Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about last week’s loss to FSU is that it might very well be the lasting image of the 2015 Florida football team. Which is a shame, because not only is the season not over, but this group of Gators is about to do something every athlete dreamed about as a kid- play in a championship game.
Florida has played football for 109 years, and thus, have fielded 109 varsity football teams. Of those 109 teams, only eleven of them can call themselves conference champions- and three of them had their titles vacated. And while nobody will argue that this team is the best in the program’s history, or even in the top five, they nonetheless have an opportunity to create a place for themselves in history.
Every win, not to mention every championship, increases a school’s prestige just a little more. Somewhere in every major college football team’s athletic facility, a list of the program’s major accomplishments adorns the room. History books are rewritten yearly, if not daily. And as far into the future as I can see, reminding undecided recruits about the championships your program has won will always be an effective tactic. Make no mistake: not only does winning an SEC Championship matter here and now, it will always matter, and will forever hold Florida in that much higher a regard for having won it.
The larger point is this. The Gators clearly aren’t happy about having to endure another year of taunting from FSU fans, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that this Gator team can add to the program’s legacy by winning one game this Saturday. Anybody who’s ever played organized sports knows how rare the opportunity to play in a championship game is. And while this is exactly the kind of game the Gator players came to Florida to play in to begin with, this may be the one and only time they get to participate in such a contest.
So please, Treon Harris. Your days as Florida’s QB appear to be numbered, but play smart and make enough plays when you have to in order to win, and you will forever be able to call yourself a champion. Please, offensive line. Block for him. Please, wide receivers not named Antonio Callaway. Don’t get lazy with your route-running.
And if all these requests are heeded, Florida should actually be in good shape to spring the upset. The secondary will take care of Calvin Ridley, the front seven should be able to slow if not stop Derrick Henry and Kelvin Taylor will pick up some yards on the ground if it’s blocked for him. Then again, this if is a lot bigger than the two letters it takes up in this post.
All I ask of them is that they do the things that they were recruited to Florida to do in the first place in the biggest game of their lives. Think: despite all that’s gone wrong this year, from Will Grier getting suspended to the embarrassing performance against FSU, there’s an SEC Championship Game in front of them. It’s a game that, with the strongest performance of the year, they can make sure will always be remembered and never forgotten.