Saturday the Florida Gators closed out their SEC campaign with a business like effort defeating South Carolina. The game probably ended up closer than it should have after a brief fourth quarter brain cramp, but the offense responded with a game sealing touchdown for the win, that typified the character of this team.
There was a lot of chaos that occurred across the national landscape this weekend that did not change much for the Gators. The last two performances for the Gators have not been much to brag about, other the most important thing, winning. As we stand mid-way through November the Gators still remain in the hunt for a spot in the College Playoff or a New Year’s Six bowl game.
While this week against Florida Atlantic may seem like a warm up for Florida State, Florida cannot approach it that way. The Gators have a few areas they can improve and any success will be a confidence builder moving forward into two very big games that will have the attention of the Nation. But as of now, the conversation surrounds who is in the top 4 of the playoff and who is will the last spot go to between Notre Dame and Big 12 teams. As we all know nothing in college football is a forgone conclusion, nothing.
Ole Miss still has an outside shot at Atlanta, but that seems like a long shot with their remaining games coupled with the way Alabama is playing right now. The assumption is that Alabama will walk through their remaining schedule of Charleston Southern and Auburn on their way to the SEC Championship. The Crimson Tide will get to Atlanta for their coronation by rolling through Florida and celebrate Derrick Henry on his way to winning the Heisman. This could very well happen, but let me be ‘that’ guy and just say, don’t write these Gators just yet.
Florida is not winning a beauty pageant anytime soon, we know they are not exactly the most appealing watch. But while things like playing style, great players and stats make for great water cooler talk, when it comes to the Gators, those things don’t mean a hill of beans. The only thing that has mattered since the first fall practice, is winning. And winning has allowed the Gators to maintain a firm grip on the championship bar while other teams fall off every week.
I must admit, when this season started, I was a doubter, I thought we had a good staff, but quickly realized that I was still suffering from a little bit of Muschampitist. That is the inability to believe that change is possible. In my mind I oppressed the possibility that this Florida team had the wherewithal to make dramatic 4th quarter comebacks, dominate top 5 opponents and never quit, despite the circumstances. This team continues to surprise but I would not be surprised if this team left the Georgia Dome as SEC Champion, they are just that kind of team. I won’t get into a breakdown of a game that is technically superficial at this point, but there are areas against ‘Bama that the Gators can take advantage of.
As fans we get frustrated when our team is not mentioned amongst the contenders or when the conversation conveniently bypasses our team’s accomplishments. Well, at least three more weeks, that will be the case. I am making a huge assumption, when I say that this Tuesday Florida will or should at least be in the top 8 of the playoff rankings, putting them in prime position to receive a little bit of love, but until they prove otherwise, Florida will be just another victim of the Alabama stampede.
Jim McElwain is most likely on his way to winning the SEC Coach of the year and is probably the leading candidate for national coach of the year. He has become the Yoda of GatorNation, weekly preaching football wisdom that has attached itself to the character of this team. He continues to say that each game is not about the opponent, it’s about Florida, and every player doing their job. That approach has not changed regardless of the foe or magnitude of the game, but at the same time he has not ignored the reality that Florida is three wins away from making an already special season, epic.
Thinking two and three weeks down the line is fun, but let’s pump the breaks for a quick second. Offensively, this team is a box of chocolates. In the last three games they have 2 of 3 best offensive outputs as far as yards go as well as the one of the worst. Florida has not rushed for 100 yards in two consecutive games since beating Kentucky and Tennessee and after 5 turnovers in the first 7 games they have 7 turnovers in the last 3 games and still are one of the best in the nation with a +9 turnover margin.
We know coming into the season that the offense would be a work in progress, but we also knew the defense would be stellar. They have just choked the life out of opposing offenses. You could say this is the same approach the previous regime used to win games, except those teams had no pulse, no heartbeat or blood flowing in any capacity on offense. This team does, maybe not a lot but it is enough to give this squad a chance to play in meaningful games.
This week you will hear complaining about playing Florida Atlantic, but for Florida this one is just as important as the one’s before and the one’s after, because the Gators have played and won games to put themselves in that position. Until someone knocks Florida off the radar, don’t worry about who recognizes or believes in Florida, just know that this team will have an opportunity to make a statement when the times comes.