The Florida Gators sit at 8-4, and maybe they could have or should have won a couple more games at this point. But it’s a new year, and the start of conference play means a clean slate.
There are teams expected to be stronger than others, but right now, everyone has the same record and any team could make a statement.
That’s what the Gators want to do. Coming in, they would probably be considered a middle of the pack kind of team.
The defense is good, but the offense needs a lot of work. It’s hard to win games in this league without scoring points.
But the tools to be a good offensive team are there. In fact, Mike White expected the offense to be Florida’s strength going into the season.
Obviously, a week off and calling it a fresh start doesn’t mean things are going to be drastically different, but there is plenty of room for improvement. That’s what the Gators are hoping for as South Carolina comes to town on Saturday and throughout the rest of the SEC schedule.
“The one thing we talked about is we are 0-0 in league play,” White said. “We all have a clean slate individually. We have a clean slate as a team. That said, I don’t think there’s a huge adjustment for us being Florida, and probably a number of teams in our league, because of the fact that our non-conference schedule is so difficult. South Carolina comes in here and it’ll be the same scout that it was for 5-6 other scouts we had that were high level games.”
While the Gators have played a rigorous schedule to this point, it can’t compare to what is in store over the next couple of months.
There won’t be a Charleston Southern or a La Salle sprinkled in there to give Florida a breather after playing a tough opponent. There will always be a Kentucky or a Tennessee right around the corner.
Conference play is just on a different level.
“As demanding as our non-conference schedule was, we had a few built-in inferior opponents,” White said. “You don’t have that in league play. That’s it. I mean, we’ve got 18 really tough ones in front of us, and then the one at TCU right in the middle, so we’ve got 19 straight very difficult games. Then, I think the last thing is the familiarity amongst all of us with each other, which presents opportunities, but also issues. It’s exciting, because we feel like we’re familiar with our opponents, but I’m sure it’s just as exciting for those guys who are scouting against you. Every night is a new battle and this league is as tough as any league in the country.”
While SEC play will be far from a walk in the park, the Gators head into it in the best place they’ve been all season. Florida has won three games in a row, and five of its last six, with its only loss in that span coming to No. 8 Michigan State in a close one.
The Gators finally put it all together last Saturday as they defeated Butler by 34. The defense was there, the offense was there and the intensity was definitely there.
Everything White has been trying to get out of his team since the very start showed up in a game for 40 minutes.
“We’re coming off of our best game,” White said. “But as I told our guys in practice since that Butler game, it was one game. We played well. We played very well one game. If you’re going to be a good team, you’ve got to do that in a bunch of games.”
There is no better time for Florida to string that type of play together than right now. It might have been one game, but it’s a performance the Gators can build on in SEC play.