After Jim McElwain finished speaking to the main room at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday, the SEC Network crew took the time to reflect on what the Florida coach had to say.
The Gators have won the SEC East in both of McElwain’s first two seasons. A third isn’t out of the question.
But SEC Network analyst Booger McFarland has sensed that just winning the division only to lose convincingly to the SEC West champion — namely, Alabama — isn’t enough.
“He has a chip on his shoulder,” McFarland said on SEC Now. “I sense the chip from a coach that has been to Atlanta two years in a row and has failed to win the SEC Championship that has some success but has also received a lot of criticism.”
Florida has gone 13-3 in the SEC during the first two years of the McElwain era in Gainesville. McElwain, in turn, became the first coach in SEC history to win his division in each of his first two seasons.
But as soon as the Gators arrived in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game each year, they fell flat against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
In 2015, Alabama won 29-15 and put up 437 yards of offense compared to Florida’s 180 yards. In 2016, Alabama won 54-16 with 372 yards of offense compared to Florida’s 261 yards.
“The fan base doesn’t want to just win the SEC East,” McFarland said. “They want to win the SEC Championship and they don’t feel like they’ve had an opportunity no matter what field they stepped on.”
The main source of the problem has been lack of offense. The Gators finished last in the conference in 2016 in total offense (344 yards per game) and 12th in 2015 (334 yards per game).
“He kind of took that personally, and I think he’s hearing that,” McFarland said. “… He knows he’s an offensive genius. He brought in Doug Nussmeier. The offense is supposed to be good and it hasn’t. He understands that.”