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Even way back on Sept. 2, you could see the beginning of this iceberg start to form. It was still a bit off in the distance, nothing to immediately worry about, but certainly something for Jim McElwain to steer away from if he could.

Florida, in fact, led the Misery Index in Week 1 after a 33-17 loss to Michigan. Because even back then, there was a sense that it wasn’t merely one bad game, it was a continuation of several themes that had been simmering for the last couple years. Inept offensively. Overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage. Outclassed by a program that Florida should be on even footing with, also with a coach in his third season. 

And after Florida was done getting out-gained 433-192 with just nine first downs on offense, McElwain’s comment that summed it up was both shocking and insulting to Gators fans: “Plain and simple, take your whooping. I’m taking it.”

No, sir. Not at Florida. You don’t take your whooping and move on when you’re the Gators’ coach. You raise hell, kick and scream, you burn down what needs to be burned down. And you damn sure don’t let it happen again. 

But with McElwain, it shouldn’t have been a big surprise. This is a coach, after all, who spent his first two years at Florida wandering around in astonishment that fans didn’t really appreciate getting slaughtered by Alabama in back-to-back SEC championship games. 

And while McElwain may have partly been right on substance in defending his record — he didn’t inherit a program that was exactly running on all cylinders — he couldn’t have been more off message if he had tried. 

Winning the SEC East is nice, but Florida fans know when their program is relevant because they’ve seen it before. Florida wasn’t relevant the past two years. It wasn’t a threat to beat top-level teams. And fans were in no mood to watch him beat his chest about getting to Atlanta. 

Is that unrealistic? Sure. But everything in college football is unrealistic, including McElwain’s $4.3 million salary.

FINAL WHISTLE: Get ready for outrage at the first Playoff rankings

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Highs and lows from Week 9 in college football

WILD WEEK 9: Playoff scenarios look likely to be complicated

And so when the Gators opened up 2017 with a loss that revealed similar problems to the last couple years, including bad quarterback play, we took notice.

It was obvious right away this had the potential to be the roughest of McElwain’s three seasons because not only was Florida bad, it was bad in ways that were supposed to be fixed by now, particularly at quarterback and along the offensive line. 

Fast-forward a couple months, and McElwain didn’t veer. In fact, he went full-speed toward that iceberg until Sunday, when he became the first of what could be several SEC coaches let go this year. And though it happened quickly, it shouldn’t be a big surprise. At 3-4, Florida’s season is done in every meaningful way. And once a report surfaced Saturday afternoon from ESPN indicating the school was trying to explore ways to get around paying him a $12.9 million buyout, all that was left to resolve were the details of his parting.  

The logic in firing him for cause would apparently be based around his press conference claim that he had received death threats, which McElwain didn’t substantiate either publicly or privately with Florida officials. On its face, that seems somewhat flimsy. At the very least, we’re talking lots and lots of lawyers and tons of wasted money. 

But Florida had a real crisis to resolve here, because bringing McElwain back for a fourth year — especially given how defeated he seemed following Saturday’s 42-7 loss to Georgia — sure didn’t seem like a great idea. 

Of course, paying a two-time division-winning coach nearly $13 million to go away after three years is no picnic either, especially when you’re still not quite done paying off Will Muschamp, who you chased off after four. 

McElwain didn’t give Florida fans nearly enough to make them happy, but it’s worth wondering whether anyone can.

(Disclaimer: This isn’t a ranking of worst teams, worst losses or coaches whose jobs are in the most jeopardy. This is simply a measurement of a fan base’s knee-jerk reaction to what they last saw. The way in which a team won or lost, expectations vis-à-vis program trajectory and traditional inferiority complex of fan base all factor into this ranking.)

