Dooley’s Dozen: 12 seasons Florida began unranked and overachieved

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Dooley’s Dozen: 12 seasons Florida began unranked and overachieved

Sometimes when you are trying to look something up, another thing jumps up and smacks you right in the face.

In this case, I was looking to see when was the last time Florida started a season unranked in both football and basketball (never finished that project, but I will).

And what was startling was that – if we assume the Gators won’t be ranked when the first Associated Press poll comes out – this will be the fifth time this century Florida will be unranked to start a season and the fourth time in the last nine years.

That last stat is mind-boggling, but it also shows what happens when you go through so many coaches in a short time.

But we will take this in a positive direction and Dooley’s Dozen will tell you some stories about teams at Florida who were not ranked in the preseason but overachieved their way to a nice season.

1

2018 — Dan Mullen

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

There was no reason to rank this team since Florida was coming off a 4-7 season and lost six of its last seven games. This was definitely a team that got better as the season went along with a blowout win over Florida State (which had won five straight in the series) and a big win over Michigan in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

2

1983 — Charley Pell

AP Photo

Charley’s building process was going full speed ahead and I don’t know why Florida was not ranked. But the Gators certainly were after beating Miami 28-3 in the opener. Miami went on to win the national title. Florida finished 9-2-1 with the losses coming by a total of eight points.

3

1990 — Steve Spurrier

Andy Lyons /Allsport

Clearly, the AP voters were not as excited about Spurrier’s return to his alma mater as the Gator Nation was. This was the only time in his 12 years at Florida that a Gator team was not ranked, which is pretty impressive. Florida went 9-2 and had the best record in the SEC.

4

1969 — Ray Graves

AP Photo/File

All of the talk in the preseason was about where Houston was ranked – No. 7 by AP and No. 1 in Playboy. Florida was starting an unknown sophomore at quarterback. John Reaves and Co. had a field day in winning that game and finished the season 9-1-1.

5

1958 — Bob Woodruff

AP Photo

These Gators weren’t supposed to be much and showed it early with a 2-3-1 record in the first half of the season. But Woodruff’s team won four in a row including Georgia, FSU and Miami and qualified for Florida’s second-ever bowl game.

6

1966 — Ray Graves

AP Photo/File

There was a spell from 1962-67 when the AP decided to only rank the Top 10. Florida wasn’t ranked until the fourth game of the season and won nine games and a Heisman. The Gators also played in their first major bowl game and were ranked 11th by the coaches at the end of the season.

7

1962 — Ray Graves

AP Photo

Unranked and unloved in the preseason polls, Florida went unranked all season in the first year with only a top 10. But the Gators won seven games, beat Auburn, Georgia and FSU in a row and knocked off No. 9 Penn State in the Gator Bowl.

8

1980 — Charley Pell

Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, Florida was not ranked. The year before the Gators went 0-10-1. Despite losing quarterback Bob Hewko in the fourth game, this team overachieved (we’ll forget Lindsay Scott for a moment) and won the Citrus Bowl game against Maryland to finish with eight wins, which at the time was the biggest turnaround in college football history.

9

2015 — Jim McElwain

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Mac inherited some bad personnel (especially on the offensive line) and found a way to make it work, going 6-0 to start the season until his quarterback got suspended for using banned supplements. Still, they were ranked as high as eighth during the season.

10

1974 — Doug Dickey

Syndication: Nashville

Florida was not ranked because the last three seasons under Dickey had produced a 16-17-1 record. This team started fast to climb as high as sixth in the country before losing to Georgia. The Gators finished 8-4 after a controversial Sugar Bowl loss to Nebraska.

11

2003 — Ron Zook

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After one year of Zook, the voters were ready to make Florida irrelevant. But in his second year, Florida was ranked throughout the rest of the season which included eight wins and a bowl loss to Iowa. This team beat the eventual national champs LSU in Baton Rouge and also handled Georgia again.

12

2014 — Will Muschamp

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Muschamp was fired late in the season and coached everything but the bowl game and you may wonder why this team is on the list. These Gators beat Tennessee in Knoxville and Georgia, and played their tails off to get a Birmingham Bowl win. UF was 7-5 when it was all over, but I always liked the team.

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