The first-ever college football playoff poll was released yesterday and of course the Gators weren’t on it. Nor have they been ranked in any of this year’s polls.
The 1990 preseason AP poll would be the only poll of the entire decade not to include Florida, as Spurrier would spend the next 10 years molding the Gators into a national power that was ever-present in the top-10 of the rankings.
In fact, as a friend of mine pointed out a few weeks ago, the Gator team of 2014 is well on their way towards accomplishing something that a Florida football team hasn’t done since 1979, when the Gators finished the season without being ranked at any point.
This week, the Gators came in at No. 59 in a USA Today ranking of all FBS football teams. And without a win against Georgia this weekend, it’s hard to see how the Gators could find the AP poll at any point this season.
Sept. 29, 1980
On Sept. 27, 1980 the Florida Gators defeated Mississippi State at Florida Field, making them 3-0. It was the start of a remarkable turnaround for a team that was 0-10-1 in 1979. Second-year coach Charley Pell, who couldn’t get a win in his first season, was at 3-0 and gotten the Gators back to a place they had not been since Oct. 29, 1977 – the AP poll. They were No. 19.
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In the late 1970s, the wheels were falling off a Gators team who under head coach Doug Dickey spent most of the decade as a college football contender. Florida was frequently ranked in the teens and got as high as No. 6 in the AP rankings in 1975 after they beat No. 5 Auburn at Florida Field. The Gators didn’t stay there long, as they lost two consecutive games to unranked Georgia and Kentucky. Florida eventually slid further, going 4-7 in 1978, which led to Dickey’s firing at the end of the season.
But after a rough first season, Pell had the 1980 Gators turned around. Florida was once again a nationally recognized football power. In 1983, Pell had the Gators ranked every week — something they hadn’t accomplished since 1975.
Pell’s recruiting violation led to his ouster, with offensive coordinator Galen Hall taking over the team in the late 1980s. Legendary running back Emmitt Smith led those teams to generally mediocre records, but the Gators managed to find their way to into the polls every season.
The Spurrier Legacy
Hall left as coach, paving the way for Steve Spurrier’s return to Florida. In his premier, Spurrier’s Gators thrashed Oklahoma State 50-7, launching the Gators into the poll at No. 24. Turns out the 1990 preseason AP poll would be the only poll of the entire decade not to include Florida, as Spurrier would spend the next 10 years molding the Gators into a national power that was ever-present in the top-10 of the rankings.
Spurrier left for the NFL in 2002, setting the stage for Ron Zook, who would eventually be fired for poor performance in 2004. Under Zook, the Gators slipped and lost their week-in, week-out spot on the AP poll. And while those Gator teams were generally considered mediocre, they ranked in the AP poll every season. In fact, Zook had the Gators ranked No. 20 in the final regular season AP poll in 2004, shortly before his release.
From there, the Gators made the switch to Urban Meyer, who won two national championships at Florida and returned the team to its national prominence. However, after finishing the 2009 season ranked No.1 before losing in the SEC championship to Alabama, the Gators trailed off in Meyer’s 2010 season, and were the first Gator team to finish the season unranked since 1989.
Oct. 13, 2013
Current head coach Will Muschamp took over a Gator team that was sagging and eventually dropped out of the AP poll after starting the 2011 season ranked. Behind an improved defense, the 2012 Gators made it to the Sugar Bowl and maintained a national ranking throughout the season.
But then 2013 happened, the worst season in many Gators’ memory. However, even that team started the season with great promise and was 4-1 at one point. After losing at LSU, the Gators were 4-2 and ranked No. 22 in the Oct. 13 AP poll. It is the last time the Gators have been ranked.
The following week, Florida lost at Missouri, and dropped from the AP poll entirely. After dropping the last 7 games of the season, Florida entered the 2014 season unranked in the preseason poll. Their best chance to return to ranking this season was their Sept. 20 game at Alabama, which they lost handily, putting an AP ranking even farther out of reach.
USA Today released a ranking of all 128 teams this week. At 3-3 and coming off a blowout loss to Missouri, the Gators came in at No. 59. The ranking is one spot behind first-year FBS team Georgia Southern, which dramatically shone a light on Florida’s mediocrity last year when they shocked the Gator Nation at Florida Field.
It’s not inconceivable for the Gators to become ranked before the season ends, but it will require a remarkable turnaround. For starters, Florida probably has to win the rest of its games — which includes top-10 teams Georgia and Florida State. It’s certainly conceivable to imagine that a Florida team on a winning streak which defeats No.2 ranked Florida State in Tallahassee could crack back into the AP poll. Such an outcome seems almost miraculous at this point, but it’s far from impossible. However, such a run would have to start this weekend, with a win over Georgia. Hard to see how the Gators become ranked this season without that victory on their record.