Miami Heat President Pat Riley used an old idiom to motivate his teams during times of turmoil. The story was made legend by Alexander the Great and Hernán Cortés, but a far more romanticized version dates back to the time before Christ was born.
The story: A commander instructed his army to build boats to take them across the sea to fight their enemy. After years of building, the army sailed across the sea and reached the shore where the battle would take place. The commander turned to his men and instructed them, “Burn the boats!” Perplexed, the men said, “If we burn the boats, we will have no escape route.” The commander was unwavering in his conviction and watched as his men burned their only escape route, leaving the army with two options… Win or die.
Football players often compare themselves to warriors and their games as wars. It’s not meant to disrespect real soldiers but to share the mindset players need on the field.
If there was ever a time that the University of Florida football team needed to burn the boats and take on that mentality, it is now.
Just three weeks ago the credo was everything is still on the table; the Gators still controlled their own destiny in the SEC. A double dose of Tigers took that away but there is still much to play for.
Atlanta is not out of the equation… Yet.
Each season the goal is the same: Get to Atlanta by any means necessary. While the road is more complex, there’s still ways the Gators can get there.
First, the “easiest way” is for the Gators to win out and for Missouri to lose two more conference games. They have Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M left on their schedule. Florida winning out would give Georgia and South Carolina three conference losses and with Mizzou losing two-of-four, the Gators would sit atop the East with a 6-2 record.
Second, and this is where things get tricky. The first tiebreaker is division record. Florida could lose one of their remaining SEC games if Tennessee wins out and Missouri loses to Kentucky. The Volunteers winning out would mean them winning at Missouri while beating Auburn, Vanderbilt and Kentucky at home.
This scenario creates a three-way tie between Florida, Missouri and Tennessee (just as many predicted before the season) but Missouri’s 3-3 record in the east would eliminate them and bring us back to a two-team tie breaker where Florida would advance with a head-to-head win over the Vols.
There is a third scenario where Florida could advance if they lose to Vanderbilt but win the rest of their games. However, this scenario would mean the Gators would need a very specific set of circumstances to play out just right and the likelihood that they can make it to Atlanta with a loss to Vanderbilt is extremely unlikely.
So, there it is. It’s all on the table. Back-to-back losses have moved Florida from the driver’s seat to the back seat. There is one thing left to do.
Will Muschamp needs to call upon his troops like those fabled commanders of years past, instruct his men to burn the boats, and tell them there’s no looking back.