The college football season is quickly approaching, which means analysts and beat reporters across the country are scrambling to file any remaining hot takes and predictions.
And Florida and coach Dan Mullen seem to be a hot button topic of discussion, with the consensus being that the Gators will come close to doubling their win total from last season.
It’s no secret where the basis for these takes comes from: analysts and media professionals alike around the country expect Mullen to resurrect the Gators and return the program to the levels of success seen when he was the program’s offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.
No pressure, right?
If SEC Media Days is anything to go by, expectations are already high in Mullen’s first season at Florida. The media selected the Gators to finish third in the SEC Eastern Division this season, two places higher than UF finished in Jim McElwain’s final season at the helm. Although the media’s assessment is hardly a foregone conclusion for where a team will finish — the contingent has correctly predicted the conference winner just six times in the last 25 seasons — it’s clear Mullen receives much credit for Florida’s predicted revival in 2018.
But it’s hardly just the media who believe Mullen and the Gators will nearly double their win total from 2017.
As the 2018 season approaches, let’s recap where the notable names have pegged Florida to finish in Mullen’s first season as head coach.
First, let’s look at the Las Vegas odds.
America’s gambling Mecca has UF’s win total at 7.5 wins, the same odds given to Florida State and a higher total than LSU. Oddsmakers have seemingly sweetened on the Gators, however. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Gators a 65 percent chance of winning nine different games in 2018, and Florida’s expected win total has actually risen in the three months since concluding spring camp, up from BetDSI’s prediction of seven wins made back in April.
Next, Forbes Magazine’s David Ching did a breakdown of both Florida and Mississippi State coming into the season, concluding the Bulldogs will win eight games while UF tallies seven victories in 2018. Ching concludes that Mullen is “going to win at Florida, too, and don’t be surprised if it happens quickly,” before saying “it’s hardly a bold prediction to project his Gators as Georgia’s toughest competition in the East this fall.”
And then there’s highly respected college football analyst Phil Steele, who works as a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel and appears to have a high opinion of Mullen and his coaching prowess.
A publisher of an annual college football preview magazine, Steele has long been labelled one of the go-to analysts in the game, and his opinion carries a significant level of credence. Which makes him placing the Gators at No. 17 overall — one place ahead of the in-state Seminoles — in his preseason Top-25 rankings especially interesting.
Rather than stop there — ranking a team No. 17 that went 4-7 last season is gutsy after all — Steele appears all in on Mullen and UF, dubbing Florida his “No. 1 most-improved team” in the process.
“Dan Mullen always gets the most out of his squads and steps into a great situation as Florida was devastated by suspensions and injuries, then coaching turmoil. Mullen inherits 19 starters,” Steele wrote.
247Sports concurred, citing Mullen as the primary reason behind Florida’s predicted resurrection.
“Mullen inherits the best situation out of any first-year SEC coach in a division that’s wide open behind front-runner Georgia,” wrote 247Sports. “The Gators welcome Jordan Scarlett back after a one-year suspension and hope all five starters returning up front helps a new-look offense. Florida’s bread is always buttered on defense and if that unit plays well, the Gators could challenge for nine victories.”
After the public display of futility that the 2017 season was for Florida, nine victories would likely be rewarded with another block party on West University Avenue.