Well, it was a disappointing night for the No. 12 Gators.
After struggling in wins against overmatched opponents like Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic, the Gators’ offensive and kicking struggles finally came back to bite them in a 27-2 loss to No. 13 Florida State on Saturday.
What did we learn from Florida’s second loss of the season?
1. QB Treon Harris never deserved the starting job: There was a quarterback competition between Treon Harris and Will Grier to start the season. There’s not much of a competition these days. Even with Grier serving his year-long suspension for violating the NCAA’s policy for performance-enhancing drugs, Harris’ play is making it clear that Grier deserves the starting job. Since taking over for Grier, Florida’s offense has regressed under Harris. The unit scored 28 points against LSU in Harris’ first game for the suspended Grier and followed it up by scoring 27 points against Georgia. Since then, the Gators are averaging 14 points over their past four games. Harris has completed 52 percent of his passes and thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions during this current rough four-game stretch. Harris might not even be the quarterback coach Jim McElwain chooses to start the first six games of the 2016 season in place of the suspended Grier, who won’t be eligible to return until the seventh contest. This is not a good look for the sophomore.
2. New kicker is coming: Don’t get too excited, Gators fans. You’ll have to wait until next season to get a new kicker. But one thing looks pretty clear, Austin Hardin won’t be kicking field goals for Florida in 2016. After the loss to Florida State, McElwain emphasized that point. “We’ll get a kicker,” he said. “That’s our responsibility and we’ll get one. And we’ll get a good one.” Florida’s future kicker might have even been in the Swamp on Saturday. Junior college kicker Eddy Pineiro of ASA College in Miami took an official visit to Florida for the Florida State game. Pineiro is rated by 247 Sports as the top kicker in the 2016 class and is verbally committed to Alabama. Whether it’s Pineiro or not, it will probably be better than what the Gators have now. Hardin missed both of his field goal attempts against Florida State and has made five of 13 attempts this season.
3. Demarcus Robinson’s Gators career might be over: The stats might show that wide receiver Demarcus Robinson is leading the Gators with a team-high 47 catches for 505 yards and two touchdowns this season. But don’t let the numbers fool you. This year has been a disaster for the junior. It hit rock bottom Saturday, as Robinson was suspended for the Florida State game for an undisclosed violation of team rules. It marks Robinson’s fourth suspension during his time at Florida, as he was suspended for the 2014 season opener against Idaho and twice in 2013. “It’s just a personal choice the guy made,” McElwain said after the Gators’ loss to the Seminoles. “How disappointed? Are any of you surprised? I mean, really. What’s disappointing is for somebody to do that to their teammates and yet I’m not mad at him at all. He just made a choice. That’s the way it is.” Along with this week’s suspension, Robinson has also been benched three times this season. Will Robinson be available for the SEC championship game? “It’s up to his teammates,” McElwain said. “And who knows whether he can choose to do what’s right or not. I don’t know.” With the way this season has gone, don’t be surprised if Robinson jumps to the NFL in the offseason. It might be best for both parties to part ways.
4. Florida still has come catching up to do: Florida State is still the best college football team in the state of Florida. It’s not that close either. After Saturday’s win, the Seminoles have now won five of their past six meetings with the Gators. And those five wins have been lopsided, as they have come by a combined score of 140-42. That’s an average of 20 points per game. Florida and Florida State might have finished the regular season with the same 10-2 record, but there’s still a gap between these two programs. The Gators learned that the hard way Saturday.
5. Sugar Bowl not a guarantee: It might be too early to look forward to bowl season with the SEC championship game still to play. But let’s take a look at the most likely scenario. If Florida loses to Alabama next week in Atlanta as expected, the Gators would be 10-3. How far would Florida drop in the polls after two straight losses? The Gators are No. 12 right now and will drop after Saturday’s loss. Ole Miss is No. 18 and will move up in the rankings after defeating Mississippi State on Saturday. The question is, will the Rebels pass the Gators up in the College Football Playoff rankings if Florida falls to Alabama next week? The answer will decide which team makes it to the Sugar Bowl. With the Crimson Tide expected to make it to the playoff if they beat the Gators, the next SEC team ranked highest in the final College Football Playoff poll plays in the Sugar Bowl. That might not be Florida.