Must-have game for Muschamp

Florida coach Will Muschamp leads his 24th-ranked Gators at Texas A&M. (The Associated Press )

Published: Friday, September 7, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 1:46 a.m.

Welcome to the biggest game of Will Muschamp's young head coaching career.

Oh, I know the cliches. It's the biggest game because it's the next one. Every SEC game is a big one.

But Muschamp needs this one for a lot of reasons.

For openers, he hasn't beaten anyone. In his 14 games as Florida's head coach, his biggest win is over Vanderbilt. At home. The Muschamp Gators have lost every time they were supposed to lose. And they are slight underdogs again today against Texas A&M, depending on what Las Vegas line you consider.

He needs it because of the white noise in the system. Gator fans want to get behind a Gainesville boy. They understand that he inherited a mess, but they don't think he's cleaning it up fast enough. (Heard that one before?)

They want to be entertained and there has been nothing entertaining about Gator football for the last two seasons.

That's why it's big. It's big because Muschamp and his staff seem to have convinced the players to buy in, but another loss and the doubts would start to creep in. Remember last year when Muschamp talked in the preseason about winning the turnover battle and the line of scrimmage. And then the Gators were woeful at both.

This summer he talked about starting fast. Losing game two to a team with a quarterback who has never taken a snap in a college football game would not be a good way to start fast.

Florida desperately needs a big win. You can argue that this wouldn't be considered a big win, that it's hardly a rivalry (the two teams have played twice before), that we're talking about a game between two teams who combined to go 14-12 last season, that one of the two is ranked and just barely.

I get all of that, but it's still big. GameDay is in College Station, by default more than anything, but that means this game will get the extra attention.

It's big for the Aggies because it's their first SEC game ever and first game of the season. It's big because Florida is still a major brand, no matter how much they've struggled the last couple of years. Texas A&M isn't playing a team that went 7-6 last year, it's playing a team that won two national championships in three years during the amazing run by the SEC.

But it's really big for Florida. The bandwagon fans have one foot on the ground already. The grumbling is starting to be heard rather than imagined.

This team doesn't need to start down a path to mediocrity. It needs to show that it's better than last year and certainly better than last week. I think it will because I have this feeling that the Gators have been getting ready for Texas A&M all summer. Muschamp knows how important this game is. You could see it on his face after his postgame news conference on Saturday.

It was kind of like, “That's over, back to work on A&M.”

“I think it's critical,” Muschamp said. “Is it the end all? No, but it's a critical game for us to go on the road and play well, and improve from game one to game two, which we need to, and I think we will. This team understands that we have some things to work on and we need to pay more attention to the details of the things we need to do at each position, each call and each situation to play better, and we will.”

They had better. Look, I'm not saying that all is lost if Florida goes into a difficult environment and doesn't get it done. But it's about time it did.

It's about time Florida won a game that you weren't sure about. It's about time Florida beat a team from the Western Division (even if Texas A&M has been in the SEC West for about an hour). The Gators have lost seven in a row to the West by a combined score of 202-79. It's about time you watched SportsCenter and looked forward to the UF highlights.

I wrote a column this summer for our magazine and talked about a lack of patience and perspective when it comes to Gator fans. Wanting it now and wanting it all the time are two things that are part of being a fan.

They aren't asking for much. They're not asking the Gators to win a national championship or have an undefeated season.

They just want to enjoy a Saturday night.

Which is why this is a big game for Will Muschamp.

Really big.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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