Florida: When viewed in its full context, the legend of Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley doesn’t look quite as shiny. The bottom line is that Foley made four football hires for the Gators. Three of them didn’t work out with Ron Zook, Will Muschamp and now McElwain. And while the one he hit on provided some spectacular football with two national titles, it was relatively short-lived, as Urban Meyer burned out after six seasons and left a host of off-field problems in his wake. But it also shows how hard it is, even for a program with Florida’s advantages, to get it right in football. Foley didn’t really believe in importing big names, partly because it’s so rare to do that in the first place, and also because he probably enjoyed the process of trying to identify the next coaching superstar. Meyer was a slam-dunk. He dominated at Utah, and it was going to be between Florida and Notre Dame for his services. McElwain, on the other hand, was less of a sure thing. He absolutely turned around Colorado State in three years, but even his peak there at 10-3 wasn’t Meyer-esque. And it’s not like big-time programs all over the country were clamoring to hire him. Who knows where Florida will go next, and certainly Scott Stricklin will have a different thought process and approach than his predecessor. But just remember that even at Florida, making a good hire isn’t as easy as you’d think. 

Florida State: Contrary to popular belief, winning a national championship has never made a coach bulletproof. When it came down to the ol’ what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, that trophy didn’t save Les Miles or Mack Brown or Larry Coker or Phillip Fulmer. And it certainly didn’t save Gene Chizik. Which is an interesting example when it comes to Florida State. Because for the longest time, the coach Jimbo Fisher has been compared to most is Nick Saban. But it’s worth considering whether his trajectory right now is closer to Chizik, who won an undefeated national title with a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback, exceeded expectations to a degree the following year and then absolutely cratered in 2012, leading to his ouster. Fisher isn’t going to get fired, and things at Florida State aren’t coming apart quite as dramatically as Auburn, but Friday’s 35-3 loss at Boston College is rock bottom for the Fisher era, or just about any era of Seminole football. The problems are many for Fisher this season, as Florida State has tumbled from preseason No. 3 to the nation’s most disappointing team. And it’s not just the quarterback position. The question now, as Fisher tries to navigate his 2-5 team to the end of the season, is whether he gets serious about fixing the program’s numerous holes or stubbornly acts like a coach with a $40 million buyout. 

Texas A&M: Have things at Texas A&M become really simple, or are they now more complicated? Does this end with a firing or with Kevin Sumlin walking to a new job? And, ultimately, is Texas A&M even well positioned to hire an upgrade at head coach, or is the sense that fans are just done with Sumlin no matter his successor overwhelming everything? We know this much: The Aggies looked really bad in a 35-14 home loss to Mississippi State. In fact, much of the frustration with Sumlin’s career at Texas A&M can be summed up by the fact he’s just 3-3 against Mississippi State, which probably shouldn’t happen if Texas A&M is as good of a program as it thinks it is. There was a scenario, albeit unrealistic, where Sumlin saved his job at 10-2 or even perhaps 9-3. Well, now the Aggies are 5-3 with Auburn and LSU remaining. Maybe if they sweep both, there will be sentiment for status quo. But an overwhelming wave of negativity is sure to return following a three-touchdown loss at home in which the Aggies had just 285 yards of offense. After so much back-and-forth over Sumlin’s future, exhaustion and inevitability seems to have set in.  

Penn State: When you’re good enough to make the College Football Playoff, it’s crushing when you fall short. Just ask TCU’s Gary Patterson about 2014 or the star-laden Ohio State team about the missed opportunity in 2015. But it appears Penn State fans are going to have to absorb that gut punch twice. Last year, the Nittany Lions became the first conference champion to get passed over for a team that finished behind them in the standings when the selection committee chose Ohio State. And this year, it’s possible Penn State is a top-four team that just won’t have much of a chance because it didn’t win its conference. No matter how well James Franklin is recruiting or what kind of trajectory the Nittany Lions’ program is on, you only get so many bites at the apple when you’re talking about a chance at the national title. And you only have so many guys like Saquon Barkley come through State College. This is a special run for Penn State, which is 18-4 over the last two years and will probably end up 11-1 this season. But it can only be so special without a playoff berth. 

