There are milestones each team sets for the season. Steve Spurrier made sure the Florida Gators’ goal was to get to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game. That was goal number one. Following that came the goal of playing for a National Championship. Spurrier’s Gators teams made good on that first goal numerous times, so did Urban Meyer’s squads. In year two, Will Muschamp’s Gators won’t make it to Atlanta, but at 9-1 (7-1 SEC) this season has been a step in the right direction and Florida now sits one victory away from another goal.
I don’t run the Florida Gators’ football program (I think I’ve mentioned that before), but I have a goal of my own. It’s not a lone goal independent of the other two because it lends to their accomplishment. That goal is to get to 10 wins. A conveniently neat number, 10 wins makes a season stand out. It gives you a measure of success. If you can win 10 out of 12, 13 or 14 games, you’re doing something right. If you can get to those 10 without the help of a conference championship or a bowl game, even better. At 9-1, the Gators have a chance to reach that milestone in only game number 11.
That wasn’t expected at the beginning of the season. 10 wins was a possibility, but not necessarily by game 11. Many–myself included–thought a 9-3 regular season was in the cards with a chance of one win worse at 8-4. 10 wins could have come, but the Gators would have needed the added advantage of a second-tier bowl against a middle-of-the-road Big Ten opponent. Then the season began to unfold and that goal came to light quicker than we could have imagined. The Gators were 7-0 before we knew it and were in the SEC Championship Game hunt right up until last week. At 9-1, this team has had a phenomenal season, even if at times you really had to wonder how that record could possibly be what it was.
On Saturday, the Gators face their first non-FBS opponent of the season–the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Florida has already accomplished a lot this season in terms of their record, and looks to accomplish more on Saturday. The Gators have a chance to go 7-0 at home for only the third time in school history. They are only the 14th Florida squad to go 9-1 in their first 10 games and can become only the 7th to go 10-1 in their first 11. There’s some prestigious company among those other six seasons: four of those Gators’ teams played for a national title (three won) and another finished the season 13-1. And the Gators have done that this season while facing the nation’s toughest schedule.
Jacksonville State is not the Gators’ toughest opponent of the season, but Louisiana-Lafayette wasn’t supposed to be either. We all saw what happened last week and I’m fairly certain not a single one of us could handle something like that again. At this point in the season, we want Brent Pease’s 50 points more than he might. In order to do so though, the Gators’ offense will be in the hands of the backup quarterback. Jeff Driskel is out; Jacoby Brissett is in. The (necessary-due-to-injury) change is intriguing and there isn’t a single fan that isn’t somewhat curious about Brissett’s ability. Do the Gators open up the offense and go for broke? Or do they play it safe and give us another win typical of all the rest we’ve seen in 2012?
Saturday marks another test. I’d like to say that test doesn’t involve getting the win because that’s guaranteed, but…well…that doesn’t seem like the right thing to say this season. The real test is how the offense performs. Perhaps most important is how the offensive line performs. The line looked much better early in the season, but has regressed the last few weeks. There are times (too many times) where linemen are turning around to watch Driskel get sacked or running backs get tackled behind the line of scrimmage. A very good defensive team takes on the Gators in only one week’s time and all of that has to stop. The key to the offense starts with the line. As green as you may want to believe Driskel (or Brissett) is, no quarterback can work miracles without time. The challenge is on the line. Get that 10th win and get the offense going.
I’ll enjoy my Saturday; I always do. I want to enjoy it more though. I want last week’s maniacal laugh to turn into a joyous one. First though, I want win number 10. Go Gators. Just win.