After all that’s happened in the last four weeks or so you’d think the Gators were 1-12 and not 12-1. The majority of Florida
fans seem to have abandoned ship and are ready to fast forward five years into the future. If you believe everything you read (and you should, no one lies on the internet), Urban Meyer
will resign again right after signing day, every draft-eligible Gator will leave Florida early, each verbal commit will sign elsewhere, every assistant coach will take jobs at other schools, and there’s no chance the Gators will win even half of their games in 2010.
Take it all with a hearty laugh Florida fans. You were there for the Ron Zook era. You may have even been there for the pre-Steve Spurrier era. Dark times aren’t on the horizon. Every season may not bring 12 or 13 wins. There may be a Capital One Bowl (shudder!) appearance in there now and again. But the Gator run isn’t over. Those that think the run started when Meyer got to Gainesville are mistaken. The run started years before that. There were those three five-loss seasons under Zook, but there were still bowl appearances and some big wins. Not all programs can say that. The last time the Gators lost six games in a season? 1987. FSU lost that many this season. Miami lost at least six in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Michigan hasn’t gone bowling in two seasons. Alabama has lost at least six in four of the last seven years. Even USC lost six as recent as 2001. Florida? 1987. Relax Gator fans, the end isn’t near.
With the pro-Gator rant over, it’s time to focus on the Sugar Bowl. With New Year’s Day being the quintessential (spelled right on the first try, take that spell check!) day of lists, the usual list of things to look for is gone. Call it a case of list overload or call it trying something new. Too much structure leads to headaches and a desire to consume Busch Light at all too rapid of a pace. So Florida takes on Cincinnati and here’s your preview.
Last season a certain team was 12-0 heading into the SEC Championship Game. That team lost and was relegated to the Sugar Bowl. In that game, they faced an undefeated, underrated team and lost. Fairly handedly. They didn’t want to be there and it showed and that team went from 12-0 to 12-2 in what seemed like a matter of seconds. Last season, that team was Alabama. The Crimson Tide then watched Florida win the National Title. This time around the roles are reversed. The Gators consolation prize is today’s game. The Crimson Tide play for it all.
There can be no letdown. No “we didn’t want to be here.” There’s still a lot for play for. That whole pride thing people talk about. Apparently it’s pretty important to some people, so do it for that Florida. There are the seniors (and those juniors who may be wearing orange and blue for the last time) playing their last game. I could mention to obvious one, but that has been done too much lately. Not to diminish Tim Tebow’s last game, but there are plenty of other Gators playing in their last game as well. Recognize their contributions too. There is Meyer and his health. We still don’t completely know what’s going on, but we wish him well and hope he is back for the 2010 season opener. Play for pride, play for the seniors, play for Meyer. Whatever the reason, play and don’t give in before the game even kicks off. Play to win.
And play to not be that team. There are already enough of that team. The team that didn’t get where they wanted at the end of the year and lays a Terrence Cody-sized egg in their bowl game. Cincinnati wants this final win. They want the undefeated season. They want to prove they can finish the perfect year without Brian Kelly. They won’t roll over and neither should the Gators.
And that’s that. The last Florida game preview of the season. There’s not much more about the game and matchups you can be told. You’re nursing the hangover of all hangovers at the moment anyway. You know the players. You watched ESPN. You’re popping Tylenol to get yourself ready for tonight. You’ll be ready to cheer. Whether you view the last few weeks of Gator history as a disappointment or not, you’ll be ready. Go Gators!