As the season has gone along, we have heard and read the numerous stories of achievement and over achieving by the Gators. On the first weekend of November the Gators wrapped up a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship and are currently ranked 11th in the College Football Playoff poll. This Saturday, the Florida Gators travel to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the 3-6 Gamecocks; a team that will need to win the remainder of their games to become bowl eligible and that includes their annual rivalry game against top-ranked ranked Clemson.
Since the resignation of the Head Ball Coach, South Carolina has played with a new motivation and looks to play spoiler in these last three weeks. The Gators once again are facing a moment that will reveal their collective maturity and focus. Florida’s course has been set in regards to the SEC, and they will need to be focused and motivated to beat the Gamecocks.
“Yeah it’s a challenge because you can’t have that mindset where you just roll your hat out there. You’ve got to go out and play. They’re going to show up and play.” Said senior safety Marcus Maye.
The Gamecocks are more than capable of beating the Gators. They have played four of their last five games on the road and have come very close to upsetting Texas A&M and Tennessee. A month ago this looked like a cakewalk but has turned into a very tricky game. After defeating Georgia and a clinching the SEC East, Maye knows each game is a big game, regardless of what has already been accomplished.
“We’re just worrying about us. Come to practice every day, work hard, and get better. Each game, each week is a big game for us. We don’t look past anybody.” Maye said
It would be easy to get complacent, but right now, there are not many people on a national scale singing the praises of the Gators, and some fans have concerns over the current state of the team. A week after some thought Florida should be ranked higher than Alabama in the polls now think the Gators have now fallen back into the deadly Muschamp abyss.
This team has played with a chip on its shoulder and done very well playing the underground role and rising above outside expectations. There is still a lot of football to be played, and to write the Gators or any team off would be unwise. Plenty of teams across the country have a lot to prove.
Kelvin Taylor knows that the Gators weren’t expected to be here and understands there will still be critics.
“People weren’t looking for us to go to Atlanta at all, so I’m sure once we get there, people won’t be hoping for us to win as well.”
McElwain has used the obvious narratives about the Gators and plenty of other motivating tactics to keep this team focused on the next game. This staff is determined to go through the process of building this team day by day. That message has begun to resonate with the players and they are beginning to echo the same tune.
“The season is not over, man. Everybody has to do their part and have to focus on themselves and our team. We’re going to keep building from this point on. We’ll get hungrier and hungrier.” Kelvin Taylor said when speaking about McElwain motivating this team after clinching the east.
After the horrible finish against South Carolina last year, there is plenty of motivation for this Saturday at noon. In addition to this team learning to finish games, they are learning on the fly to finish championship seasons. No current player has been this way before, but they see the goals ahead and cannot settle where they are but have to continue to move forward to greater things.
If the Gators want to be great and remembered as such, settling will not be an option.
“If you really want to be great you don’t just settle winning the east. You want to win the whole SEC, so we try to go and win all of our games and do it that way.” Bryan Cox said.
This attitude has been the driving force to a successful season. Now that the east has been won, conquering complacency and maintaining motivation will determine the final outcome for the Gators.