Raise your hand if you had Gators at 6-0


Florida head coach Will Muschamp celebrates with his wife after the team's win over LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Oct. 6 in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 9:19 p.m.

We are halfway through the regular season for the Florida Gators and we know so much more about them.

We know they are better than they were a year ago. We know they have a knack for finding a way to win games. We know they can win on the road. We know they will do some strange things, but overcome them. We know they have no punt return game. We know Jeff Driskel can run like he's being chased by a Grizzly bear.

We look at where they are at this point and try to think back to see if we ever even thought it was a possibility. Raise your hand if you had UF at 6-0 at this point in the season. You can put your hand down, Mrs. Muschamp.

We know that after six games, there is one superior team in college football and it happens to be in this conference. Gee, where have we heard that before? We know Florida is being picked apart like Tim Tebow at the NFL Combine, and we also know the No. 2 BCS ranking is about as permanent as words written in the sand on the beach as the tide comes in.

No, not that Tide.

I'm not saying Florida can't stay there, but we all know Miami is a lot farther away than 335 miles.

The players pooh-poohed the ranking and they should. How they sincerely deal with this lofty altitude will have a lot to do with how they practice this week and perform against South Carolina. There are more distractions for these Gators this week than you'd find on a sunny day on Sorority Row.

There's the BCS, there's the national TV, there's the Head Ball Coach back in The Swamp for the first time since they erected a statue in his honor. There's College GameDay. These guys have experienced Chris Fowler's crew twice this year, but it's different when it's in your hometown.

And there are the injuries this team has to deal with this week. Will Muschamp said everyone is fine, but we'll really only know when we see who runs out of the tunnel in full pads instead of jerseys and jeans.

And there's a South Carolina team coming to town that wants to show the LSU game was a speed bump instead of a canyon.

These Gators have dealt with a lot in the first half of the season. The odd schedule sent them to tough venues early and will wrap up their conference schedule when November is just getting started. They've trailed in four of their five conference games. They've lost key players during each of those games.

But here they are, having persevered while so many teams have been falling so fast you'd think they were Felix Baumgartner skydiving from the edge of the atmosphere. That loud bang you heard was Auburn breaking the sound barrier.

So what we know about this team is that it's manly and motivated.

Now we get to find out if it's magical.

You don't want to even think about Miami, but it's OK to check out how expensive the hotels are in Atlanta. If Florida wins its next two games (I know, Will, one at a time) the Gators will clinch the SEC East title, before Halloween.

They have already won as many games as they did in the regular season last year and are bowl-eligible. But it's OK to be greedy, to want so much more than better-than-2011.

Florida's brutal conference schedule (like everyone else's in the SEC except Georgia's) is headed down the stretch much earlier than normal. The bye week is long gone and the ruggedness of the conference will be on display the next two Saturdays.

This is already a season that has exceeded expectations. But this weekend, The Swamp will be alive and the stakes will be raised.

We know so much more about this team. We're about to find out what we don't know.

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