Eight is enough.
Eight would be great.
And with apologies to Al Davis: “Just win eight, baby!”
That is what the Florida Gators should be shooting for this season:
The Magic 8 Ball.
As much as UF's royally spoiled fans don't want to hear it, eight victories would actually show progress and constitute a successful season for the Gators in 2012.
The Gators, under second-year coach Will Muschamp, will someday regain the pride and glory they once had, but right now Florida fans better have patience and tolerance.
Those crazy days of national titles and Southeastern Conference championships are but a hazy memory now and Gator Nation must persevere as Muschamp tries to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Muschamp finished 7-6 in Year 1 and had a stark, stern message for Gator fans after his team beat Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. Yes, the same Ohio State program that Muschamp's predecessor, former UF coach Urban Meyer, is now coaching.
“The last two years, we are 15-11,” Muschamp said then. “That's unacceptable. But sometimes you have to put on your realistic glasses and realize where you're at as a program.”
Hopefully, those realistic glasses come with bifocals because Gator fans will need to be able to read the fine print on Muschamp's manifesto. And the fine print says this: “Don't blame me for the state of the program; this is Urban's mire.”
And it can't be cleaned up in just one year, not when you're playing in the most-powerful conference in college football without any first-team offensive or defensive preseason All-SEC players on the roster.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: There is no question Meyer left the program in far worse shape than he found it. After suffering through a five-loss season two years ago, he resigned, citing health issues and saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. Within a few weeks, he had taken a job with ESPN, and within a few months, he accepted the job at Ohio State. After seeing the shell of a program Meyer left behind in Gainesville, it's clear he got out while the getting was good.
He left Muschamp a roster depleted of talent, depth and discipline and a fan base that is seemingly losing interest. Florida Field is no longer a sure sellout, and UF's bowl game last year certainly raised some eyebrows. It used to be when UF played a bowl in Gator-crazy Jacksonville, you could count on all of the tickets being sold. Not last season, when UF had to return half of its allotment of 15,000 tickets.
Obviously, that old Gator rallying cry — “through all kinds of weather, we all stick together” — ain't what it used to be. As one Gator Bowl official told The Florida Times-Union before the bowl game last year, “Apparently, all kinds of weather doesn't include 6-6.”
Gator fans must have some patience with Muschamp because I believe he has the makings of being a great coach. He has an incredible defensive mind, he's considered an excellent recruiter and he comes from the Nick Saban coaching tree of meticulous, mono-maniacal precision. But he has to be given a chance.
If anybody knows this, it is former UF coach Ron Zook, who was fired after 21/2 seasons at UF because fans, media and administrators just weren't willing to wait. Zook has even reached out to Muschamp because he knows how impatient Florida fans can be.
“Will is a good guy and a good football coach,” Zook told me recently. “You just have to give him a chance to recruit and get his people in there. The program is not where it should be from a talent standpoint. Anything I can do to help him, I'll do because I don't want to see happen to him what happened to me.”
By all accounts, Muschamp's second year should run much more smoothly than his first, when he was trying to institute new offensive and defensive systems as well as cleaning out some of the disciplinary issues left behind by Meyer. Those around the program last year referred to Muschamp as “The Fireman” because there were so many disciplinary infernos he had to put out. This year's team, he says, has already been “a lot more fun” to coach.
“I do feel like we have built a very solid foundation for where we are headed,” Muschamp says. “We did not get the results we wanted on the field [last year]. I feel like in the locker room, the weight room, the attitude of our football team, the discipline of our team, we're headed in the right direction.
“Every decision I make is for the long-term success of our program. As I've said plenty of times, we're building a program, not a team.”
In other words, long-term success sometimes means that in the short term you have to swallow your pride and postpone the glory.
Eight wins is better than seven.
email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BianchiWrites.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times