Focus, Gators, this is the ultimate sandwich game


Published: Friday, November 5, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 at 1:04 p.m.

Here’s what Florida has to avoid today — Homer Simpson.

This won’t matter if you never saw “The Simpsons Movie” but there is an early scene where Homer is trying to re-shingle the roof.

He has a hammer in his hand, a nail waiting for the blow to attach the shingle and he says, “Stea-dy. Stea-dy. Stea-dy.”

And then he brings the hammer back and sticks himself in the eye with the pronged end.

While Bart laughs as his dad stumbles around with a hammer stuck in his eye (it’s an animated movie, peeps, so he recovers) there will be nothing to laugh at if the Gators go all Homer today in Nashville.

Because this game isn’t about Vanderbilt. It’s about Florida.

Mostly, it’s about Florida staying, no, being focused.

And today is a day when it would be easy not to do that and end up with the wrong end of a hammer in your eye.

When you are 5-3, there usually aren’t a lot of distractions other than the chirping of distraught fans and media criticism (who, me?). But this game has more distractions than a sunny day at the beach.

Let’s start with the weather. It doesn’t seem that long ago that these Gators started the season under stifling conditions that beat up dozens of fans. Welcome to November in Nashville, where the high is supposed to be 50 today. It will hardly be freezing, but still, it will be something drastically different from what the 2010 Gators are used to experiencing.

Then there’s the time. It’s a 11:21 (Central) start, which the Gators have experienced before but not on the road. We’ve seen Florida teams in the past stumble out of the gates before they rubbed the sleep out of their collective eyes.

There is also the venue. Vandy is not a good football team and Florida isn’t bringing a national power into Vanderbilt Stadium, which translates into a lot of empty seats. Even when the place is packed it feels like a big high school stadium except not as nice. It hardly inspires greatness, and for evidence I give you years and years of Commodore football.

So you have all that — cold weather, small crowd, early start — and then you have the eyeball test. Urban Meyer likes to talk about flipping on the film (it’s actually video) and how his players come to attention when they see how good a team is despite its record. That’s not the case here.

You want history? Vandy’s last win over Florida came before most of the players on this team were born. Vandy’s last competitive game with Florida came before most of these players signed with Florida.

You want recent history? We all know what happened last week in Jacksonville, how Florida won an incredible, emotional game and there were tears in the locker room and the head coach fell to his knees when the kick went through the uprights and the Gator Nation celebrated like the victory came with a ring.

If we’ve seen it once, we’ve seen it a hundred times. A team celebrates a big win right into the following week’s pregame meal and then isn’t ready to play.

Add it all up. And then throw in the clincher.

What next week could mean.

South Carolina in The Swamp for the SEC East title.

Before that, the ultimate sandwich game.

So that’s the key for this Gator team — don’t look back and don’t look ahead.

Focus.

If I was Meyer, I’d gather the team together this morning and tell them this — “Fellas, it has been a long and sometimes trying season. But here we are with the biggest game of the year. And if we don’t win today, next week’s game won’t mean a darned thing except which irrelevant bowl you’ll be playing in.”

There are a lot of reasons to expect Florida to not play its best today, but there are no excuses. There haven’t been any for quite a while around here.

It’s quite a simple task, really.

Stea-dy. Stea-dy. Stea-dy.

Fo-cus. Fo-cus. Fo-cus.

And no, “Doh!”

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