If you go back to before the start of the season I wrote about where the Florida Gators would find their motivation for this season coming off a National Championship. Well, this group of Gators set some goals that would make this season special regardless of March Madness. Goal number one was accomplished Wednesday night in the O’Dome.
The SEC Championship was a major goal for these Gators and they went out and got it done. Florida wins just the second outright SEC Title in school history and they did it in style. The 1989 Gators won the outright crown, but that wasn’t settled until the final game of the season. This time around the Gators dominated the SEC race, going unbeaten for almost two months of SEC action while building an insurmountable lead in the conference. The Gators took a four game lead to Nashville and fell to Vandy, but that was just a small speed bump in the road. Wednesday a sold out crowd in the O’Dome saw the Gators control South Carolina from start to finish and earned SEC Championship rings in the process with a 63-49 win.
Tough Wearing the Bulls-Eye
From the start of the season the Florida Gators have been THE game for every opponent on the schedule. Sometimes the Gators took command of games from the beginning, but sometimes the Gators had to fight, scratch and claw their way to wins.
There have been times when fans worried if this team was trying to just get by or coasting during the regular season. But that was never a real concern. What you’ve seen this season is a team coping with the pressures that come from being defending champs, and the pressures the come from being the game everyone most wants to win. Watching the Gators handle it gives me renewed appreciation for the Kentucky Wildcats who have been THE game for every SEC opponent year after year after year.
Record Book Gets Another Re-Write
As has been the case all year long, the Gators added some more records to their accomplishments over the past two seasons. The win over South Carolina was the Gators’ 25th regular season win, the most in school history with three games still to play. It improved Florida’s home record to 17-and-0, and, you guessed it, 17 wins is the most single season wins in O’Dome history and they still have Kentucky coming in on Sunday, March fourth.
Florida has won 58 games over the past two seasons and 82 over a three-year span. Those are also new standards for excellence at UF.
There is one record that Florida was given credit for that they did not earn. The Gators are now 12-and-1 in the SEC, matching that most UF has had in the 16-game SEC season. However the school record for SEC wins still belongs to the 1966-67 Gators who were 14-and-4 in conference play. Of course, with three SEC games still to play, the record is on the endangered species list.
Still remaining for the Gators to try to achieve now are two major goals. The first is finishing the home schedule with a perfect record. The 1993-94 Gators went 13-and-0 in the O’Connell Center which is the only time Florida has won all of its home games. A win over Kentucky would make this the most successful home season ever at Florida. The other goal is for the Gators to earn a # 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Florida has never been a # 1 seed and probably needs two or three more wins (including the SEC Tournament) in order to get that top nod.
Don’t bet against it.