Chris Stephens

Is Florida This Year's Auburn?

Created on Apr. 11, 2014 5:33 AM EST

Last year, the Southeastern Conference saw something it had never seen before — two teams that were bottom dwellers the year before played in the championship game.

Auburn and Missouri had great seasons, showing that just because you struggled doesn't mean you can't win it all the next year.

Using that as an example, could Florida be this year's Auburn or Missouri?

First Thing's First

The 2013 season was a perfect storm for both Auburn and Missouri en route to meeting in the title game. Missouri was able to take advantage of injuries to Georgia, Florida having a down year and South Carolina losing a game (Tennessee) it shouldn't have lost.

Auburn found itself on the lucky end of a lot of games, including a game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds to go against Mississippi State; a miraculous tipped pass that went for a touchdown on fourth-and-18 against Georgia; and a missed field goal that went back for a touchdown against Alabama. Needless to say, the Tigers found themselves on the fortunate end of many games.

If the SEC were to play 100 more years, it's highly unlikely we'd see a team's final two conference games come down to miracle plays that keep SEC title hopes alive. It's safe to say 2013 was a fluke season.

There are a lot of reasons why some will pick Florida as a team that could turn things around this year and return to the conference title game. The Gators had one of the top defenses in the country last year (21.1 points allowed per game) and are returning many of their starters.

However, the concern is, and always will be, their offense. Florida only scored 18.8 points per game and only scored 30 points twice. In fact, it even lost to FCS school Georgia Southern.

Could It Happen To Florida?

Jeff Driskel is set to return after breaking his leg a year ago. The top two rushers, Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown, also return. 

The team brought in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, a David Cutcliffe protege at Duke.

Florida won 11 games in 2012.

There's also something to say about head coach Will Muschamp being on the hot seat. It will be interesting to see how his players respond when his back is against the wall. Plus, all of the injuries the Gators suffered last year were ridiculous. It couldn't happen again, could it?

However, let's be real — Florida's issues deal with both talent and scheme.

The Problems With Florida

According to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, when Urban Meyer left, he "essentially left a track team to run a pro-style offense." But that was only a good enough excuse for Muschamp's first two years.

Last year should have been Muschamp's turn to show what his philosophy could do with his players. At the end of it all, it showed one thing everyone already knew — Muschamp should stick to defense.

When you look at who he recruits best, it's defense. In fact, six of his top seven recruits were all on the defensive side of the ball. There has been no real focus on the offensive side of the ball other than quarterback. There, Muschamp got commitments from the No. 2 and 3 dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Will Grier and Treon Harris. There's not as much focus on recruiting top offensive talent (or he's just missing on them all).

Nothing about the offense screams change. The only thing Muschamp did was change offensive coordinators. But if you're not changing the philosophy, will it really make a difference?

Let's also remember that Florida will play both LSU and Alabama next year, making it even tougher to win the SEC East.

Last year was pretty rare and it's something that is not likely that we'll ever see again. Florida hasn't changed anything, it's schedule is even tougher and thus will not even sniff the top of the SEC East standings, much less the SEC title game.

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