Florida Gators focused on Arkansas, not potential SEC Championship

The Florida Gators were safely back in Gainesville following a 24-10 win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in time to tune in to watch the final league game of the night.

When Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks took Tennessee to the wire and eventually secured a 24-21 win the Gators were watching.

“It was awesome to see South Carolina be able to take care of them,” center Cam Dillard said. “It’s always good to see Tennessee lose. No one likes Tennessee.”

The Vols’ three-game slide has given the Gators complete control in the SEC East. Heading into the weekend the Gators needed to win out on the road at Arkansas and LSU as well as take care of South Carolina at home for senior day in order to make a return trip to Atlanta. The Tennessee loss gives Florida breathing room, allowing the Gators to book their ticket to Atlanta with any combination of two wins over their next three SEC contests.

Florida was watching and they can do the math. They know Tennessee’s loss makes their road easier.

“That’s a human nature question. I think it’s not just the way the Florida Gators are and wherever we’re at, more so, anytime you become comfortable and start to look ahead and not take care of the now that’s when you get in trouble,” Jim McElwain said Monday. “That’s why I think this is a great opportunity to define kinda what we’re all about. You hear the cliché’s and all that kind of stuff but it really does. I just like where this team’s at, and yet, here’s this next step that we need to take to kind of solidify where our program is at and we’ll find out.”

Florida faces an Arkansas team that was blasted 56-3 on the road at Auburn. The Razorbacks gave up 632 yards of offense, including 543 rushing yards to the Tigers. Bret Bielema’s team was afforded a bye week last week to get back to the basics and figure things out. That also means the Razorbacks have been stewing over their last showing for two full weeks, chomping at the bit to get back out on the field and avenge an embarrassing performance.

“They’ll come in with that mindset of, ‘Look, we’re going to take this to them.’ They worked hard on the turnovers circuit, all those type of things. And I think their bye probably came at a good time,” McElwain said. “I know what kind of pride they have in their program and their organization to come back and prove that was one of those one-hit deals that happened.”

When the schedule was released this game was circled as a potential trap game. Florida had to play a hated rival last week, while the Razorbacks got some rest. Hurricane Matthew has adjusted the Gators’ schedule, leaving LSU looming later this month, and now Florida has some breathing room. It could be a recipe for an upset (Florida opened as a four point road favorite) if the Gators let those factors get to them.

“We’re not gonna go into a game and be like, ‘Ah, it doesn’t really matter if we lose.’ That never enters our mind. Ever,” starting quarterback Luke Del Rio said. “I don’t really think you’re a championship-type team if you think that way.”

Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC