It’s amazing to think that the Florida Gators have won eight or fewer games in four of their past five seasons. Urban Meyer had led the team to national championships in 2006 and 2008 before stepping aside in 2010. Now, all Gator fans can do is watch Meyer from a distance win national championships at Ohio State.

The Will Muschamp experiment was a disaster. The Gators would win seven or fewer games in three of four years with him at the helm. They are coming off a 7-5 campaign in 2014. They were better than their record would indicate as three of their five losses came by five points or less, but it wasn’t enough to save Muschamp’s job.

Enter Jim McElwain. He is very accustomed to the SEC after serving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2008 through 2011. He then led Colorado State from a 3-win program when he took over to 4, 8 and then 10 wins last year. McElwain will be working with 11 returning starters in his first season on the job in Gainesville. Let’s take a look at how the Gators will fare in 2015.

Last Season
SEC East
Record
ATS Record
Over/Under
Points For
Points Against
3rd
7-5
7-5
8-4
30.2
21.1
2015 Florida Gators Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/5 New Mexico State
-35
1
9/12 East Carolina
-18
1
9/19 @ Kentucky
-3
0.57
9/26 Tennessee
+3
0.43
10/3 Ole Miss
+6
0.34
10/10 @ Missouri
+5.5
0.35
10/17 @ LSU
+14
0.15
10/31 Georgia (Jacksonville)
+12
0.18
11/7 Vanderbilt
-14
0.85
11/14 @ South Carolina
+2.5
0.46
11/21 Florida Atlantic
-29
1
11/28 Florida State
+4.5
0.37
Estimated Wins: 6.70
Offense

McElwain was brought to Florida because of his ability to coach up an offense. Alabama averaged 33.7 points per game in his last three years as its offensive coordinator against a Florida. Those were the same Florida teams that only gave up 16.6 points per game against all other opponents. The Gators haven’t managed more than 368 yards per game in any of their last five seasons on offense, so this side of the ball has definitely been holding them back.

The Gators could have a problem showing much progress in 2015 because they only return four starters on offense. McElwain is known for getting the most out of his quarterbacks, and he’ll have his hands full this season. That’s because redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris are his top two options. While both are supremely talented, it will clearly take some time for them to get used to the new offense.

Whoever is under center will benefit from having the top receiver back from last year in Demarcus Robinson. He caught 53 balls for 810 yards and seven touchdowns and was easily the best playmaker on offense as a sophomore. Gone is leading rusher Matt Jones (817 yards, 4.9/carry, 6 TD), but junior Kelvin Taylor (565 yards, 4.9/carry, 6 TD) is ready to take on an even bigger role this year.

While the quarterback position is a big question mark for the Gators, the offensive line may be in even more trouble. That’s because they return just 10 career starts and only had seven offensive linemen on scholarship practicing in the spring. The only returning starter is senior LG Trip Thurman. The other four projected starters are either freshmen or sophomores.

Defense

As they have been doing since Tim Tebow graduated, the Gators will be relying on their defense to try and win ball games in 2015. This has been one of the best stop units in the country for years. The Gators allowed just 21.1 points and 330 yards per game last season. Now, they return seven starters on this side of the ball and should have one of the top stop units in the SEC.

Five of the top seven defensive linemen are back from last season. Senior DT Jonathan Bullard (52 tackles, 8.5 for loss) decided to turn down the NFL to come back for one more season. He, along with junior DE Bryan Cox (29 tackles, 6 for loss), give the Gators two returning starters up front. The coaches are raving about redshirt freshman NT Taven Bryan, and freshman DE Cece Jefferson was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school.

While the linebacker corps returns three of the top six from last year, they do lose two starters in Michael Taylor and Neiron Ball, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Raiders. The good news is that leading tackler and second-team All-SEC MLB Antonio Morrison (101 tackles) returns. Junior WLB Alex Anzalone and junior SLB Daniel McMillian will likely step into starting roles this year.

The strength of the defense will clearly be the secondary. In fact, this may be the best secondary in the entire country. The Gators return four starters and only lose one key player from this unit in S Jabari Gorman. Junior CB Vernon Hargreaves (50 tackles, 13 pass break-ups, 3 INT) and senior CB Brian Poole (45 tackles, 10 pass break-ups, 4 INT) are absolute studs. Junior safeties Marcus Maye (62 tackles) and Keanu Neal (45 tackles, 3 INT) can more than hold their own as the last level of defense.

Odds (Courtesy of 5Dimes)
Regular Season Win Total
SEC East Odds
SEC Championship Odds
4-Team Playoff Odds
National Championship Odds
7.5
+600
+2800
N/A
+8000
Season Predictions

I have little doubt that McElwain will be a great fit at Florida over the long haul. They needed an offensive mind and certainly got one of the best available. However, it’s going to take some time for McElwain to work his magic, especially with the lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball right now.

The Gators only have four starters back on offense, will be breaking in a new quarterback, and only have one starter back along the offensive line. They just don’t have much of a chance for immediate success offensively in their current state. The good news is that their defense is legitimately one of the top stop units in the country. That gives the Gators hope of being competitive in the SEC.

The bad news is that they have only three true SEC home games, and they’ll be an underdog in two of them against Tennessee and Ole Miss. They also draw two of the top three teams from the West in Ole Miss and LSU. With that brutal schedule, I have them going just 3-5 within the SEC and 6-6 overall to finish in a tie for 4th in the East.

2015 Projections
SEC East
SEC Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
T-4th
3-5
6-6
Under 7.5
More College Football Predictions
SEC
East
Florida
West
Conferences