Will Muschamp's Florida football team is 4-7 and on a six-game losing streak and will not play in a bowl. Only five players have started every game. The Gators are coming off a home loss to I-AA Georgia Southern and are preparing to face No. 2 Florida State on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The SEC teams Florida has defeated — Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas — are a combined 1-20 in league play.
But Monday, Muschamp staunchly defended himself and the program, saying Florida is still a place where top-level recruits should want to play and the Gators aren't far off from the team that finished 11-2 last season and went to a BCS bowl.
"It's still the University of Florida," he said. "There's some obvious reasons why we are where we are. We're a team that won 11 games last year, and I don't think that happened by accident. We have a really good football staff. We have some good players. We're going to have a good football team moving forward, so at the end of the day, this is a great education, it's a great place to come compete and be a student athlete."
Muschamp, who has received public support from athletic director Jeremy Foley and school president Bernie Machen, said he "absolutely" can envision the Gators in the SEC Championship Game next year but admits it won't be easy.
"I don't think it's sitting there hitting a reset button," he said. "It takes work. I don't believe we're that far off. Regardless of the results Saturday afternoon (the loss to Georgia Southern), which is all disappointing for everyone, starting with me, I just don't feel like we're that far off.
"I think there's some key components for our football team that aren't playing for us right now. And we're very thin in some areas. And it is what it is. I'm not making excuses, that's just the facts, and it's real. And again, I think we've got a good staff and I think that we've got a really good football team going into — they're fighting their butt off this Saturday, first of all, and heading into spring. And I'm excited about that. I'm excited about this Saturday and our guys getting out and competing again."
Muschamp said he "absolutely" believes he'll be Florida's coach next season. He said he'll evaluate and determine the fate of the rest of his staff after Saturday's season finale.
INJURY UPDATE: QB Tyler Murphy (shoulder) has not been cleared by team medical personnel and is questionable. He has missed the past two games because of his shoulder problems. LB Mike Taylor will not play (MCL), LB Alex Anzalone (dislocated shoulder) is out and will have surgery. OL D.J. Humphries (knee) is out.
BITTER END: Florida's dismal season is even worse for the 17 seniors who will end their careers Saturday. Of those, 15 are scheduled to graduate in December or May, but it's the way their football careers will end that is tough.
"It's been pretty difficult," senior WR Solomon Patton said. "Coming into this season I didn't expect for the season to go the way it's been going. "
Florida's four-year seniors are 30-20 in their careers. The Gators defeated FSU 37-27 in Tallahassee last season, and despite their struggles they believe they have a chance Saturday.
"We definitely know we can compete with them ," senior DB Jaylen Watkins said.
DID YOU KNOW?: FSU has scored 40 or more in 11 straight games. The Gators have not scored 40 in a game all season.
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter@TBTimes_Gators.