Florida Football: Top 5 Must-Win Games in 2012
Despite finishing with a 7-6 record, the Gators weren't too far off from finishing with a 10-win season. Florida lost to Auburn due to special teams miscues and a botched call by the referees, while interceptions and a predictable offense cost the Gators against Georgia and FSU.
2012 is a new year, and with a new offensive coordinator and a top-ranked recruiting class, Gator fans have much to look forward to this season. After enduring two of the least creative, vanilla offenses in recent memory (The Steve Addazio dive and Charlie Weis pass to the flats offense), Brent Pease brings a brand-new offense that will certainly keep not only defenses, but GatorNation, guessing this season.
The spring game offered a sneak peek into how Pease uses pre-snap motion to force defense to show their hand, and even though it is a small sample size, it looks like the offense will involve more than just running backs catching the ball horizontal to the line of scrimmage.
With 2011 behind us, let's take a look at five games that the Gators will circle in 2012 as "must-win" games.
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at Texas A&M, Sept. 8
The Gators will have just one week rather than two to get ready for SEC play. In their first SEC game of the year, the Gators travel to Kyle Field to take one the Aggies and the 12th man. The reason why this game doesn't crack the top five is the Aggies are set up to have a down year. With a new head coach and new quarterback, the Aggies will go through some of the same struggles that plagued the Gators all last season.
at Tennessee, Sept. 15
After playing at Kyle Field, the Gators will have to travel to Rocky top to take on the Vols. Tennessee missed Justin Hunter, who went down with a knee injury in the first quarter and will be hungry to end its seven-year losing streak to the Gators.
Florida is a little farther ahead as far as defense goes, and it should be able to get pressure on Tyler Bray and come away from this game 3-0 and ready to take on Kentucky.
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Date: Oct. 6
Florida and LSU have played each other every year since 1971. The series has been evenly matched throughout the years, with Florida holding a slight lead (30-25-4) over the Tigers.
Les Miles has bested the Gators the past two seasons, and this is certainly a game that the players will circle before the season.
In 2010, the Gators lost, 33-29, after a fake field goal extended what would be the game-winning drive. In 2011, Jacoby Brissett became the first Gator quarterback to take his first snap in his first career start. Needless to say, the Gators weren't competitive and lost, 41-11.
This season, the Gators will be looking to end the losing streak and get revenge for the drubbing they received last year in Baton Rouge.
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Date: Oct. 20
The Ole Ball Coach has turned this annual game into a true rivalry.
Florida and South Carolina have played 32 times, with South Carolina winning only six of those contests. Steve Spurrier has been the coach for half of the Gamecocks' victories over Florida and has brought South Carolina into national relevance.
2011 marked the first time that South Carolina has beat Florida in consecutive seasons, and a win this year would be the first time the Gamecocks have won three straight games in the series ever.
Will Muschamp cannot let this happen. The Gamecocks will travel down to the swamp, and the Gators must reclaim the swamp.
Georgia (In Jacksonville)
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Date: Oct. 27
The loss to the Bulldogs a season ago had to sting a little extra for head coach Will Muschamp. Losing to your alma mater is bittersweet with a heavy scoop of bitter.
The Gators were in the driver seat for the better part of the first half before settling for a field goal after costly penalties and allowing a Dawg touchdown right before half.
While everyone is picking Georgia and South Carolina as favorites to win the SEC East, Florida has a real opportunity to beat both teams.
If the Gators can pull off wins against South Carolina and Georgia in back-to-back weeks, they will be in the driver's seat in the SEC East.
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Date: Nov. 3
The Gators will get a close look at the No. 1 overall receiver recruit from 2012 as Mizzou travels to Gainesville.
If the season falls into place like I think it can, Mizzou will be the last hurdle the Gators face on their way to Atlanta.
Missouri will be fully acclimated to SEC play by the time it sees the Gators, but Mizzou will only go as far as junior quarterback James Franklin can carry it. As a dual-threat quarterback, it remains to be seen if Franklin can stay healthy as he goes up against SEC-caliber defenses week in and week out.
With a potential SEC championship game berth on the line, this is a must-win game for the Gators.
Date: Nov. 24
Although leading up to last year's game, the media made much of Will Muschamp and Jimbo Fisher's friendship, there is no love lost between the players and fans of these teams.
After winning six straight games against the "school out west," the Gators have fallen in back-to-back seasons against the Seminoles for the first time since 2002-03.
While this is not a conference game, losing to FSU leaves a bitter taste to any season, no matter how successful.
After holding the Seminoles to just 95 total yards last season, the Gators will look to avenge those losses and come away with a victory at Doak Campbell Stadium. Will Muschamp will also look to tie the series against his friend and enjoy the bragging rights at their vacation home for a year.