It’s no secret that Florida’s lost the last two games to FSU, and that the Gator players and fans are desperate for a win. And ever since the Gators’ 38-10 dismantling of then #3 Mississippi in October, it was deemed something of a foregone conclusion that Florida would clobber FSU in November; all we had to do was wait. Losing Will Grier to a PED suspension hurt, but after a promising performance in a loss to LSU and then a 27-3 beatdown of Georgia, the Gators still seemed to be on course to deliver some payback.
Then the calendar turned to November, and what was a season of the highest of hopes slowly turned into an elongated game of survival. Vanderbilt, South Carolina and FAU will all finish this season with losing records, yet all three came close to ruining Florida’s season. Only because the Gators did just enough to win each game against clearly inferior opponents does Florida still stand in position to reach the College Football Playoff. And given the Gators’ most recent near-disaster, beating FSU now seems to be a bit of a long shot. Simply put, anything less than this team’s best effort will see them on the losing end of either or both match ups.
So it’s come to the point where, with nothing else to really do, I just have to hope and pray for the best. And while this may seem hackneyed, boring, and nothing different than what you tell Pee Wee players, that’s all I’m asking this Gator team to do: just play your best. And if you do, you will win.
It starts with Treon Harris: Treon, please, man. Be smart with the ball. Don’t try to do too much. We don’t need Superman playing QB for us; Clark Kent will do just fine. Do not leave the pocket unless it’s a designed QB run, you see a huge hole to run through between the hashmarks or unless you know you will get crunched within a second and a half if you don’t. If you see a man open within ten yards, don’t think about what else you can do, just put it on him. Remember, Treon. The Vanderbilt game was not your best, yet you finished the game completing five of your final six passes operating in this simple way. Just do the little things. Square your shoulders. Don’t rush your mechanics. Don’t overthink things. And by all means, please protect the football.
To the offensive line: I know this is a banged up and thin unit (pending the status of Martez Ivey, Cam Dillard and David Sharpe) but it’s up to you guys up front to keep Treon on his feet. Be alert. Be ready to explode off the snap, deliver a strong initial punch, demonstrate good footwork, right pad level, etc. and try to give Treon four seconds to throw from a clean pocket. Just… block like your lives depend on it.
To the receivers… well, Demarcus Robinson in particular: You’re a tremendously talented receiver, and nobody doubts that. But your production has been very inconsistent at Florida, and with FSU presumably putting Jalen Ramsey on Antonio Callaway, we’re going to need you to step up. Run your routes the way they were drawn, as opposed to getting lazy and going through the motions like I’ve seen several times, which results in you not getting open. When you do get the ball, for the love of all things holy, protect it. Do not- and I can’t stress this enough- DO NOT wave the ball around like it’s a magic wand, as that’s begging FSU to try to poke it out. And if you insist on dancing around like a goon, do it after you score a touchdown, as opposed to doing it at the cost of three or four yards while you’re still in bounds with the ball.
And to the defense: you’ve given up big plays here and there, but you’ve been overall superb since the LSU game. Keep that up. Against an FSU offense with only one real proven threat in Dalvin Cook, I trust you to slow them down if not shut them down. Travis Rudolph is a decent receiving threat, but I trust Vernon Hargreaves to take care of that. Get after Sean Maguire and force some mistakes to set the struggling offense up in good field position.
The reason Florida’s had so much trouble against such lower level opponents isn’t just because they’ve taken them lightly; the struggles can be linked directly to self destruction. Four turnovers against Vanderbilt left the Commodores in the game much longer than they should have been in it. An interception by Treon Harris in the end zone late in the first half against South Carolina wasted an excellent opportunity to put the Gamecocks away, and a fourth quarter bust in the secondary allowed them to claw back into it. And a sack-fumble that turned into an FAU touchdown, plus a wounded duck from Harris that was intercepted in the end zone, helped the lowly Owls force overtime.
If Florida does not do anything to hurt themselves, I have full confidence that they’ll beat FSU; in the biggest game of the season, I have high confidence that they won’t. And thus, I have high confidence that they will.