Nebraska: Perhaps there were some Cornhusker fans who celebrated Saturday’s 25-24 win over Purdue, as it was indeed a thrilling rally from down 24-12 in the fourth quarter. But when those fans took a step back, they probably realized that Nebraska needed a furious comeback and a touchdown with 14 seconds left to beat Purdue, not one of the top-level teams they aspire to compete against in the Big Ten. And they also have to be wondering with a bit of dread whether prodigal son Scott Frost is actually going to come home. Frost is the hottest coaching commodity in the country, and with the way things are going, there will be multiple job openings that are considered better jobs than Nebraska. In other words, Huskers yearning for Frost to replace Mike Riley (if he’s indeed fired) will have to hope Frost wants to coach at his alma mater so badly that he’ll turn down programs where it’s easier to win national titles in 2017. The idea Nebraska’s opening could line up with Frost’s ascent, only to have him spurn the Huskers would be the most psychologically crushing moment in program history.

IMAGES FROM WEEK 9 IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

MISERABLE, BUT NOT QUITE MISERABLE ENOUGH

South Florida: The Bulls’ big goal of winning the AAC and making a New Year’s Six bowl is still alive, technically, but it feels pretty much over. Because they are what they are by this point in the season, and what they are is a pretty underwhelming team that has skated by against a cupcake schedule. Those flaws were finally exposed by Houston, which won in Tampa 28-24 after converting a fourth-and-24 with 1:07 left as backup quarterback D’Eriq King squeezed a 30-yard pass to Courtney Lark in between several defenders. Even one loss for USF means Charlie Strong didn’t live up to the extremely high expectations in Year 1, given the stacked team and easy schedule he inherited. 

UCLA: It’s almost as if the program exists in a state of perpetual stasis. There’s never really any improvement, but it doesn’t fall off a cliff. There’s never much to get excited about, but it’s interesting enough to watch. It’s never happy with its coach, but doesn’t really want to spend the money to make a change. It would, in fact, cost UCLA $12.2 million to get rid of Jim Mora, which is a huge chunk of change for a school that doesn’t really care that much about football. And yet, even if the Bruins get back to a bowl game — and 6-6 is a real possibility — it will be a pretty disappointing three-year run for Mora with Josh Rosen on campus. Rosen, in fact, had his worst game of the season in a 44-23 loss to Washington, completing 12-of-21 passes for 93 yards before he left with an undisclosed injury. As usual, UCLA couldn’t protect Rosen up front, leading to four sacks and more bumps and bruises as he counts the days until the NFL draft. What’s the compelling argument at this point for him ever suiting up for UCLA again? 

TCU: There may not be a more frustrating loss for TCU fans in recent memory than Saturday. Just when the Horned Frogs looked like they had separated themselves from the pack in the Big 12, just when Gary Patterson’s defense looked like a vintage Patterson defense, just when quarterback Kenny Hill was earning more confidence for his decision-making, they go to Ames and blow it in ridiculous fashion. TCU fans knew this team wasn’t as good as the 2014 team that just missed the playoff, but perhaps, they hoped, this team would get a couple good breaks along the way and some karmic payback. It does not appear that will be the case in 2017. Hill turned it over three times, including twice on goal-to-go situations, in a 14-7 loss. It’s one thing to get beat. It’s another to throw away 14 points on the road in a close game against a quality opponent. And the price TCU will likely pay for that is any shot at the playoff. Though theoretically the Horned Frogs could end up winning the Big 12, they’d need a lot of help to actually get into the top four. Patterson has nibbled at a national title a couple times, but you have to wonder what it will take to really break that glass ceiling. 

Louisville: When you think of all-time great college football players whose teams never accomplished anything significant or played in a major bowl, it’s a short list. John Elway, who never led Stanford to a postseason game, comes to mind. But it’s fairly mind-blowing how badly Louisville has squandered the Lamar Jackson era. The Cardinals have lost seven of their last 11 games against FBS competition, including a new low in a 42-32 loss at Wake Forest. The final score was not indicative of how thoroughly Louisville was beaten, and all the good vibes from beating Florida State a week ago are now gone. The only intrigue in Louisville’s season now will be whether Jackson chooses to play in whatever minor bowl the Cardinals make, if they make one at all. While Louisville may one day build a good football program, even one that can win the ACC, the odds of another superstar like Jackson ever appearing on their campus again are low. So shame on Bobby Petrino for failing to maximizing what he’s capable of from a team perspective.

