As the University of Florida begins and ends practice every day, each player knows the reality of the season ahead of them. Every fan of the Gators expects a repeat National Championship from the team that returns almost every key starter on both sides of the ball.
All around the nation, every poll has Florida at the No. 1 spot and no expectation of a loss on their schedule. The question is not which game the Gators will lose but simply if one game is realistically winnable for another team.
Individually, no team can say they match the talent level and experience the Gators have but with the wear and tear of an SEC season Florida is likely to fall victim to a loss.
Florida Losses From Past Three Years
In the Tim Tebow era the Gators have lost six games dating back to October 14, 2006, when Auburn won at home 27-17. That was the only loss for the eventual National Champions that year.
The following season saw Florida slip to 9-4 with losses coming to Auburn (20-17), at LSU (24-28), to Georgia (42-30) in Jacksonville, and to Michigan (41-35) in Orlando at the Citrus Bowl.
Last year the only blemish on the Gators record was a 31-30 loss at home to the Mississippi Rebels in what was possibly the upset of the year.
When the six losses are examined statistically, several trends emerge to give teams insight and hope at toppling the giant in the East.
The overall scoring showed that with the exception of the LSU game, every team that beat Florida scored first to take an early lead. In addition, everyone except LSU was leading or tied going into the fourth quarter. While the Gators offense is potent, they have struggled to come back late in games. Since Tebow took over as the starter, the Gators are 1-5 when trailing at any point in the second half. The only time they reversed that trend was in last year’s SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
Turnovers have played a key part in many of the games as well as Florida has turned the ball over an average of two times per loss. Michigan was the only team to not beat Florida in the turnover battle while the Gators made big mistakes against other opponents.
A key component to any upset win is making at least one big play. In the 2006 loss to Auburn, the Tigers were able to score on a blocked punt, a fumble, and a safety. Georgia was able knock off Florida with two passing touchdowns of 84 and 53 yards. Most recently, Mississippi was able to showcase the big play with a 40-yard rushing touchdown and an 86 yard score through the air.
Finally, yardage also revealed several possible weaknesses for Florida. Florida was exposed on the ground in several losses giving up 133 yards rushing to Auburn, 140 to Mississippi, 151 to Michigan, 196 to Georgia, and 247 to LSU Compare this to the Gators average of 92.9 yards rushing per game allowed since 2006, and it is evident that the ground game is needed to get a win against Florida.
While no team has the talent to beat the Gators on paper, if these trends hold true, Florida will likely take one loss this season. Look out if the Gators don’t get on the board first as they have only twice in two years let an opponent lead with a touchdown and still come back to win.
If a team can score early, run the ball effectively, make a big play, and hold a lead at some point in the second half, they have the perfect recipe to upset the Gators.