Ranking the Second Half Challenges

The first time the Gators started off 6-and-0 was 1928 and they needed just three more wins to cap a perfect season. Back then, Florida was to face Clemson (27-6 win) Washington and Lee (60-6 win) and Tennessee (13-12 loss) down the stretch.

Well, 78 years later the Gators have quite a bit more work to do despite getting off to a 6-and-0 start. Florida still has six games on the regular season schedule, plus a possible SEC Championship game before they go bowling. With that in mind, let’s rank the six games still to be played in order of difficulty.

1. @ Auburn —– Certainly the Tigers are a less imposing looking team after seeing Arkansas manhandle them last week. Still, there’s no such thing as an easy game on the road against a top ten team. Auburn is a wounded Tiger right now and they know another loss all but eliminates them from SEC Western Division contention and probably BCS consideration as well. If they get their running game going they are a dangerous offensive team and if the Gators can’t run, Auburn’s speed can be very effective against one-dimensional opponents.

2. Georgia in Jacksonville —– Just like Auburn, Georgia had a rough week, getting routed at home. Tennessee did the damage to the collective Bulldawg psyche Saturday night, scoring 51 points between the hedges. This game could well be for the SEC East Title and even if it’s not, Georgia has a bit of a history of screwing things up for the Gators. Now that is ancient history to many, but not for everyone. If Georgia gets its QB situation stabilized and re-locates its defense they’ll be no pushover.

3. South Carolina in The Swamp —– The Gamecocks have one thing that an upset minded team loves to have, a truly great player in Sydney Rice. While on talent alone this might be the # 4 or even # 5 threat, the return of the HBC makes this one a little bit scarier. Ironically, this game is more dangerous if Florida has already clinched the SEC East.

4. @ Florida State —– The Seminoles are really struggling on offense and the defense has been just above average. Their inability to run the ball makes them an ideal match up for the Gators assuming the defensive front stays healthy and out of trouble. Florida has not had much success in Tallahassee the past two decades, but that really doesn’t matter to this group of Gators. After all, none of these guys have ever lost at Doak Campbell Stadium.

5. @ Vanderbilt —– Some terrific Florida teams including ’94 and ’96 have struggled to win up there. And I’m sure you all remember how close Vandy came to ruining Urban Meyer’s debut season last fall. However Jay Cutler is gone and the Commodores have not shown much since almost upsetting Alabama and Arkansas a few weeks back. Still, they are the Ohio State Buckeyes compared to…

6. Western Carolina in The Swamp —– The only chance of the Catamounts winning this game would involve Satan himself having to visit a proctologist to have the icicles removed. Western has lost three straight to Furman, Georgia Southern and Elon. They are small but slow. They lack talent and depth. They would get pummeled by UCF. Get ready for the first 50-point performance of the Urban Meyer era.

So that’s how I see it as the Gators seek to continue posting wins in 2006. Both Auburn and Georgia appear less daunting this week than they did a week ago, but each has plenty on hand to get the win. FSU and South Carolina need help to keep it close, but that can happen as well. Still, if the Gators limit mistakes and stay healthy what seemed preposterous two months ago now appears doable. They just might run the table.