Silver Lining: Now great(er) expectations for the Florida Gators in Year 1 under Jim McElwain

By Adam Silverstein
October 20, 2015

Great(er) expectations for the Gators

Sorry, Jim McElwain: Consider your expectations reset.

No longer are followers of the Florida Gators content to see a rebuilding team in the midst of a turnaround, one that was projected to lose as many as half of its games while working out the kinks and shedding some old skin on the way to becoming a program that could be a legitimate contender for its division crown in 2016.

No. That’s not how it works when you open your first season at Florida, one of the nation’s top five jobs, with six straight wins, the long-awaited unearthing of a game-changing starting quarterback (albeit a suspended one) and the evolution of a top-flight playmaker that has been largely absent for the Gators since Percy Harvin left early for the NFL in 2008.

With Florida completely in control of its destiny, even after a hard-fought road loss to LSU, the expectation for McElwain’s Gators has gone from “looking respectable and steadily improving” to earning a berth in the SEC Championship Game. My how things change in a matter of weeks.

Forget all of those “I’m not going to make excuses but here are some excuses” statements that were expected and understandable two months ago. McElwain accepted the raised expectations late Saturday night in the bowels of Death Valley.

“This Gator football team is a good football team.”

Yes, Florida is good. (And of course, McElwain will claim that these have always been the expectations for his team from the get-go, which internally may very well be true.)

Through seven weeks, UF is playing the best ball in the SEC East – and it’s not even close. That is why the Gators cannot afford to have the slip-ups they were famous for during the Will Muschamp tenure. Try as it might, Florida would lose games it was supposed to win but still somehow maintained in contention for the SEC East crown. That has not happened yet for the 2015 Gators, and if this is a team that has truly changed for the better under McElwain, it won’t happen two Saturdays from now in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

Let’s be blunt: There was no better time, team or situation for Florida to lose a game then last Saturday night. The Gators fell to a top 10 team on the road in one of the toughest environments in the nation. Florida faltered after a week that saw its starting quarterback shockingly shelved due to a banned substance suspension and a talented freshman defensive back suspended on five gun-related charges. Despite all of that, the Gators remained focused, played quite hard and only lost by a single touchdown to a team that fielded the nation’s best player. Oh, and that deciding touchdown? It came on a fake field goal.

If Florida is fortunate enough to win out, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will have myriad reasons to categorize this Gators loss as an “understandable” one, just like Stanford’s season-opening defeat at the hands of Northwestern in a game that effectively had a 9 a.m. kickoff for the Cardinal. When arguments for CFP spots (if UF wins the SEC) or New Year’s Six bowls (if UF does not) are made, that loss will stand as one of the strongest in the nation, especially if LSU’s surge continues.

But for Florida to be in that conversation, it has to take care of some aforementioned business. The Gators will be favored against the Bulldogs in two weeks – and for good reason. However, this is a game where the line does not matter. Wacky stuff happens when UF and UGA meet (see: 2014). Florida simply cannot afford to mess this season up – not against Georgia.

UF should be able to walk through South Carolina and Vanderbilt to close its SEC slate, but it must first beat Georgia to maintain and effectively clinch its place atop the SEC East.

A league championship appearance, potential national championship opportunity and even greater expectations await for McElwain and Co.

Fournette shows respect

Following LSU’s 35-28 win over Florida, Tigers running back Leonard Fournette – who ran over the Gators like he does most defenses – gave respect to a unit that he described as one of the best in the nation.

“Coach [Les] Miles told us it was going to be like a street fight,” he said, per “I can’t take nothing from the Florida defense. They are tremendous. They move fast to the ball. They did a great job.”

Fournette continued, though, explaining that there was plenty occurring “under the piles” such as “grabbing you, poking your eye” and even after the whistle with backwards tackling after his forward progress was halted. He insists it “kind of made me upset” and led to him putting “the team on my back during the fourth quarter.”

Miles decided to submit film to the SEC on Monday specifically about supposed late hits by the Gators’ defense on Fournette. McElwain, who does not reveal when he sends film to the league office, probably had plenty more clips to show the SEC about blatantly missed calls including an obvious fumble recovery and late pass interference that would’ve given Florida a better shot to tie the game in the final minute.

Not Only Gators: New television shows

As with every fall, a number of new television shows have popped up across the major networks. Here are some Twitter-esque (140 characters or less) reviews.

* Blindspot (NBC): Intriguing concept that has maintained my interest through its first few weeks. More answers sooner will keep audience engaged longer.

* The Grinder (FOX): Best new sitcom to date. Rob Lowe picks his shows masterfully and can really do no wrong in comedy.

* Limitless (CBS): Smart to play this less as a serialized drama and more as a crime dramedy. A successful adaptation, continuation of a good movie.

* Minority Report (FOX): Opposite of the second sentence on the line above.

* Heroes Reborn (NBC): Some bait for fans of the series disillusioned by the way it changed then abruptly ended, but not enough of a line to pull in new viewers.

* People Are Talking (NBC): Pilot aired last week. Worth feeling out for buddy comedy aspect but may not have staying power.

* Grandfathered (FOX): Not as bad as I thought it would be. Doubt it lasts past this season.

* Dr. Ken (ABC): Run.

* Upcoming pilots I’m interested in checking out: Rush Hour (CBS), Coach (NBC), Game of Silence (NBC), The Guide to Surviving Life (FOX), Supergirl (CBS), Superstore (NBC), You Me and the End of the World (NBC)

This Week’s Movie Trailer


The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…

Best M&Ms:
1. Peanut Butter
2. Crispy
3. Milk Chocolate
4. Pretzel
5. Mini

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below.


  1. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    We can’t afford to let the Tick Magnets, Leg Humpers aka DAWGS ruin our season so far. As I’ve mentioned to many friends and acquaintances in a Rivalry Game anything is possible (Ask Oklahoma vs Texas in Mack Brown’s last year and this years’ defeat) In rivalries anything can happen. As long as we play dicipined, hungry, and focused we should win the WLOCP…. The biggest 3 keyes in my opinion

    1) We must score first and often in order to get the UGA fans out of the game
    2)We must both win the turnover battle, and put the game in Lambert’s hands
    3) We must do a better job in creating holes for our running game. 25 Yards vs LSU is not acceptable…. Usually the team that rushes for more yards in the WLOCP wins

    PS On paper UGA is a mess and we should win easily but, like I mentioned above in Rivalry games anything can happen and momentum + turnovers is key GO GATORS!!!

    • Ken (CA) says:

      not saying you are wrong, and don’t want to lose against UGA either, but having USC and Vandy left a lot easier than having UK and Auburn left. UGA shouldn’t lose to either, but a bit more difficult than our remaining competition after TWLOCP

  2. 305Gator says:

    Everyone knows the best M&Ms are peanut, period.
    As far as new TV shows go, who the heck has so much empty time on his hands to sit down and watch any of that garbage let alone all of it. Your TV watching time should be limited to Gator games on Saturday and no more than one or two good shows per week such as the Walking Dead, otherwise your brain turns into mush and your midsection expands.

  3. SW FL Joe says:

    Peanut not in the top 5, C’mon man. My kid comes home from trick or treating with pretzel M&M’s, they are going straight in the trash. I”ll tolerate crispy but I draw the line at pretzel. Life’s too short to eat bad candy. On a side note, the WLOCP gets even wackier when it’s on Halloween. Good thing the full moon is 4 days earlier.

  4. Iamtheeggman says:

    I think you are being a guy who looks with jaded eyes at the fumble. It could have went either way, but they confirmed the call, not let it stand. That was based on the player maintaining control when his shoulder was out of bounds. UF is a good team, but they are not anything to get excited about. I agree with the notion that Calloway looks like a keeper. In fact, UF’s offense is still mediocre. They can’t run a lick and the quarterbacks, while a step up from Driskel, are not anything to write home about. McElwain has done a fine a job coaching this year as anyone. He has somehow, some way, manufactured points with a horrible offensive line. Mason Halter, for example, looked like he was just out of high school going up against LSU’s line. Kelvin Taylor has improved this year, he is quicker and more decisive to the hole. But even Leornard Fournette would not be a Hean candidate if he had to run behind UF’s offensive line.
    Yes, UF is 6-1, but the schedule has turned out to be far easier than envisioned in August. Only LSU and FSU look like teams tha should be ranked. Ole Miss lost to Memphis, Tennessee still figures out how to lose games they should win, Georgia has lost to the only teams that are not considered bad, and Missouri has one of the worst offenses in college football. . The biggest difference is that UF has played smart this year. It’s the other teams that have gave the game away, not UF. Except for miscues on special teams, an area where they rank in triple digits, LSU didn’t give away anything to UF. Who knows who will win between Georgia and Florida? FSU is better, in fact the best in the nation, than LSU at protecting the ball and they aren’t awful on special teams. It’s going to be an uphill climb to beat them since they also have a great defensive line and I doubt UF will be able to run the ball at all.
    It’s a magnificent job by McElwain, but don’t kid yourself that UF is a great team. They still have a long way to go, and having a top flight quarterback and a good offensive line are the starting point.

