Florida vs. Miami on national stage

Rivalry week: Florida vs. Miami, 7 p.m. Saturday in Orlando. [File]

Florida vs. Miami in any sport, at anytime, in any place, is usually going to be big and heated because of the rivalry factor.

But this football matchup in Orlando on Saturday night transcends the rivalry. It’s huge on so many different levels, the main one being that the Gators and Hurricanes will be kicking off the 150th season of college football and they’re going to have the national stage all to themselves.

The football world will be watching the prime-time event at Camping World Stadium.

Some coaches might approach a game like this a little wary, worried their players might get distracted or be blinded by the bright lights.

Florida’s Dan Mullen is not.

He wants to make sure his players embrace the big stage, he said Monday.

“Everybody in the country is ready for college football, excited for college football,” Mullen said. “It’s Saturday, so a lot of teams aren’t practicing and a lot of teams haven’t started their game week yet. One of the great things is not just the fans, but all the other teams are watching us.

“What are they going to see? What’s our stamp? When every college person in the country turns on their TV, what’s their thought when they see the Florida Gators? We have to go out there and live up to that on the field. Everybody is watching. What do you want them to think about you?”

It’s a mission. How well the Gators carry it out may well be determined, at least in part, by what transpires this week in the solitude of their own practice field.

Be prepared. Be focused.

That’s been the message from some of the veteran players who have experience — some good, some bad — playing in big-time games before a big audience.

“I think we’ve just got to stay focused,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “Being that it’s the only game in college football, the kickoff game for the 150th year, the biggest thing is to just stay focused.

“College Game Day will be there and everybody will be watching. The biggest thing is to just stay focused and paying attention to the details and that will start in practice. Not letting the media get to us on social media or anything like that. Just stay focused on what we need to focus on at practice so we can play at a high level come Saturday.”

Third-year sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson said the Gators need to make sure they’re not distracted by all the “noise” that will accompany this matchup of state rivals.

“Really just focus on what you need to do, don’t focus on what’s going on around you,” he said. “That’s just outside noise. Focus on what you’ve got to do, your assignment and play for your brothers out there.”

The Gators plan to take the same approach that they’ve taken throughout the offseason, spring and summer — through lifts, runs and preseason camp.

This is another week. Another challenge. Get ready for it.

Wilson said waking up to game week Monday should have felt like just any other day.

“It’s the same,” he said. “We’ve always been focused. Mind’s been wired on getting better every day, going hard every day, giving your all. Because in the back of my mind, we know what’s ahead of us and we know we have a team to go play.

“So, I think if your mind was changing today then you’re too late. Our mind hasn’t been the same since we went through winter workouts and fall camp. Summer workouts, it’s been the same.”

What won’t be the same is the atmosphere in Orlando. It should be electric and loud — and everybody will be watching.

“Everybody knows it’s going to be a pretty exciting game,” senior running back Lamical Perine said. “It’s Week Zero, we’re going to be the only game on that day. You’ve just got to, honestly, look yourself in the mirror and understand what you’ve got to do and don’t lose composure and just play your game.”


  1. It sounds like The Boys are 95% ready with the last 5% being the next five days, giving 100% to each individual day that necessary 1(00)%, especially on Saturday, when the tank is fully at 100% .

    Today’s athletes aren’t squeamish about being on TV, thanks especially to ESPN. The Little League WS is nationally televised for days. You can even watch curling, corn hole and darts on professional levels. (I can’t wait for marbles. I have two antique shooters!) And, of course, hs football gets tons of tv time.

    No, what we have here are two bullies commanding their own territories, and only knowing each other’s purported reputations through professional and social media and an almost dormant history that is so old that fans who retch at the thought of the other team remember the tumult in black and white on channel 3.

    What we have Saturday is a “my dad can whup your dad.”

    “No MY dad can whup YOUR dad.”

    Repeat. Chest bump. Swing. Brawl. Bawl to Daddies. Daddies meet. Size each other up. Both thinking, “This could be fun!”

    To many others, the Gators have been and can be bullies. (OSU, UCLA, Sooners) To everyone, Miami stinks of bullying, foul play, and untoward corruption of youth to lure them in to Coral Gables. And an ugly color combination. (nole colors are ugly too, but you still see them displayed on tables in many restaurants and all the diners across America. So speaking of black and white, guess nole colors go together like salt & pepper.)

    The college world, minus Gator 6’s Cane fans census of 1, who is still trying to change a flat somewhere on A1A, which sadly he thought was I-95, the college world would love UF to open a can of whupass on those sugarcanes. Even the state’s official nancy, the nancy noles looking up at UCF (which those champion Knights have likely changed their home color to green. I am sure they have been “bitten by the green-eyed monster.” ) ~ Sam Clemens NO, not Clemson CLEMENS! Never shall the Twain meet.

    Still, like any street fight, bar fight, school yard fight, or step outside of (work, house, car, store, church) fight of any kind, unless it is an absolute mismatch, neither gladiator comes out unscathed.

    Our’s is a vicious rivalry. Eyes will be blackened, noses will bleed, maybe require some resetting, and in the end, feelings will be hurt from the agony of defeat.

    I sure hope that tire changing SCum fan’s car battery has a full charge so he can hear the defeat, wallow in that agony and listen to Gator fans celebrate the thrill of victory!

    What he will hear is the Gators crushing their enemy, UF driving them back to the land of SCum, and the inevitable lamentation of their cheerleaders!

    I bet 6’s roadside cane fan’s name is Ralphie and he accidentally tossed his lug nuts into the Swamp.


    Go GATORS!

  2. Taking care of business should be and will be the Gators’ primary goal. Protect the football – protect the QB. Execute, execute, execute – both on offense and defense. Get to the Miami QB – force some turnovers. Drive the ball on offense and be prepared for the big plays. Gator QB needs to get the ball out faster against the speedy UM defense. O-line needs to dominate the line of scrimmage. D-line needs to stop the run, force the QB out of the pocket and otherwise disrupt UM’s offense. We have two shutdown corners – shut Miami’s receivers down. Know when to blitz and when to cover – stay in your zones when called for. Cover our punts and kickoffs knowing that UM can break one open. Create holes for our RB’s to blow through. GO GATORS!!!

  3. Play to the echo of the whistle, every play Gators! Don’t half-heartedly hit a D.B. (Marco Wilson) and get ”all twisted up in the game.” Hit those ugly candy ‘Canes hard every play, or you’ll get hit, Gators. Go Gators! Just win baby!

  4. Love what Marco said about Mind-Set. You may “feel” at little anxious about Big Game Week, but if your mind set is just now, you are TOO LATE!cursor to
    These guys are all talking like professionals rather than a lot of blathering and smack. That is a precursor to a very strong outing!
    I’ll say it now….Gators by 24!