Urban Meyer has gotten of to what can best be described as an uneven start at Florida. He has beaten all the teams he should, with the exception of South Carolina, and he has lost to all the teams he should with the exception of Georgia. However, many pundits (myself included) were expecting more from Urban Meyer this season. Everyone was anxious to see whether his ‘spread option’ would wreck havoc on SEC defenses or be exposed as a gimmick offense that was incapable of sustained success against the country’s best athletes. We should have looked at his track record. It’s in his teams 2nd season where the offense takes a dramatic step forward.
When Meyer arrived at Bowling Green in 2001, he inherited a team that had gone 2-9 the previous season and scored an average of 15.8 points per game. His 2001 squad finished 8-3 and averaged 30.3 points per game. Meyer clearly defibrillated a pulse-less offense in his first year, but it was in his 2nd season when Bowling Green would make a complete recovery. His 2002 team finished 9-3 and averaged 40.8 points per game. Some highlights from the year included hanging 51 on the Big 12’s Missouri and dropping a cool 72 on Ohio. In his two years at the helm, Meyer’s defenses were never spectacular (they allowed 19.5 points per game in 2001 and 25.3 points per game in 2002), so it was primarily his offensive philosophy and expertise that won games.
After the 2002 season, Meyer left Bowling Green and headed west for the University of Utah. The Runnin’ Utes were coming off a season where they had gone 5-6 and scored 22.6 points per game. In Meyer’s first season they finished 10-2 and averaged 28.7 points per game. However, once again it was in Meyer’s 2nd season when his offense began to roll. His 2004 team finished 12-0 and averaged 45.3 points per game. They dropped big numbers on bowl-bound BCS teams: 41 on Texas A&M, 46 on North Carolina, and 35 on Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. Similar to his defenses at Bowling Green, at Utah they were solid, but not spectacular. His teams allowed 19.1 points per game in 2003 and 19.5 points per game in 2004.
In this, his first season at Florida, Meyer inherited a team that went 7-5 and averaged 31.8 points per game. This season, Meyer’s team is currently 8-3 and averages 28.4 points per game. For all the flak Meyer has taken, and no matter what happens in the bowl game, Florida will have a better record this season than last. Florida lost to a top-10 Alabama team when they still had Tyrone Prothro (and some semblance of offensive fortitude), a top-5 LSU team, and to an admitted mediocre South Carolina team, all on the road. However, Florida avoided a truly terrible loss that cost Ron Zook his job last year (Mississippi State). They even added an upset of Georgia for good measure and defeated their other two main rivals, Tennessee and Florida State. This marked the first time they pulled this particular hat-trick since 1996. Even though this season may be seen as a disappointment by some college football observers and Florida alumni, Florida is a better team under Urban Meyer. Furthermore, judging by Meyer’s track record, Florida’s offense should improve dramatically in his 2nd year at the helm. Look for the 2006 Gators to be the team most thought the 2005 squad would be.