The Gameday Series: ESPN Returns to UF

Florida Shatters Expectations, Returns to National Prominence

November 27, 2012

Never have I been so wrong so many times and ecstatic about it.

I had UF losing to Texas A&M. I was wrong. I had UF getting shellacked by LSU. I was wrong. I had UF suffering a thrashing from South Carolina. I was wrong. I had UF getting embarrassed again by FSU. I was wrong. In fact, the one time I was right, I didn't want to be. I knew the Georgia game was going to be ugly, but I was surprised at just how ugly it was. In predicting UF's big games, I managed to get only 20% right.

When Will Muschamp called this team "soft" a year ago, everyone made a huge deal about it. There are many adjectives that can be applied to a football team, but "soft" is one word every team hopes to avoid, especially around here. Football down south is a smash-mouth in-your-face beat-you-up-until-you-tap-out game that combines the agonizing length of a marathon with the intensity of a MMA fight. We don't do "soft" in SEC football; not even the bottom-feeders of the conference are soft. As devastating as that one sentence last year was, this season was about creating a new reality, one in which the Gators were as tough as the skin of their namesake.

After the South Carolina game, UF played a horrible game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Following that, UF submitted three games that, while wins, were unbecomming of a national championship contender. It was as close to a second-half collapse as possible while still going 3-1. The Gators were limping into their rivalry game with Florida State, who were already slotted in for an appearance in the Atlantic Coast Cconference championship game.

Then the Gators did what they've done all season. They absolutely owned the fourth quarter. The Gators have given up only 29 points in the fourth quarter the whole season, including the six they let FSU have in garbage time. UF has scored at a rate of almost four (3.9655, to be exact) times that, scoring 115 points in the final fifteen minutes. In addition to shutting down the Seminoles' offense, the Gators put up their best fourth quarter offensely, putting up 24 points themselves. UF needed to finish strong, if only to completely shed their label from last year, and so they did.

Stab / CC BY 2.5

With an expected #3 ranking in the BCS (UF is currently #4, but with #2 Alabama and #3 Georgia playing in the SEC championship game, one will have to lose, elevating Florida) entering bowl season, the Gators are all but assured a spot in one of the BCS bowls. If Florida wins that, it is likely they will end the year ranked #2 (as the loser of the national championship game will drop unless the game is extremely close).