Mercifully, the 2011 regular season has come to a close with an ugly loss at the Swamp to Florida State, we take this time to reflect on the first campaign of the Will Muschamp era.
Here are the 10 things we think we learned from the 2011 Florida Gators Football season.
1. Gators appear to be headed to the Gator Bowl, possibly to face Ohio State.
There's strong rumors to suggest that the Gator Bowl badly wants Florida and Ohio State for their January 2nd game. The implications and storyline are obvious, with the rumors that former Florida coach Urban Meyer may take over the Buckeyes. If that move is made as many anticipate, the Gators would get an opportunity to take a little revenge against Urb's new school - even if he's not on the sidelines for the game.
It's amazing that beating the likes of FAU, UAB, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vandy and Furman is good enough to earn you a bowl bid. Any bowl worthy team the Gators faced, they lost to (although it looks like Vandy became bowl eligible their final week of the season).
This Gator team deserves to stay home for the holidays.
2. Best Gator Performance of 2011: Florida 41, FAU 3
Sadly, the best performance of the '11 season for the Gators was their first one aganst FAU. The Gators defense was ferocious, holding FAU to just 137 yards of total offense and 3 points. Meanwhile, the offense churned 197 yds on the ground while John Brantley threw for 229 yards and a touchdown.
3. Worst Gator performance of 2011: LSU 41, Florida 11
The Gators best chance to beat top ranked LSU was when they stepped off the bus. After that, the Tigers simply abused Florida on both sides of the football, rolling up 238 yards rushing and 41 points.
Offensively, the Gators were held to just 213 yds of total offense and 11 points. Florida also turned the ball over twice.
4. Florida's Offensive MVP: John Brantley, QB
I was going to give this to Rainey but let's face it, without Brantley - Florida's offense had no chance. That's no slight to true Freshmen Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskell but they just weren't ready to play quarterback in the Southeastern Conference.
Brantley had a below average season and battled injuries all year - throwing for 1,912 yards, 10 touchdowns and six picks.
5. Florida's Defensive MVP: Matt Elam, Safety
Sophomore Safety Matt Elam put together a terrific campaign for the Gators. Elam was an impact player in the Gators' secondary, putting up 72 tackles (44 unassisted), 9 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.
6. Thoughts on Will Muschamp
Whenever you go 6-6 at Florida, you're job is on the line. It was too big of a transition for Florida to make in one season and I think AD Jeremy Foley will likely give Muschamp another season to implement his vision of Florida football.
However, one has to imagine that Muschamp needs his football team competing for a division championship next season.
Losing to rivals Florida State and Georgia certainly didn't help his case. Bull Gators certainly weren't pleased with this lost season by the Gators. Urban Meyer's miraculous recovery was just salt in the wound.
7. Thoughts on Charlie Weis
Let's face it, Florida simply did not have the personnel to run Charlie Weis' pro-style offense. Certainly Florida needs a larger running back to dot the I formation and run between the tackles.
Florida desperately needs to do a better job at recruiting some quality wide receivers as well. Florida really doesn't know what they have with Brissett and Driskell because frankly, neither benefited from quality targets in the passing game.
Florida's offense will grow under Weis' direction and will improve as they find players that fit the system.
8. The 2012 Schedule doesn't appear to be as daunting
The Gators suffered through a gauntlet of tough opponents this season but a quick peek at the 2012 schedule isn't quite as scary. LSU will be coming to Gainesville while the toughest road game currently will be at Florida State.
The Gators' schedule could change dramatically with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC.
9. Most disappointing thing about 2011
Probably the most disappointing aspects of 2011 was the performance of both lines of scrimmage for the Gators. Far too often, we saw the Gators offensive line struggle to protect their quarterback and open holes in the running game.
Too many times we saw the Gator defensive line manhandled at the point of attack.
Will Muschamp cited the lack of physicality in his football team as a primary reason why the Gators struggled this year. I certainly agree. Florida was soft, a finesse team that didn't have the skill to play that type of football.
10. Final Thoughts on the Gators for 2011
It was a tough year - a transitional year for the Gators. There were moments that were embarrassing, some that were simply unwatchable.
Still you could see some brief glimpse of what could be. With Brissett hitting bombs to Andre Dubose, of course Rainey and Demps doing their thing. Matt Elam becoming a force in the secondary.
If the Gators can add a little more talent at the skill positions, they have a chance to return to prominence quickly.