It's May and the college football season is just under four months away but spring practice is done and we look ahead to the fall. It's the time of year when people project what the upcoming season may look like.
DraftKings has posted their over/under on wins for SEC teams:
Georgia 11.5 Alabama 10.5 LSU 9.5 Tennessee 9.5 Ole Miss 7.5 Arkansas 7.5 Texas A&M 7.5 South Carolina 6.5 Kentucky 6.5 Missouri 6.5 Miss St 6.5 Auburn 6.5 Florida 5.5 Vanderbilt 3.5
No one should be surprised that Georgia is projected to basically run the table. The Dawgs play their first four games at home with South Carolina being the toughest test before a game five trip to Auburn. They play at Tennessee November 18th and Georgia will be positioned for a chance to win a third straight national title.
Meanwhile, near the bottom of the list of projections sits the Florida Gators with a win total at 5.5. Think about that for a second. DraftKings has Florida at five or six wins. But what if they are right? Does the Florida fan base accept another year of playing meaningless football after Halloween?
Could they be right with projecting 5.5 wins? Let's take a look at the Gators' schedule and see.
The Gators open on the road at Utah in the return game from last year's matchup in Gainesville where Florida prevailed. But they will be underdogs going out to Salt Lake City against a tough and physical Utes team. They get McNeese State at home the next week before what I think is the biggest game of the season. Florida plays Tennessee in week three. If Florida beats Josh Heupel's Vols then fans will be happy and they could rip off a few wins in a row. But if Heupel's team comes to Gainesville and wins then it's a 1-2 start.
There would be a ton of empty Swamp seats the following week when Charlotte rolls into town. A win would then take a 2-2 team to Lexington to face Kentucky. The Wildcats lost Will Levis to the NFL Draft but they brought in NC State veteran Devin Leary at quarterback and what happens if Florida loses and sits at 2-3? Then there will be plenty of critics wondering if Billy Napier is the right man for the job, fair or not.
Vandy is game six and then it's off to Columbia for an improved South Carolina team. The Gators rolled the Gamecocks, 38-6, in Gainesville last season. But this road game will be a test for Florida. If they lose, then it's 3-4 before the bye week and then Georgia waiting after that and it's 3-5.
Arkansas is no gimme at home before a road trip to Baton Rouge. LSU faces Alabama the week before playing Florida. Could the Gators get a split beating Arkansas at home but falling at LSU? Maybe. That would make them 4-6 with a road game at Missouri and the season ending game at home against FSU.
Now you can see how the projected 5.5 win total is not that crazy.
So what if Florida goes 6-6 or misses a bowl and goes 5-7?
First, Billy Napier is not getting fired. But there would be a growing number of vocal critics in an era where coaches don't get four to five years to build anything. Napier would feel the wrath of a fanbase whose level of frustration would be mounting while its rivals and those not considered in their "league" are passing them by. The DraftKings projection might be wrong and Florida might win nine or 10 games. But the fact that Florida is listed 13th among SEC teams says a lot about the perception of where the program is at. Sure, the schedule is challenging but these are the Florida Gators- a program that has won national titles and was considered a threat to win the SEC every year in the Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer eras. Now, Florida fans look and wonder how games against Missouri, South Carolina and Arkansas have become tossups. How does Florida recapture the "Fun and Gun" as it has watched Josh Heupel roar past the program that changed how offense was played not once, but twice in the best football league in the country.
Perception does not guarantee a record but Florida is not viewed as the SEC power it once was. It has every resource to be that same power but the road has more traffic. Alabama and Georgia have moved to another level. But Florida is now not considered a second tier program in its own conference by many. That is why Napier will hear the wrath of Gator fans if DraftKings is right. Florida fans don't care that the program played in three straight New Year's Six Bowls before back-to-back 6-7 campaigns. They want to win again at the highest level. They want a single digit number next to their name when you tune into their games.
Napier didn't say out loud what he really wanted to say when he took over for Dan Mullen. He could have said how low the program had fallen and that it needed a major overhaul. And that overhaul might take a few seasons. He knew he couldn't say that, not while Florida was opening its new facility and its collective claimed it would compete with anyone.
Now Napier heads into a second season with a reimaged collective, a fan base wondering if he's the right guy and perception that one of the most successful programs in the last 30+ years in the sport is not the power it used to be. That's a tough spot for Napier who wants to prove DraftKings wrong and rally a fan base who yearns to get back to what it once was...
Nuggets: I love Pat Williams. He is one of the greatest people you will ever meet. He is the reason Orlando has the Magic. He is one of the greatest sports marketing minds ever. But the effort to land a MLB team in Orlando is challenging on many levels. For starters, MLB is not sending an expansion team to Orlando while the Rays are in the Tampa Bay area. Second, if Orlando wanted to get into the mix for an expansion team it will need an ownership group willing to spend $800-900M for their share of building the dome Williams envisions. Oh, and then that ownership group likely needs another $2-3B in an expansion fee. That means you will need the Rays ownership to decide to leave St. Petersburg and come to Orlando. You would need that to be a public and written statement and that means the Rays would play multiple seasons in an area they are leaving. Look, I am all for anything that brings sports to the area and I applaud Williams vision and I never write off Pat for anything, but this one is a "dream" that may not have a happy ending. The Dreamers may never see the field because the Rays know in the end the Bay Area will likely find a way to get funding in place to keep the team. But their clock is ticking and there is a deadline at some point for a new stadium. But Orlando faces challenges even if the Rays want to leave their current home. I am just not sure MLB owners would give another Florida city a chance because of the attendance issues the Rays and Marlins deal with. Never say never, but this is a dream that may never become a reality...Jokic didn't know it was an owner and why should he?...Joe Mazzula doesn't care what you think of his late game decisions...I still think the Heat without Jimmy Butler are not as good as the Magic's roster. But the Heat have Butler and the Magic don't....The Florida Panthers are riding a Cinderella wave but they did go 42-32 with eight overtime losses. This is not a bad team getting lucky. But Matthew Tkachuk is one of the game's best players and the Panthers are nine wins from holding up the Cup...Yes, I love horse racing. Yes, I am aware of the tragedies at Churchill Downs with the number of horses that died or had to be put down last week. Yes, the industry must be better and has made tremendous strides in the last two years in establishing new rules and better oversight to protect horses. I have said on air that the biggest issue is overbreeding and overdrugged. Trainers and owners continue to work the gray area of rules and not everyone is being properly policed. I know the comparisons don't make sense when I say if you are a critic of horse racing and think it should be shut down and I ask if you are calling for the same when it comes to the poultry, cattle and fishing industries for how it treats the chickens, cows and fish. I accept we have vices we like that others don't. Life is not perfect. Horse racing can and needs to be better and if you stop watching and supporting because of these recent events, that is horse racing's loss for a sport trying to find new fans...Finally, I can't stop giving five star reviews to my driver's on Uber. I overtip as well because I am obsessed with having a 5.0 rating. What the heck is wrong with me?...
Final note: The first taxi was used in 1899 in Paris. New York's first taxi came in 1907...