TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gators QB Luke Del Rio finished the 2016 regular season with a 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Backup QB Austin Appleby started 5 games, including at Tennessee and Florida State. The defense lost both starting linebackers, both starting safeties and both starting defensive ends to significant injuries.

Had you told me any one of these facts in July – let alone all three – I would have wondered whether the Gators managed bowl eligibility. The fact that the Gators are playing Alabama next week is a minor miracle and a testament to the coaching staff.

Florida ended the 2016 regular season with a thud against Florida State. That has been an all-too-common occurrence since Urban Meyer left and I share much of the frustration of Gator Nation. But now is not the time to give up on head coach Jim McElwain or offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

The only players from Florida State’s 2016 recruiting class (ranked No. 2 overall by Rivals) to make the box score in the game against Florida were defensive end Brian Burns (4 tackles, 1.5 sacks), defensive back Lavonta Taylor (1 tackle) and kickers Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler.

Florida had six true freshmen make the box score: DB Chauncey Gardner, RB Lamical Perine, WR Tyrie Cleveland, LBs Vosean Joseph and David Reese, and DE Jachai Polite. The 2016 recruiting class (ranked No. 14 overall by Rivals) was also represented by kicker Eddy Pineiro and the right side of the offensive line.

Florida true freshmen play key roles on the team, while Florida State does not rely on them at all. Indeed, 24 of Florida State’s 48 offensive TDs this season have come from juniors Dalvin Cook and Travis Rudolph.

Florida only has 25 offensive TDs all season. Of those, six are from

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