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Will Muschamp's Coaching Tenure at Florida Enters Make-or-Break Stretch

Will Muschamp

Will Muschamp

There’s a good chance the fate of Florida coach Will Muschamp was sealed in Florida’s 42-13 loss to Missouri on Oct. 18. But if it wasn’t, the next five games are a make-or-break stretch in Gainesville for the fourth-year coach.

Realistically, Muschamp has to get to a bowl to save his job. Even then, that might not be enough.

To get to six wins, Florida has to win three out of its next five games: Georgia (Jacksonville), at Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Eastern Kentucky and at Florida State.

The Gators will be favored in two of those games (Vanderbilt and Eastern Kentucky), but where is the third win? Can a struggling Florida offense take advantage of South Carolina’s porous defense? Will the rivalry against Florida State bring out the best in the Gators? Can the same theory hold true against Georgia this week?

Keeping in mind Florida’s quest to get to six wins, don’t forget this team had to cancel a game against Idaho due to weather on Aug. 30. That win would come in handy for Muschamp by the end of November.

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In order for Florida to have a shot at a bowl, improvement has to start on offense. The Gators are averaging just 4.3 yards per play in SEC games – that’s lower than the 4.7 mark posted in 2013.

The switch from Jeff Driskel to Treon Harris at quarterback is the right call and should pay dividends for the offense. Harris (a true freshman) is going to make mistakes, but his upside is also higher. It’s a small sample size, but Driskel is averaging just 9.6 yards per completion (97) this year. Through three games and 12 completions, Harris is averaging 21.9. Again, that’s not sustainable over the course of the season, but the true freshman has more talent and already has half (3) of the touchdown passes Driskel (6) has thrown all season.

Fixing the offense would provide more protection for a defense that’s not as dominant as it was in previous years.

Florida’s defense has allowed 30.6 points per game in SEC contests. That’s a bad sign for Muschamp (a defensive coach) with a limited offense.

An area to note in the Gators’ defensive struggles has been the secondary. After allowing just eight passing touchdowns from 2012-13, Florida has allowed nine passing touchdowns in SEC play this season.

Florida’s defense also ranks 11th in the SEC in third-down defense (conference-only games).

Muschamp was squarely on the hot seat entering 2014, and he’s done little to suggest the program is headed in the right direction this year. Yes, the schedule has been difficult. But it’s also hard to ignore Florida just squeaked by Tennessee and Kentucky and could easily be 0-5 in the conference.

If Muschamp isn’t toast already in Gainesville, this is final shot. Coming off a bye and having two weeks to prepare for Georgia should bring out the best in Florida. If the Gators defeat the Bulldogs, South Carolina or Florida State and win their other two remaining games, it will be enough to go bowling.

Even if Muschamp finds a way to get Florida back in a bowl, 6-5 is not the standard in Gainesville. With the recruiting area and tradition, this program is capable of competing for national championships on a yearly basis.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why progress over the next five games and a 6-5 final record probably won’t be enough for Muschamp to return in 2015.