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For every coach that inherits a broken program, there is always a moment — sometimes obvious, but often hard to pinpoint — when the lingering problems can no longer be blamed on the former regime and fall instead on those currently in charge.

Then the clock starts ticking.

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For Florida's Will Muschamp, it's quite possible that pivot point arrived well before Saturday, which marked the 35th game of his tenure. But just for good measure, the Gators' 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt ensured that Urban Meyer is now off the hook for the mess he left behind in 2010.

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Florida, which was neck-and-neck with Southern California and Oklahoma as college football's best program for the first part of this century, is languishing at 4-5 and very much in danger of its first losing season since 1979. Unless the Gators can beat soon-to-be No. 2 Florida State or No. 15 South Carolina — and neither seems very likely right now — they'll be home for the holidays, something that didn't happen even during the program's three-year misadventure under Ron Zook.

And with Florida State rolling toward the national championship game and Miami on the improve, now winning the kind of in-state recruiting battles that used to go to the Gators by default, there does not seem to be a cavalry of blue-chippers on the way to turn things around next year.

"I'm a competitor, I don't like losing and I certainly don't like the product we're putting on the field," Muschamp told reporters Saturday. "That's my responsibility. That's on me. I'm not asking for anybody to be happy or to give me a pass. It's the University of Florida, and my expectation is as high or higher than anyone sitting in those seats. It's on me, and we'll get it turned, I can assure you that."

Though it is often obvious whether a coach should be fired or not, even after just three seasons, the situation at Florida will be an interesting test case for just how much patience programs will have in the Southeastern Conference, where everybody is pouring big money into coaches and facilities to chase precious victories.

The problem in a league like that — especially when it added programs like Texas A&M and Missouri — is that somebody has to lose, and right now the Gators are no more of a threat to rise back up the ranks as anyone else. Though Florida is still a cream-of-the-crop program, college football in 2013 is far more about the head coach than tradition or brand name.

That's the problem facing Muschamp and why it will be so interesting to see how Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley proceeds, especially given that he fired Zook midway through his third season.

"I put more pressure on myself than anyone else can," Muschamp said. "We're going to find a way. We've got to keep going at it. What we're doing so far isn't working. Everybody wants to put their finger on one thing and say, 'Eureka!" but that isn't the way it works. There's multiple things we have to get corrected."

There are mitigating factors, of course. Nobody would dispute that Florida was in rough shape when Muschamp arrived, leaving his post as Texas' defensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting. Florida wasn't stocked with enough Florida-caliber talent, and the culture of the program was mired in discipline problems left over from Meyer's lenient approach.

Florida also has suffered more than its share of injuries this season, with starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, receiver/kick returner Andre Debose, running back Matt Jones and defensive tackle Dominique Easley among the players who were lost for the season early.

It also seems absurd that Florida would fire a football coach who went 11-1 in the regular season last year, coming within a game of playing for the national title.

But when that season is sandwiched between 7-6 and 5-7 (this year's likely record), it raises concerns for Florida's fan base, which showed its displeasure Saturday by leaving thousands of empty seats at homecoming.

Not only is Muschamp responsible for the record, which includes three consecutive losses to rival Georgia, but his staff has struggled to put a competent offense on the field and doesn't seem to have recruited the kinds of skilled, fast offensive players that should be easy for the Gators to get.

Those are legitimate complaints and justifiable reasons for Foley to make a change, if he were so inclined to spend the $6 million it would take to be rid of Muschamp.

If not, however, the pressure will be significant for Florida to show progress in 2014, which again won't be easy without significant offensive changes and better personnel to run, throw and catch. If Foley thinks that's possible, Muschamp will get a fourth season. If not, better to go ahead and make the change now because after Saturday, there's no more blaming Urban Meyer for the state of Florida football.

Dan Wolken, a national college football writer for USA TODAY Sports, is on Twitter @DanWolken.

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