There are a lot of different ways to look at Florida’s upcoming three-game home stand.
So let me count the ways:
1. It’s unique. Only once in the history of the program have the Gators faced three straight SEC games on three consecutive Saturdays in The Swamp.
That was in 2006 and we all know how that worked out.
Florida beat Kentucky, Alabama and LSU on consecutive weekends by allowing a mere 30 points in the three games. Those were some electric crowds even though only one of those teams was ranked (LSU at No. 9).
Florida has played three in a row at home before, but not three teams from the conference. Thank you, Joe Alleva.
We all know why this is taking place because we endured last year’s unscheduled open week (hmm, that sounds familiar) when the LSU game was moved to later in the year and to Baton Rouge.
As a result of Alleva-gate, Florida gets an extra home game and that is next week resulting in a favorable home conference schedule for the Gators with four SEC home games and a fifth in Jacksonville.
2. It’s draining. I’m warning you tailgaters to pace yourselves. Three straight weeks of intensity and solo cups in this heat can wear a fan out.
Drink plenty of water (not all of it loaded with Maker’s Mark) and wear plenty of sunscreen.
The high Saturday will be 87 degrees and cloud cover will only be a rumor. It helps that it’s a noon game in terms of limited pregame refreshments, but not in the fourth quarter when you’ll be wondering why you didn’t bring a fresh shirt.
3. It’s a one-game home stand. This is coach speak, of course, because no coach is ever going to look at a home stand as anything more than a chance to be 1-0.
In the NFL, it’s different because coaches will often divide a season into quarters. Major League Baseball managers can talk about a home stand, but in college football, the cliche reeks of truth — it’s one game at a time.
4. It’s great for area businesses. I feel for people who own restaurants and bars and other businesses because they have lost three home games in the last two seasons.
We know this has been tough on the team and coaches, but it’s been brutal if your business relies on those football Saturdays for big chunks of change.
The noon start isn’t great for them but next week’s 3:30 p.m. game is ideal because they get the fans coming and going. We’ll see about Texas A&M.
5. It’s an opportunity. Despite consecutive games where the Gators left you with nubs where your fingernails used to be, this team isn’t getting a lot of love and certainly no respect.
You sweep these three games no matter how it happens and credit will follow.
“The Escapables” also have an opportunity to show that this is a better team than what has been shown so far. Despite the news of Monday with the nine players having sworn complaints filed against them, despite missing a practice game that would have done everybody a lot of good, despite uneven performances, the opportunity is right in front of this team.
6. It’s daunting. Back when the Gators were getting ready for that 2006 stretch at home, I called it “the gauntlet”. Urban Meyer liked that term and referenced it in several news conferences, even though several people pointed out that it wasn’t the right word.
And they were right. A gauntlet is an armored glove worn in medieval times. I know this because I covered the Battle of Hastings (I’m kidding. I was 9).
But the term “throw down the gauntlet” was something that had always stuck in my head. That was a challenge. So was 2006. So is this.
There are other ways you could look at these three games. Hopefully, it’s something you have been looking forward to.
The scheduled open week is out there, but it’s still in the distance. Florida’s football season has yet to be defined even though you have watched highlights from the last two games 100 times.
The definition of this season could well be in these three games. But the Gators only play one game Saturday and it is against a team that is hurting and embarrassed. That actually makes it more difficult than it already would have been.
But for the fans who have been deprived too often of rooting for their team in the friendly confines, the next three weeks are a blessing of sorts.
The same goes for a team that went 308 days between home games before the Tennessee miracle.
So enjoy. This chance doesn’t come around often.
But take it one sip at a time.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.