CBSSports writer picks Dan Mullen as next to win national title
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida is more than a decade removed from its last national title in football. In that timespan, rival Florida State has won a national championship, rival Georgia has played for one and three other SEC teams have actually won one.
The Gators aren’t used to — and won’t settle for — standing on the sidelines much longer. That’s something coach Dan Mullen knew when he took over.
If we’re being frank, though, it’s tough to win a national title in college football.
Only six active coaches have won a national title. On Friday, CBSSports.com polled its college football writers on which coach not already in that group would be first to win a national title.
One, CBSSports.com’s Ben Kercheval, picked Dan Mullen. In making his case, he wrote:
Like (Kirby) Smart, Mullen is recruiting at a level necessary to win a national championship; he’s on his way to three straight top-10 classes, a benchmark for title contention. He’s also won a lot — 21 games in his first two seasons in Gainesville with two New Year’s Six bowl wins and top-10 finishes. Before that, he took Mississippi State to the absolute peak of the college football mountain by getting the Bulldogs, briefly, to No. 1 in the inaugural College Football Playoff Rankings in 2014.
The man can flat-out coach, and while Georgia has been the top team in the SEC East lately, I don’t believe the gap between the Bulldogs and Gators is all that wide. If Florida gets out of the SEC Championship Game under Mullen, it would have every reason to be the favorite for a national title run. Based on just two successful years in Gainesville, that run could come a lot sooner than most anticipate.
Mullen has already won a pair of national titles as a coordinator, serving on Urban Meyer‘s Florida staff from 2006-08.
And there’s no doubt that Mullen has both improved the overall quality of the roster with his recruiting and won plenty of games at Florida. But Georgia has certainly been his stumbling block so far.
That’s the game that eventually Mullen will have to win to keep pushing in the right direction when it comes to winning a championship. So far he’s been unable to unlock the Georgia defense, scoring just 17 points in his two head-to-head meetings with the Bulldogs since taking over the Gators.
Georgia figures to have yet another terrific defense in 2020, too, returning several NFL-caliber starters.
The issue for Mullen, if he hopes to win a national title soon, is that he needs to start showing progress against Smart. Because despite Kercheval’s claim that Mullen is recruiting at a level necessary to win a championship, it does ignore that Smart has heavily outrecruited Florida on the whole since Smart arrived in Athens.
That talent gap may not have to close all the way for Florida to flip the script in the series, but it’s going to get harder and harder to change the recruiting narrative the Gators are up against without a win soon in that Georgia series.
In any case, there are some out there that definitely believe Mullen is knocking on the door.
It’s hard to argue after a couple Top 10 finishes.
“I promise you this: That’s just the beginning,” Mullen said. “We finished in the Top 10 the last two years, and that’s just the beginning.”