These are dark days in Gainesville. When you've lost four in a row, when you're below .500 for the first time in a season since 1992, when even a bowl bid seems an impossible mountain to climb, when you lose to freaking Vanderbilt ... yes, these are dark days indeed.
On Saturday, Florida fell 34-17 to the Commodores in a game that, in both its history and its importance, was as ugly as anything seen in northern Florida in years ... and if you know northern Florida, that's saying something. Vandy scored the first 17 points, and Florida never got closer than two touchdowns to the Commodores.
Florida hasn't had a losing season since 1979. At 4-5, they'll need to win two of their final three, against South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State, just to get to .500. And, astonishing as it seems, a bowl bid may not be forthcoming for the Florida Gators. Florida hasn't missed out on a bowl since 1990, when the team was ineligible due to sanctions, and hasn't played its way out of a bowl since 1986. Five years from a national championship, eleven months from a trip to the Sugar Bowl, and Florida looks completely lost. Granted, injuries across the board have taken their toll, but still: a loss to Vanderbilt.
This begs the question, then: is head coach Will Muschamp done at Florida after just three years? Boosters and school officials can't be pleased at the turn the program has taken. Plus, from a recruiting perspective, the Gators picked an insanely bad time to turn south; both Florida State and Miami are on the upswing, and even stumbling Georgia looks like a more attractive destination than Gainesville right now, meaning recruiting efforts are going to be challenges for the next few years.
"I'm not asking anyone to give a pass," Muschamp said after the game. "This is Florida. It's on me, and we'll get it turned." Next up: a road match against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. Good luck with that turning, coach.