ESPN experts Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach expected Florida to secure bowl eligibility all year long, but the Gators have finally dropped out of the duos’ weekly bowl projections after falling to 5-6 with a loss to Missouri on Saturday.
The Orange and Blue will host in-state rival Florida State this weekend to close out the season. The Seminoles are ranked No. 4 in the nation and enter The Swamp as favorites by about a touchdown. Neither team will have its starting quarterback, which has put Florida back in play for an upset.
Schlabach weighed in on the Billy Napier coaching discussion this week in the “coach who most needs a win this week” section of the bowl projections.
“It would be surprising if Florida fired coach Billy Napier after two seasons, but upsetting rival Florida State and qualifying for a bowl game sure would take some of the heat off him,” Schalbach wrote. “Napier’s teams are 11-13 in two seasons in Gainesville. The Gators have dropped four straight … they’ll have to upset the Seminoles to finish .500 and qualify for a bowl game.
“They’ll have to do it without quarterback Graham Mertz, who sustained a broken collarbone against Missouri. Florida hasn’t had three straight losing seasons since 1945 to 1947.”
Schlabach makes some good points, but he even opens by admitting that Napier doesn’t truly need the win to stay alive. Surely, there is a coach with a hotter seat at the moment, but the point still stands. Gator Nation would feel a lot better if it ended the regular season on a good note.
The Gators are looking to avoid making history in the worst way possible, but it will be tough to take FSU this year.