Great Teams Without a National Title - Part 4

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.

Today is part four of the best football seasons that didn't earn national titles.

#6 -- 1966
#5 -- 1984
#4 -- 1960

#3 -- 1991 -----
Steve Spurrier's first Gator squad had shocked the SEC by averaging 35 points a game and passing for more than 3,000 yards, but SEC veterans figured '91 would be time for SOS to get his comeuppance. Yeah, now that they knew what he was doing the big, bad, tough, physical SEC would take over.

Not so much.

You see Spurrier had other plans, not the least of which was earning an official SEC Championship after the '90 had been screwed out of it by the NCAA. The Gators opened the year with a 59-21 win over San Jose State and then humiliated Alabama 35-0. A letdown followed as Florida stunk up the Carrier Dome in a 38-21 loss to Syracuse.

The Gators regrouped in a hurry, beating Mississippi State (29-7) and LSU (16-0) to improve to 4-0 in the SEC with fourth ranked Tennessee coming to town. The Gators pasted the Vols, 35-18 with Larry Kennedy's interception return for a touchdown providing one of the loudest moments ever heard in The Swamp. The Gators kept rolling with wins over Northern Illinois (41-10) and Auburn (31-10) sending the Gators to Jacksonville unbeaten in the SEC.

The SEC Title was within reach, but these were the games Georgia always won. Florida fans were far more nervous and edgy than you would think for the No. 6 team in the nation, but their anxiousness was justified. It was also unnecessary. Florida routed the Bulldogs 45-13 to move within a win of a perfect SEC slate. Kentucky came to Gainesville the following week, and Florida dominated the first half. Unfortunately the Gators mentally packed for New Orleans at halftime and Pookie Jones led an incredible Kentucky comeback. Florida got it together to finish off the 35-26 win and history was made, official untainted history.

The Gators added to the incredible '91 season by beating No. 3 FSU in a stirring, ultra-physical 14-9 game that gave the Gators their first ten win season. A Sugar Bowl loss to Notre Dame did nothing to diminish this campaign.

I chose this team because it marked two important firsts; the first ten-win season and the first official SEC Championship. Having been in Lexington in '94 and Gainesville in '91 I get to say YES if someone asks if I was there when the Gators won their first SEC Title, no matter which one the questioner is referring to.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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