Realistically, what were the expectations for this Florida team going into the season?
Win a New Year’s Six Bowl? Win the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2008? Make the College Football Playoff?
All of these goals are still within reach for UF despite Saturday’s 42-28 loss to now-No. 2 LSU.
Sure, an upset over the Tigers would’ve been a signature win. It would have vaulted Florida into the top 5 of the AP Poll.
But, it wouldn’t have guaranteed a shot at either the conference championship or the College Football Playoff for the Gators.
Those hopes rest solely on the outcome of the Florida-Georgia game Nov. 2.
The winner will, in all likelihood, win the SEC East and advance to the conference championship game. A victory in Atlanta would guarantee a spot in the CFP, assuming the winner navigated the rest of the regular season without a second loss.
The loser will be a New Year’s Six team at best.
“(The) next four games are against SEC East teams,” coach Dan Mullen said after Saturday’s loss. “We (have) control of our own destiny.”
The three other divisional matchups left besides Georgia are at South Carolina, home vs. Vanderbilt and at No. 22 Missouri. Florida is a 6.5-point favorite over South Carolina next week and figures to be a huge favorite over Vanderbilt. Missouri will be a tougher game, but UF can lose and still make the SEC Championship game (thanks to the Tigers’ postseason ban) if it beats UGA and the Gamecocks.
Beat Georgia. Take care of business against inferior teams. Play in Atlanta.
It’s the same exact situation UF was looking at before the loss to LSU. The only difference is that the Gators fell a few spots in the rankings.
For Florida to achieve its dreams, it has to beat Georgia. There’s no way around it. It was true before the season began, and it’s true now.
The Gators have nothing left to prove after beating Auburn and going toe-to-toe with LSU in Death Valley. If anything, UF’s first loss of the season provided the team — and specifically, quarterback Kyle Trask, who made the first road start of his career — with invaluable experience in a hostile environment against a top-5 team. Now the Gators have a chance to test their resiliency.
“We’re trying to win the East, trying to get to Atlanta, and that’s still possible with this loss,” defensive back Marco Wilson said. “Put this behind us and watch the film. Get better.”
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected]