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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Watch out - here come the mighty Vanderbilt Commodores!

Well, maybe not, but the Commodores certainly shouldn?t be intimidated by the Gators.

Not anymore, at least.

After the LSU loss, the Gators had paved themselves a path to win out. They?d likely return to the Southeastern Conference title game and probably would?ve been favored to win it.

Then the Gators? defense let a third-string redshirt freshman crush them for 188 yards and three touchdowns.

I don?t care if Knowshon Moreno is going to be one of the most talented backs in the nation next season - he was making just his second career start. Moreno and his offensive line outmanned, outhustled and out-just-about-everything-else on Saturday.

Now the intimidation factor of being a defending national champion is gone.

To any remaining Gators opponents, the glimmer of those championship rings means nothing.

Any banners and signs commemorating last season?s David-like championship victory against Ohio State are simply gathering dust.

Tim Tebow has a bum shoulder.

At this rate, even Florida State?s offense is stoked about going against this defense.

UF is still one of the most talented teams in the nation, but that hasn?t transitioned to the field.

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The talent level between UF and Vanderbilt is huge, but the standings don?t reflect that. The Gators are 3-3 in conference, and the Commodores are just a half game behind at 2-3. Vandy even made a closer game of it with Georgia in a 20-17 loss than UF did.

The only opponent left on the Gators? schedule that will be lacking confidence against them is Florida Atlantic, and its mascot is an owl. Something about a chubby bird whose best asset is its keen eyesight doesn?t scream intimidation.

I?d even feel confident if I were Vanderbilt. Who?s going to cover wide receiver Earl Bennett? Joe Haden has done well for a true freshman, but UF?s soft coverage techniques are not well suited to stop a wide receiver like Bennett.

In this college football season, everything has been wack, sure.

But did you really see UF standing at just 5-3?

The Gators are more talented than Georgia.

They?re more talented than Auburn.

They showed that talent against LSU - arguably the most talented team in the nation - and had a respectable road loss.

After that game, Coach Urban Meyer said the Gators will be back Bsmokin?.C

Sorry, Coach, but there hasn?t even been enough smoke to roast a marshmallow lately.

UF isn?t losing this game, but the point is that you can?t be sure.

Yes, I think the Gators will win out. But I said the same thing a week ago.

As talented as UF is, Vanderbilt could conceivably come in and knock off the once-called BMighty Gators.C

Even though UF is better than both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in America - Ohio State and Boston College - it doesn?t even deserve to play in its conference championship game.

Where has the team that obliterated Tennessee gone?

Even if the Gators sneak into Atlanta for the SEC title game, they got there through the help of other teams.

They will have earned the chance if other teams lose - I?ve never bought into the Byou got luckyC ordeal - but you can?t say they?re better than the other contending teams.

Fact is, when South Carolina, FSU and Vanderbilt look and see UF on their schedule, they don?t cringe.

Instead, they see it as just another opportunity. There?s nothing intimidating about a three-loss team.

It?s weird that Arizona State losing a game is more of an upset than UF losing one.

Even with all the roster turnaround the Gators have this year, you still expect a defending champion team to have some aura around it. This team doesn?t have that anymore.

UF?s defense had a trademarked toughness to it last year. This year, you can tell they?re still a bunch of kids wondering how prom went by so fast.

These underclassmen have been through a lot - a captain getting arrested, a teammate?s death and three losses - but they have to put all that behind them. That?s over.

UF needs to figure out its problems somehow.

Please, don?t send fans to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., for a matchup against a Conference USA team.

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