Remember 2006? Of course you do. The Florida Gators would finish the season as the nation’s No. 2 team according to the final BCS standings. And 2008? There were the Gators again at No. 2. How about 2009? The Alabama Crimson Tide held the No. 1 spot in the final rankings. Just last season? Alabama at No. 2. What do those teams have in common? They would each go on to victory in the BCS National Championship Game. But where did they start? And why am I asking you so many questions?
The Gators were No. 6 in the first set of BCS standings in 2006. In 2008, Florida was all the way down at No. 10. Alabama was No. 2 in 2009 (behind then No. 1 Florida). And the Tide were No. 2 in 2011. So the Gators weren’t in the top two of the first rankings during either of their title years, but the Tide were both times they won it all. Yes, were going somewhere with this.
On Sunday, the first BCS standings of the 2012 season were released and the top two spots were occupied by the programs that have won four of the last six championships. Alabama at No. 1 isn’t a surprise in even the loosest definition of the word. It was inevitable. There really is no debate on that, even if some will try. And even if some of those that would debate it should be our own Florida Gators.
Those Gators, though, they’re right there at No. 2 with the shock you were all looking for. In my own submission in the SB Nation College Football BlogPoll just one day ago, I had Florida at No. 3. I can’t argue the No. 2 ranking and won’t even try, but I did want to put it out there again that I wasn’t as generous. For a number of reasons really, but one in particular.
With high rankings come high expectations and maybe I don’t want to believe it all just yet. I was quite enjoying being the team that’s not supposed to be up there. After a 7-6 season, most of us Florida fans were thinking 9-4 was in the realm of possibility. We could see a perfect storm producing 10 wins, but we could also envision a season that brought eight. There were so many questions to be answered and improvements to be made that we just weren’t sure. And please keep in mind that being an optimistic fan is worlds different than taking a realistic approach of the situation before you. 2012 was to be an improvement on 2011. We could have seen 6-0 coming, but No. 2 was a shock.
You know how it goes, “If the season were to end today, we’d see another all-SEC national title game.” The season doesn’t end today, but yes, if it did, the Gators would face the Tide for the crystal ball. That scares me. It shouldn’t. After all, I’m a Florida fan and have been for most of my life (I’m not sure who I cheered for before I turned 5 years old and discovered the orange and blue), but it scares me because I’m not sure they’re ready. I was thinking everything would come together in 2013 and that would be the season the Gators could really make some noise. All of that came one season early. Or did it?
We’re at the halfway point of the season with games against South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida State still to come. Just two weeks ago, all three of those teams were in the top six. Today, they each have one loss, but they’re still three of this season’s better programs. Florida faces them all. 6-0 could very easily become 9-3. Then again, it could be 10-2. How about 11-1? Does anyone dare go to 12-0? We can ask that question. Not because we have the right to, but because there’s a real chance it could happen. That perfect storm isn’t 10 wins anymore. It’s higher.
South Carolina just lost to a team the Gators beat. Georgia lost to South Carolina. FSU lost to an ACC team they weren’t supposed to lose to. None of those losses guarantee future Florida wins, but they showed that there are ways to beat those teams. Put it all together and it’s all looking mighty bright in Gator Nation.
What happens from here starts on Saturday, but losses now bring an added disappointment. Expectations will do that to you. Before I’m lit up with “ALL LOSSES HURT!!!” let’s look at that statement. Some hurt more than others. Without expectations, they’re awful. With them, they take on an entire new meaning. Tell me, what was worse? Losing to the Seminoles in 2011? Or to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game? I know my answer.
The expectations aren’t going away and so we must accept them. Maybe even learn to like them. They increased after 3-0 and intensified after the win over LSU. Beat South Carolina and they may just be sky-high. I’ll be fine with that, but nervous. But I’ll take a good nervous over a bad one any day.