Who would have imagined the Southeastern Conference ever producing the top three teams in the Bowl Championship Series standings, and that Florida wasn't among the three?
No program has been more dominant in recent years than the Gators, who won their first national championship in 1996, two years before the implementation of the BCS, and added two in 2006 and '08. Florida went 13-1 three times from 2006 to '09 but slid to 8-5 last season, and this year's 6-5 team under new coach Will Muschamp has work to do just to match last year's club.
"I don't know if there is anything reflected in our record based on me being a rookie head coach, I honestly don't," Muschamp said. "Obviously we've had some roster-management issues as far as some depth and numbers up front that have been frustrating. Then you lose your starting quarterback, and I don't care if you're an assistant coach or a head coach, that's a tough management issue as far as moving forward and keeping continuity within your unit.
"Then you look at the three games we had an opportunity there -- Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina -- and we are 1-of-7 as far as touchdowns in the red zone. That's been a killer for us. Those games are certainly different outcomes for us if we had cashed in on those opportunities."
The Gators extended their mastery over Tennessee to seven consecutive years back in September but wound up doing little else right within the league. They finished with a 3-5 conference record, their first losing ledger in SEC play since going 2-4 in 1986.
After a 33-23 win over the Volunteers and a 48-10 romp at Kentucky, Florida averaged 14.2 points per game in the last six SEC contests under heralded coordinator Charlie Weis.
"I'm frustrated for a number of things," Weis said. "It starts off by not scoring enough points. That's the bottom line. Against South Carolina, we get down to the 2-yard line and settle for three [points] and get down to the 5-yard line and settle for three.
"Across the board, I think everyone has to pick up the slack. When a team's not scoring enough points, it's more than just one position. I'm not happy with anybody, starting with me."
Florida will enter Saturday night's home finale against Florida State looking to atone for last season's 31-7 slaughter in Tallahassee but doing little right offensively. The Gators are 65th nationally in rushing offense (152.2 yards per game), 87th in passing offense (195.6) and 91st in total offense (347.8).
The implementation of a pro-style attack never quite fit the speedy but diminutive tailback tandem Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Rainey rushed for just 460 yards in conference games and Demps ran for 412, and they were each held to 4 yards in a 38-10 home loss to Alabama.
Yet the running backs have excelled compared to the receivers.
Frankie Hammond and Deonte Thompson led that position with only 12 catches apiece in SEC games, with neither scoring a touchdown. Andre Debose's 65-yard touchdown to open the Alabama game was one of seven receptions he compiled in league games, and Quinton Dunbar hardly lived up to emerging-star status with four catches for 34 yards in conference contests.
"When teams play man-to-man, you've got to get open," Muschamp said. "You've got to be able to be a threat vertically down the field, and we have some deeper developing routes that we're trying to come off of, whether it's a comeback or the curls inside. We've got to create some separation in those situations and continue to challenge people vertically down the field, which we've tried to do.
"We've had some protection issues, and it's not all on the offensive line. We've also had some drops that have certainly hurt us in some situations."
The Associated Press
Despite having Charlie Weis as coordinator and seniors such as quarterback John Brantley (12) and tailback Chris Rainey (1), the Florida Gators rank 91st in total offense nationally entering Saturday night's home game against Florida State.
When the Gators were winning championships, they were stellar at quarterback, receiver and defensive end. Sophomore end Ronald Powell was the nation's No. 1 recruit in the 2010 class but has yet to develop into an impact player, tallying 19 tackles and five tackles for loss in league play this season.
As for quarterback play, John Brantley actually has been pretty solid when he wasn't sidelined for the second half of the Alabama game as well as ensuing losses at LSU and Auburn with a high-ankle sprain. He has completed 123 of 209 passes (58.9 percent) for 1,808 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
So the legacy Brantley leaves will be better than that of the 2011 Gators, not that it provides a ton of comfort.
"It's unfortunate the season has gone the way it has, but we want to keep coming out and getting better," Brantley said. "We've been on top and now we're on the bottom. You've got to be mature about it."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...