After a fourth-quarter rally in the final minutes against the Tennessee Volunteers, the Florida Gators are off to a 4-0 start in the first season under new head coach Jim McElwain. Despite their undefeated record, the Gators have been inconsistent through the first third of the 2015 season.
After kicking off the season with a 61-13 blowout of New Mexico State, Florida was involved in two close calls against East Carolina and Kentucky before stealing a victory at home from Tenessee in the final stretch.
But despite the inconsistencies, Florida has made it through its early-season schedule unscathed and has also made its first appearance in this season’s Top 25, ranking 25th in the most recent AP Poll. For the time being, Florida looks to be the strongest competitor to Georgia for the SEC East title, which few would have predicted before the season began.
Coming into the season, the Gators were one of several teams in the SEC still trying to settle on a starter at the quarterback spot. After starting Treon Harris in the season opener, Jim McElwain has stuck with redshirt freshman Will Grier over the past three contests, including the Tennessee game for which Harris served a one-game suspension. Grier has experienced some expected growing pains taking over the starter role, but there have certainly been some positive signs from Grier that should have Gators fan excited both the remainder of the 2015 season and the future. Grier has impressive arm talent as a passer but has also showed off athleticism and playmaking ability in the running game, rushing for 114 yards and two touchdowns this season.
So much of the success of any first-year starter depends on his confidence, and Grier should have gained plenty of it from the two touchdown drives he orchestrated in the fourth quarter against the Vols.
On defense, the 2015 Gators are benefitting from the assets left behind by former head coach Will Muschamp, especially in the secondary. Junior Vernon Hargreaves might be the best cornerback in the country and has the ability to shut down receivers and cut the field in half for opposing quarterbacks. The tandem of Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor, who was suspended for the Tennessee game, also has the potential to be among the best in the nation.
As the offense continues to find its footing under Grier, Florida has the luxury of having a defense that should be able to keep them in every game.
But regardless of the positive signs from the Gators in 2015, they still need a win over a more quality opponent than any of the teams they’ve faced this season to receive any national attention. The opportunity for that win will come this weekend when Florida hosts the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels in The Swamp. The Gators’ defense will have to be at its best when it goes up against the Rebels’ high-powered offense, led by Heisman contender QB Chad Kelly.
Florida has done enough this season for college football fans to take notice. If the Gators can pull off the upset over Ole Miss, they’ll be impossible to ignore.