All offseason, it felt like everyone in the country was writing about how bad they expected Florida football to be in 2023. We chronicled last week some of the most outlandish projections that were made and noted the fact that those actually paying attention never bought into the gloom and doom narrative.
But now that we are at the defacto halfway point of the season and everyone is starting to reflect on those preseason prognostications, it still seems silly that the Florida Gators are considered a “surprise” for the 2023 season.
Florida Football: Were you surprised?
Yesterday Yahoo Sports put out a list of teams that have been a surprise in 2023 in a good way. Teams like Colorado, Arizona, Louisville, and Missouri all made the list. That seems fair, particularly Missouri, which even we here at Hail Florida Hail didn’t think would be very good this season.
"“Florida felt like a bit of a mystery entering the season. UF went 6-7 in Billy Napier’s first season and lost star QB Anthony Richardson to the NFL. The 2023 season got off to a shaky start with an ugly loss at Utah, but the Gators have since won five of six. The second half of the schedule is very difficult. Four of the five teams remaining on the schedule are ranked, including No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Florida State. If Florida can pull off an upset or two and have a good showing in a bowl game, this season will represent a promising step for Napier as he tries to elevate the Gators back into an elite SEC program.”"
The overarching narrative is that people can’t seem to grasp how Florida football is even putting their pads on correctly after the departure of Anthony Richardson. What was overlooked in most of the preseason predictions is that part of the reason why Florida went 6-7 last season is because their defense was so bad that we would have taken Todd Grantham back rather than having to endure whatever Patrick Toney thought was going to work.
With Toney gone and Austin Armstrong in, the manner in which Florida has won all of their games except the South Carolina game has been the style in which most Gator fans envisioned.
It is correctly noted that the Gators have a brutal schedule to end their season, made even more difficult by the fact that winning at Missouri is going to be a more difficult task than originally thought.
But given the schedule Florida faced in their first seven games, 5-2 was always the bar we expected the Gators to hit. Of Florida’s five wins, only the Tennessee win should really be considered a surprise, given the preseason hype Joe Milton was given. However, handing the preseason Heisman Trophy to a guy who had already lost his starting job twice wasn’t the wisest of moves.
If Florida can indeed pull off another upset over Georgia, LSU, or FSU, then it is fair to call the 2023 Gators a surprise.
But for now, Billy Napier is accomplishing what those actually paying attention expected him to achieve.