Now that the College Football Playoff poll has been released, we can all relax and just let it all play out. The speculation of who and where is over and everyone knows where they stand. November is here and we are in the home stretch of the season. This is the month of separation for those who have a chance and those who thought they had a chance. As for the Florida Gators football team, they have put themselves in position to have some say about the final outcome.
The end of the schedule is very manageable for Florida. After this weekend’s homecoming game against Vanderbilt, they take on South Carolina followed by Florida Atlantic and in state rival Florida State. Get through that slate without any blemishes and they set themselves up for a showdown in the Georgia Dome, likely against LSU, Alabama or Ole Miss.
This is a very exciting time for the Florida Gators football team and I don’t think anyone drinking the sweetest flavor of Gator Kool-Aid could have conjured this one up. Florida debuted in the first poll at No. 10 and is in prime position to work their way into a spot into the top four. We can have fun projecting scenarios and possibilities and somehow interpret the committee’s evaluation process, but this team, thus far, has mastered staying focused on the next game. While fans and media can discuss possibilities, this team has to live in the now. They can only win in the now and can’t worry about winning games that are not guaranteed yet.
Next up for Florida is Vanderbilt, who will mosey down to Gainesville this week to try and play the role of a spoiler. If a chance to cement their spot in Atlanta wasn’t enough, the Gators get to exact some revenge against the Commodores, a team that embarrassed the Gators on homecoming two years ago. A lot has changed with both programs since 2013. Both programs have gone through coaching changes and at least this season returned to their traditional place in the SEC. Since the departure of James Franklin to Penn State, Vanderbilt has won one conference game. If Florida is a legitimate championship contender on any level, this is a game they should be able to take care of business on Saturday.
Jim McElwain has done a phenomenal job thus far and has far exceeded expectations. The national consensus thought Florida would win 7 or 8 games and be happy with a bowl game appearance. This team comes into the final month of the season with 7 wins, one away from Atlanta and a lot more on the table. McElwain never wanted any sympathy because of the hand he was dealt. He just expected to win. That type of character has laid a strong foundation for the remainder of this season and the future of this program.
A culture of mediocrity, underachieving and losing has been flipped in less than a year into a culture of exceeding standards and winning. Those are the type of teams that fulfill goals and wear rings.
The Gators are firmly in the conversation across the national landscape. Pressure and scrutiny will be at an all-time high as media, fans and the committee decide who deserves what.
November is the month when teams begin to really define themselves and who they are. Some will rise and some will fall hard. As for Florida they have it all in their hands. The Gators are a tough, gritty and opportunistic team. While it is not always pretty it has worked. In some ways it reminds me of the 2006 team that was far from a juggernaut on offense and won games with great defense and special teams. There are other comparisons that could be made, but those teams possessed a winning character that carried them to the national championship in the midst of many doubters. I am not predicting a national title, but I am saying this team will not go away easy.
It’s winning time for the University of Florida football team. They don’t have to worry about their current position in the poll, they don’t have to succumb to the pressures of pre-season expectations, and they don’t have to give in to the politics that are played when things don’t go their way; if they win, all that will take care of itself. It’s one game at a time for this group of Gators, nothing was promised entering this season and they will have to earn everything they want, play-by-play, quarter-by-quarter and game-by-game.
This is a special season we have had the opportunity to behold and we are just getting started.