SEC schedule begins after bye-week blues


Florida coach Will Muschamp and his Gators will get their first taste of SEC action today against Tennessee.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 1:34 a.m.

The oddity of a bye week two games into the season has had its effect on Florida fans. They have had to relive that loss to Miami for longer than normal and taken two weeks not to look ahead, but to look in the rear-view mirror.

They see the SEC has turned into the Big 12 with its teams averaging 35.5 points a game, the highest average since the league expanded in 1992.

And they want to know, “Where’s ours?”

They want to know if their defense will show up from the start of the game instead of the second quarter. They want to know if Jeff Driskel is color blind. They want to know if the offensive line was overrated.

They want a lot.

That’s the nature of the beast. I was talking to Will Muschamp the other day about the restless fan base and he said, “That’s why you want to coach at Florida.”

You want the passion and the fervor even if it can become toxic. You want the expectations even if they can be unreal. You want the noise even if it creeps into the system.

Today, Florida will play Tennessee in The Swamp. That’s the only team the Gators can beat today. They can’t beat Miami. They can’t beat Georgia. All that matters today is how they play against the Vols.

So let it go. Spit out that gristle you’ve been chewing on for two weeks because it won’t get any easier to swallow.

The season starts now. Nobody is saying that a five-turnover loss to an in-state rival is ever going to be easy to digest. But today, it doesn’t matter.

All that matters is getting off to a 1-0 start in the SEC. I’m not saying it’s a do-over, that the loss to Miami didn’t happen.

But everything is still ahead of this Florida team. And today, the only thing standing in front of them will be the Volunteers.

You may not recognize these Vols, especially if you were a fan during the 1990s when Tennessee would storm into Gainesville with all kinds of NFL talent. Instead, this Tennessee team is kind of like a 6-foot-10, skinny power forward with long arms, a mediocre shot and little muscle.

Tennessee is a project. And it hopes in four years it can be Chandler Parsons.

It really doesn’t matter what Tennessee is bringing to Gainesville or who plays quarterback for the Vols. It doesn’t matter how many times the band plays Rocky Top or what jerseys Florida wears.

All that matters is that this team takes a step in the right direction. It would be nice if it was a big step, but any positive step will be a good sign for the future.

I was on a radio show this week and was asked if the loss to Miami changed my feelings about this team and how it would finish. It did not. This is a team that could win out. It’s also a team that could end up 7-5.

It’s going to depend on a lot of little things. The big things are in place. But — and I’ve said this a million times — every college football season is about a handful of plays in a handful of games.

Against Miami, the handful of plays were a disaster. If it could go wrong, it did. Over the course of the next couple of months, we’ll find out if that was a trend or an aberration.

You only know that it has to change or this is going to be a long, bitter season. Kind of like winter in Minnesota.

Despite two weeks of fielding your angry and pessimistic emails and tweets (keep ’em coming), I still think this can be a special season. And a special season, to me, is defined by only one thing — winning the SEC East.

That journey begins today. Try to enjoy the ride.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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