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Monday, March 04, 2024

Take it easy with the college football overreactions

<p>Dan Mullen.</p>

Dan Mullen.

All or nothing culture has carved out a place in college football.

From a distance, it makes sense. There are 130 teams operating on a razor-thin margin – and wildly different budgets and talent pools – all with the goal of being picked to participate in the College Football Playoff.

So the games do matter. All of them. And in the conference where “It Just Means More,” that holds true to an even higher degree.

But there’s something to be said about using any given Saturday as the end-all be-all report card for a football program. That thing to be said is: don’t.

Gators coach Dan Mullen was asked if he sees his team’s upcoming game this Saturday against Georgia — which will be Florida’s third top-10 matchup of the season — as a measuring stick for the program.

Mullen had a level-headed response that resonated with me:

“I never try to measure anything off one individual game because all of a sudden, you win one game and you think you have arrived,” he said. “And then you lose another one and it’s a disaster. And neither of those two are true.”

Last season is a perfect example of why using one game to gauge where a team is at is a flawed ideology.

UF lost to Kentucky in Mullen’s second game as head coach after a feel-good, but unimportant blowout win over an FCS team. Florida had not lost to the Wildcats in almost 30 years, and, at the time, the loss looked terrible: a fringe top-25 team losing to a basketball school like Kentucky.

Turned out, Kentucky had its best season in program history and that early September slip-up ended up looking like a quality loss upon further review in December.

Similarly, a few weeks later that season, the Gators knocked off No. 5 LSU at home. That win didn’t vault the program into playoff contention, but it was a solid resume builder.

I know I’m asking a lot when I say to not overreact to individual results. The content that comes with an upset, or even just a regular loss, is enticing.

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The nature of a college football season, with maybe only three to four games a season per team with playoff implications, forces one to read too much into say, Wisconsin losing to Illinois. The Badgers are still a great team, they just had a bad week (and then had to play Ohio State the next week, which doesn’t seem fair).

But we’re not all AP voters, and even less of us are on the College Football Playoff Committee. We are not required to pencil in our opinions of programs on a neat ballot once a week. We can look at things a bit more holistically.

Stay level-headed no matter the result in Jacksonville this weekend. If the Gators lose, don’t call the season a wrap. If they win, UF isn’t a lock for the playoff. Regardless, Florida is a program on the rise.

Let’s not be prisoners of the moment. Be a responsible college football fan.

Follow Kyle Wood on Twitter @Kkylewood. Contact him at kwood@alligator.org

Dan Mullen.

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