A bowl game is a reward for a good season.
With that in mind, the Florida Gators plan on having fun and enjoying themselves in Atlanta. But they’re also planning on bringing their relentless effort with them when it comes to preparing for Michigan in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Because the one way to ensure a positive (and fun) bowl experience is to win the game, UF coach Dan Mullen said Monday.
“I know this of my bowl experience: If you don’t win the game, it’s not as good a bowl experience,” Mullen said on the Peach Bowl teleconference. “The lasting memory of the bowl is the game. That’s the final thing. Our 100-percent focus is on winning the game.”
So, the Gators are going to put in the work at practices and in meetings, taking the same approach they have throughout this 9-3 season.
But when the work is done, they are going to play, Mullen said.
“I’m a big believer in as we set the schedule for our guys to have a great time, to enjoy the experience both before we head to the bowl site and when we get to Atlanta,” he said. “We want to make sure that we can have a great time.
“But something we always remind our guys, when it’s time to be locked in and focused, when we’re involved in preparation, we need to be locked in and focused. When it’s time to relax and have fun, we’re going to relax and have a great time.
“It’s the maturity of the team knowing how to separate those two things.”
Winning guarantees a fun bowl experience.
“When you think back at the game, the whole bowl experience, the first thing you’re going to think about is the game,” Mullen said. “If you’ve won the game, the whole bowl experience, it puts a smile on your face.”
The Gators will begin bowl preparation on campus later this month. The team will arrive in Atlanta on Dec. 23 and begin bowl practices the following day.
Mullen said that junior safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who declared for the NFL draft last week, plans on playing in the bowl game.
“He said he’s going to play in the game,” Mullen said. “I think he’s excited to play in the game and finish out his Florida career playing in a New Year’s Six bowl and helping trying to get a 10-win season and finish on a top-10 team in his last season with the Gators. We expect him to be there.”
Mullen said he’s talked to several other underclassmen who are considering entering the draft, and they also plan to participate in the bowl game.
“I think everyone plans on playing in the game,” he said. “They’re exploring options in their futures and what it might hold, and they’re doing some research, which I think is the right way to handle things — gather as much information as you can and make a great decision.
“I’m a big believer when it comes to the NFL draft, if you’re a first-rounder, you should leave and go on to the NFL. If you’re not, you probably should stay and continue to develop and try to become a first-round draft pick.”
What: Peach Bowl
Who: No. 7 Michigan (10-2) vs. No. 10 Florida (9-3)
When: Noon Dec. 29
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
Peach Bowl Matchup
Michigan: RB Karan Higdon is Big Ten’s second-leading rusher with 1,178 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Florida: DL Jachai Polite has 16 tackles for loss, including 11 sacks, to rank third in the SEC in both categories.
Michigan: Despite giving up 567 yards to Ohio State, the Wolverines still rank No. 1 nationally in total defense. They held eight opponents under 300 yards and five to 10 points or fewer.
Florida: Dan Mullen’s first Gators team has won five more games than it did year ago and finished second to Georgia in the SEC East.
Michigan 33, Florida 17 (Sept. 2, 2017).
Michigan: First appearance in Peach Bowl, 47th bowl game (21-25)
Florida: Third appearance in Peach Bowl (0-2), 44th bowl game (22-21)