Great Teams Without a National Title - Part 1

This will turn out to be another outstanding All-Sports year for the Florida Gators even though no Gator team came home with a national title. The Florida softball team gave it a shot, finishing third in the College World Series, coming closer to winning it all than any other Florida team this school year.

It got me thinking about all the outstanding years the Gators have had without winning it all. Let's face it, NCAA or AIAW titles are incredible things and UF can proudly point to 21 such trophies over the years. But so many teams have posted great years that didn't quite reach that level.

Therefore for the next three weeks we'll salute some of the best teams in UF history that did not claim the biggest trophy of them all. This week we start off with a six pack of remarkable football seasons. Next week we'll follow that up with six basketball seasons of note, and then six more articles that will salute great seasons from a number of other Gator teams.

#6 -- 1966 --- The Gators had every reason to expect 1966 to be a special season and many felt it could be the school's first SEC Title campaign. Steve Spurrier, Richard Trapp and Larry Smith returned to lead the offense and the defense was likely to be pretty salty.

Florida routed Northwestern opening day 43-7 before taking its SEC opener with Mississippi State 28-7. Vanderbilt (13-0) and FSU (22-19) were next (sorry Lane Fenner) and the Gators were 4-0. After beating North Carolina State (17-10) the Gators got back into SEC wars with wins over LSU (28-7) and Auburn (30-27). Spurrier seemed like a Heisman lock, the Gators were 7-0 and headed to Jacksonville with an SEC Title in their sights.

The vision was a tad blurry. Florida was manhandled by the Bulldogs and Spurrier was hounded by future Dolphins' great Bill Stanfill and Georgia won 27-10. The Gators bounced back to beat Tulane 31-10 but then stumbled against Miami 21-16.

Despite that setback the Gators were invited to the Orange Bowl for the first time in school history and made the most of the opportunity with a resounding 27-12 win over Georgia Tech.

I chose this season as No. 6 on the list for a number of reasons. The Gators won a major bowl game for the first time in school history. Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy, another first for UF. The Gators had just the second nine-win season in school history and took another step towards become a legit threat to win the SEC Football Championship.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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