Given the mood Florida fans seem to have about their football team these days, it’s almost easy to forget how favorable the mathematical circumstances are for the Gators.
Florida, remember, still controls its own destiny to the SEC Championship Game. An even more optimistic outlook for the Gators is that their magic number for Atlanta is one: this means that with one more Florida win or Tennessee loss- in whatever form it may come- the Gators would clinch the SEC East.
Of course, those simple mathematics doesn’t tell the whole story. Florida’s remaining SEC game is in the backyard of a resurgent LSU team with a pair of bruising running backs in Darrius Guice and Leonard Fournette, while Tennessee plays a pair of schools with three and four wins, respectively. Realistically, the likelihood of Tennessee beating Missouri and Vanderbilt in succession is higher than Florida winning in Baton Rouge.
Translation: if the Gators want to make it to Atlanta, they’re going to have to do it themselves, and they’re going to have to do it the hard way. They absolutely cannot rely on getting help from their friends in the Show-Me State or the Music City- as difficult as their road may be.
By now, we all know the story of how LSU shamefully yet successfully whined their way out of coming to Gainesville. But the fact of the matter is that this game is going to be played in Louisiana. Fair or not, that’s the reality. Here’s another reality: the Gators could have avoided this mess had they held a 21-0 lead against Tennessee or shown up against Arkansas. Blame whomever you’d like for those losses (and if you’re into pointing fingers, you could be at this all night) but the simple truth is that if Florida had won either of those games, they would have already wrapped up the SEC East and would not be stuck in the unenviable position of having to beat LSU in Baton Rouge to reach Atlanta.
When you think about it, real champions take matters into their own hands when given the opportunity to, and don’t count on having others do the work for them. You could certainly use that line of thinking to say that Florida had their chances to win the East and already blew it, but this season isn’t over. Rather, the football gods gave Florida another opportunity- a much more difficult opportunity, but another opportunity nonetheless.
And now, the 2016 Gator football season will be judged on whether or not Florida can win this one game. Sure, the injury situation won’t help (although getting Cece Jefferson back is a huge plus). Florida will be without Cam Dillard, Luke Del Rio, Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and Marcus Maye against the Tigers. But again, championship teams find ways to overcome injuries. New faces step in and step up, like linebacker David Reese did in Davis’s absence and Austin Appleby did in LDR’s absence.
It’s up to you, Gators. How do you want this team to be remembered? Do you want to go down in history on a team that overcame early losses, learned from mistakes and came through in the biggest game of the year?