More than just revenue games for UF
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 9, 2012 at 8:42 p.m.
There was a lot not to like about the one-time SEC schedule that the league put together for this transition year from 12 to 14 teams. We've chronicled some of the issues while also knowing that every team can't play every team.
But the thing that jumped out at a lot of us when the schedule was first revealed just after Christmas was this two-week stretch for the Gators.
Face it, we really didn't know what to expect from this Florida team. We knew these Gators would be better, but could they make those handful of plays to pull out wins in tight games?
And we knew there would be a lot of tight games. That's the Will Muschamp way.
And so, we wondered back then, what if? When you looked at the schedule, you knew there was a possibility for this team to be 5-4 at this juncture. And if that was the case, how empty would the stands be for these two revenue games. One revenue game at this time of the year was something the fans were used to. But two in a row?
Florida's bandwagon always has a lot of sprained ankles from fans jumping on and off it while the loyal Gators ride it the whole way and roll their eyes. If the Gators were struggling again under Muschamp, could these games be embarrassing in terms of fan support?
But instead of losing the close games that they did last year and being outmatched against the best teams, these Gators have played four games that were decided by eight points or less and won three of them. They have played a brutal schedule, SEC intensity crammed into nine weeks, and emerged with a 7-1 record. Only once since the SEC split into divisions in 1992 has a Florida team gone 7-1 and not earned a trip to Atlanta. That was in 1998 when Tennessee won the national title.
(For you newcomers to SEC football, yes, Tennessee used to be really good.)
So here we are, the conference schedule ending earlier than normal, and a school with an identity crisis waiting to enter The Swamp. You may remember the Ragin' Cajuns when they were Southwestern Louisiana and they came in here with Jake Delhomme and Brandon Stokley in 1996 and made things interesting for a quarter or so.
If you really know your Louisiana football, you know that in 1984, the school went by the name University of Louisiana, which lasted only a year. In 1999, the school's name changed to Louisiana-Lafayette. But we were informed this week that it wants to be known as Louisiana, despite what the message from the school president says on their web page.
All of this is minutia as we head into the 10th game of what has been a very rewarding season. In a lot of ways, this game is no different than what Florida has experienced all season. Louisiana is a good club which just spanked Louisiana-Monroe (or is it Louisiana Part II?) and Florida, let's face it, isn't powerful enough to overwhelm very many teams just on pure talent.
The margin of error hasn't changed for these Gators. They have to come out focused and play their game while knowing this week has less buzz than a “Joanie Loves Chachi” reunion. This week has been about the election, the post-election gnashing of teeth and thumbing of noses and Homecoming.
Now, Homecoming used to be a big deal when I was growing up. It still is, but not as big. Back then, we didn't have iPhones and Blu-rays and iPads to keep us busy. The parade was a spectacle, and you couldn't watch it on TV. We walked to the stadium on Friday night through six feet of snow (barefoot) and ate table scraps while we watched comedians and skits and fireworks.
And then we watched Florida dispose of some non-conference team on Saturday.
Which is where the one-year wonder of a schedule did give us a throwback. Since 1995, Florida's homecoming games have been against conference teams. Some of those games were so big (LSU in 2006, Arkansas in 2009) that Homecoming was a mere blip on the radar of the season.
But we're back to the old-school way of doing things today. And while the last two games of this home season may not get your blood boiling, there is always this — they are the last two home football games for nine months.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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