Tennessee: Vol fans have become so numb to anything involving their football program, they can only be enraged at this point when Sundays come and go with no official announcement that Butch Jones has been fired. Though it doesn’t matter in the big picture whether that happens now, in a week or at the end of the regular season, this is an instant satisfaction society. And Tennessee fans have been waiting for their satisfaction going on a decade since their last SEC East title. Reaching that plateau seems as far as it ever has under Jones, as the Vols slipped to 3-5 after a loss to Kentucky. Even in the midst of a throwaway season, nobody can be happy about losing to Kentucky for just the second time in 32 years. But that’s what Tennessee did, 29-26, as the Wildcats engineered a 72-yard touchdown drive to win it with 33 seconds left. That’s the door you leave open when your offense is so mediocre you have to settle for six field goal attempts (missing two). Hey, if you’re a Tennessee optimist, at least the Vols covered the spread. 

TOO SHOCKED TO BE MISERABLE

Central Florida: The worst part about having the kind of season UCF is having is how the speculation about Scott Frost’s next destination can overwhelm the joy of accomplishing something special. The Knights are 7-0 and rolling over everyone, which means they’re in great position to make a New Year’s Six bowl. But it also means Frost is the hottest coach in America, and with so many really good openings, the dread about losing him is impossible to ignore. Especially when there were pictures floating all over Twitter showing thousands and thousands of empty seats for a win over Austin Peay. 

Vanderbilt: Since James Franklin arrived in 2011, the Commodores have worked extremely hard as a program to avoid going back to the basement of the SEC East. But unless they can figure out how to win a conference game, that’s where they’re headed. Good thing for Derek Mason that Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee — all of whom are left for Vanderbilt — are no world beaters. But the bad news is that Vandy is 0-5 in the league and potentially headed for a winless conference season for the second time in Mason’s four years. 

San Jose State: There’s no more debate about the worst team in the FBS. The Spartans took that title easily with a 41-20 loss at Brigham Young, which was definitely in the discussion itself after a blowout loss to East Carolina. The Spartans are now 1-8, having beaten Cal Poly and lost by big margins to everyone else including by 28 to UNLV, 51 to Utah State and 38 to Utah. Yikes. 

Utah: Quarterback Tyler Huntley summed up the state of things succinctly for the Utes following a 41-20 loss to Oregon. According to Patrick Kinahan of 1280 AM “The Zone” radio in Salt Lake City, Huntley walked into the press conference and said, “It’s (expletive) embarrassing. Excuse my language,” before he was ushered off by a school official. Indeed, it is embarrassing. The Utes, who’ve been over .500 in the Pac-12 each of the last three years, are now 4-4 overall and just 1-4 in the Pac-12. 

Ole Miss: The bad news here is three-fold. First, the Rebels blew a 31-7 lead against Arkansas, scoring just six more points over the game’s final 40 minutes in a 38-37 loss. Second, with Jim McElwain and Florida parting ways, there’s a scenario in which Ole Miss is no better than the fifth best open job in the SEC when athletics director Ross Bjork has to get serious about coach shopping. Third, it looks like rival Mississippi State is having another great season and could be headed for 9-3 after blowing out Texas A&M.

FIVE TOTALLY REAL AND IRRATIONAL MESSAGE BOARD THREADS 

“the thought of a coaching search makes me vomit…” – texags.com

“Why not Spurrier as the temporary/interim coach?” – gatorcountry.com

“Welcome to the worst team in TN history” – volnation.com

“Turn Out The Lights…This Party’s Over” killerfrogs.com (TCU)

“Same brain-dead playcalling that cost them the Rose Bowl strikes again” – bluewhiteillustrated.com (Penn State)