    • 305Gator says:

      BigMac and coach Summers have done miracles putting together our O line. Give them a break, they had their worst game last Saturday but up to now they have done a good job. Remember this unit is still a work in progress but even so it is good enough to take us to Atlanta.
      The QB of the future was suspended and now we have to go with Treon, again he should be enough to get to Atlanta.
      Now getting past Atlanta is a different story as is going to the playoffs, a New Years day bowl game is likely our destination.
      I do not think much about FSU, we should be able to beat them at home.

    • Spuntly says:

      Did you type something more? I didn’t get past your user name, as every time I do, it’s just a bunch of biased nonsense. I guess my brain has trained me to not lower my level of intelligence by reading any further. Your Noles will lose to the Gators this year. It’s in the air, it’s everywhere….Can you feel it? If not, you surely will. Go Gators!

    • Ken (CA) says:

      It could have went

      That how they teach grammar at that school out west egg?

      Like replay is perfect and never been wrong. I still remember that horrible non call against UT that killed our NC hopes in what 2001? 2002? somewhere around there. Who exactly has FSU compared themselves to at this point? What team better than UF has played have they beaten? even the OOC opponents have been better than the criminoles so far, as it is every year, until you play UF at the end of the year to try and make your schedule look respectable. You really are sad that you feel the need to be active on a rival website. Fear maybe? afraid UF will take over again with a real coach?

      Your posting history of prognostication is thoroughly inept and you aren’t even an objective contribution. You should stick to what you know. Chanting for a guy that loves beating women and stealing crab legs and whatever else he and many others at Free Shoes U have done

  5. Wes says:

    Quoting my FB status from Saturday night: “I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of a Gators loss. In the face of serious adversity, against a team with the best college football player on the planet, playing in probably the toughest stadium on a Saturday night, we lost by 1 score. If you’d given me that before the season I’d have taken it in a heartbeat. I love this team.”

    Adam: you watching Fargo Season 2?

  6. Michael Jones says:

    Disappointed in Les Miles. I thought he was more of a man than that.

    This Gator team will hit you. It’s one of the hardest hitting Gator teams or any team that I’ve ever seen. Sometime I wince sitting on my couch watching a tackle. . but it’s a good wince.

  7. Sharon Milner says:

    Gators will win FL-GA but you are correct – anything can happen and teams should be ready for trick plays and dropped punts.

    Do the Gators have a trick play? Everyone remembers Tebow and the dropped pass.

  8. Ken (CA) says:

    side note first: never watched the first heroes, but heard good things about it, so watched heroes reborn and enjoying it, so new viewer here enjoying.

    That said, down to real stuff. Yes I harp on having predicted the 10 wins that was laughed at. If they don’t make 10 wins, I will be surprised, but barring a shock loss against FAU, USC, or VU, I consider this season a total success, even should they lose to UGA/FSU/SECCG if they get there, considering my one caveat was “barring a major injury to a position that has little depth”…I think Grier’s suspension counts there. I don’t believe that will happen, I believe they will beat the dawgs next week, and I don’t think FSU is nearly as good as their record, but we shall see.

    Reaching for a playoff spot before doing all of that and having to beat the likely bama/LSU winner is looking with way-forward glasses.

    I certainly don’t deny that we have proven that we can hang with anyone, anywhere, but I still don’t have confidence that Treon can win a game, he simply just needs to not lose it and we hope our d does better than it did against LSU, as it seemed to never figure out whether Harris was a Heisman QB or Fournette was a Heisman RB or both as it gave up so much.

    I think even the naysayers have to admit that Coach Mac another home run by Foley, and he will be considered the greatest AD in UF history at this point.

    Truly remarkable the way he has turned around the mentality and focus, and have had kids buy in (coaching turnover lost 1 top end recruit and almost no one transferred is virtually unheard of). Kids seem to love him, recruits buying in more and more. They weren’t looking for wins, just improvement, they have seen everything they could hope for and more. I think next 3 months are “average top 20 class” is going to have a number of top players join the ship as well like shaver manuel, nate craig-meyers, and others, seeing we are on a clear upswing in momentum.

    Truly has been a spectacular start to Coach Mac time here, and he seems to truly be doing it “the right way” contrary to Meyer who got great results, but never truly recruited the top 1% of the top 1% in player character.