florida has been and can be a national player in the same way that the Bulldogs threaten to be. Gators fans should demand more as Georgia’s shadow becomes larger.
Look, McElwain must pick up his game. The offense must be more than a high-wire act. Florida’s quarterback situation must resemble more than a maddening display of musical chairs.
The Gators have a bunch of issues. You can blame injuries. You can blame bad luck. You can blame the suspensions that have left a dark cloud over the program.
But the bottom line is this: Smart is building a monster program that will have staying power, and Florida looks inferior in comparison. That’s a big problem for McElwain. That must change.
Smart’s rise does Florida’s coach no favors. After all, how can Gators fans not look at the Nick Saban disciple and wonder why McElwain can’t do the same thing? How can those questions not be asked?
Smart turned up the heat on Florida and the rest of the SEC East by threatening to make Georgia an Alabama-like force within the division. It’s great for the conference that a higher standard is demanded within an SEC East that has been a smoldering mess. But the Gators benefited from weak competition to win the division the past two years while being mediocre. The Bulldogs’ surge means the Gators’ gravy train reached its final stop.
Georgia’s progress should force Florida to show urgency. The Gators can’t be stagnant with the SEC East shifting under them, with one of their main rivals positioning themselves to be the division’s top team for a while. The worst result for McElwain would be to see his program spin its wheels.
The pressure should be on McElwain. But there’s a possible silver lining for Florida in Georgia’s climb: Evolution can make the Gators better than they would have been without the Bulldogs’ gains, without the road to the SEC Championship Game becoming tougher.
The Gators’ top priority should be to get their quarterback situation in order. Luke Del Rio wasn’t the solution, and Malik Zaire is little more than a fascination. McElwain must learn if young Feleipe Franks is the answer to the riddle.
These days, it’s easy for weary Gators fans to look toward Georgia and wonder, “Heck, why not us?”
McElwain must provide a response fast.
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