Mullen

Dan Mullen. 

I’ll admit it. I fell into the trap.

The trap of overanalyzing a home win against good-but-not-great Auburn and a hard-fought road loss to maybe-the-best-team-in-the-country LSU. 

I thought Florida was going to beat Georgia on Saturday. I didn’t even think it’d be particularly close. The Gators were trending up, while the Bulldogs struggled in their previous two games.

Obviously, we all know what happened next. Quarterback Jake Fromm sliced up UF’s secondary like a knife through hot butter as UGA rolled to a 24-17 victory in which the final numbers on the scoreboard were a bit deceiving. In actuality, it was a lot uglier.

This year’s Cocktail Party shed light on the truth: Coach Dan Mullen has taken the program a long way in just 22 games, but this Florida team isn’t ready to run with the big boys.

After the game, he was asked how far behind his team is compared to Georgia.

“Seven points.”

That’s a fair answer, but it isn’t so simple.

Don’t get me wrong, the Gators are ahead of schedule. In Year 2, they seem almost guaranteed to repeat at least a 10-win season, and a New Year’s Six Bowl still seems to be their most likely landing spot in the postseason.

Considering the roster and program situation Mullen inherited, that is phenomenal and deserves praise.

But taking a team from mediocrity to title contention is an arduous process. It takes elite recruiting, something that hasn’t exactly been Mullen’s strength. It showed against Georgia.

The Bulldogs’ last four recruiting classes ranked second, first, third and sixth on the 247Sports composite. Florida’s? Ninth, 14th, 11th and 12th. That talent discrepancy was apparent on the field, especially along the lines of scrimmage.

It could be seen in Florida’s loss to LSU, as well. UF stuck with the Tigers, but a single mistake from quarterback Kyle Trask — an interception in the end zone trailing by seven — derailed the effort. The Gators are forced to play completely mistake-free football to contend with elite teams. Their margin for error is razor-thin, and as long as that’s the case, springing big upsets will be a tough ask.

As talented as UF is in certain areas, it doesn’t have a championship roster at the moment. But that can change fairly quickly. Upcoming facility upgrades — like the stand-alone football facility, expected to be completed by the end of 2021 — and, more importantly, the demonstration of sustained success and upward trajectory will help a lot.

But for now, expecting Mullen to beat the Bulldogs and take charge of the SEC East in his second season was probably unfair.

Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno. Contact him at [email protected] 

Tyler Nettuno is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida men's basketball team. He has previously covered UF golf and lacrosse. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.