GAMEDAY: McElwain brings Florida back to prominence



Florida head coach Jim McElwain celebrates by doing the Gator Chomp after a 28-27 win against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Elliott Propes

Jim McElwain had made a home for himself in the SEC after he completed his first season as offensive coordinator of the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2008. In his first season, he helped transform a 7-6 team into an undefeated 12-0 team. No. 1 Alabama was invited to the SEC championship to play the No. 2 Florida Gators led by Heisman quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow had his way and Alabama could only score 20 points. Alabama fell 31-20 and then lost in the Sugar Bowl. The next year brought the same matchup. This time McElwain and the Crimson Tide were ready. Alabama stomped the No. 1 Gators 32-13. A small rivalry had surfaced from the two years, but Alabama went on to win it’s first national championship in 17 years. McElwain helped Nick Saban win another national title in 2011 before he left for a head coaching position at Colorado State.

Fast-forward to today and McElwain has switched sides. He is now the head coach of the Florida Gators and has the program relevant again. After Urban Meyer left Florida, the Gators were never the same with Will Muschamp as their coach. He had an average record of 28-21 and could never get Florida back to the SEC championship. Then in December 2014, Florida decided to hire Jim McElwain, who had revitalized Colorado State that year with a 10-2 record. McElwain had Colorado State in the national rankings and was named Mountain West coach of the year just a couple of days before he was hired.

Most thought it would take McElwain time to get Florida back to the prominence that it once was, but he has turned those haters’ heads now. Florida is undefeated at 5-0 and is coming off its first victory over a top 5 opponent since 2012. Florida surprised everyone when it handed the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels a 38-10 massacre. Now Florida is ranked No. 11 in the country is in the hunt for the SEC title once again.

McElwain could easily bring back the rivalry that once was with Florida. Last year when Muschamp’s team came into Bryant-Denny, most felt it wasn’t the same. Alabama won handily 42-21 in a game that was never really in doubt. This year’s Florida team is different though, and if both teams were to win out, it is very possible that the two would meet again in the SEC title.

There are still a lot of games left to be played, and Alabama would have to have Ole Miss lose another conference game, but both teams look the best right now on their respective sides of the conference. It wouldn’t be a surprise if, come December, there is a little more kindling thrown into the furnace that once was the Florida-Alabama rivalry.