LSU vs. Florida: Gators Emerge as Legitimate National Title Threat

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 6, 2012

Florida RB Mike Gillislee
Florida RB Mike GillisleeSam Greenwood/Getty Images

Welcome back to the national picture, Florida. It's been a while.

Since Dec. 5, 2009, to be exact.

Since losing to Alabama 32-13 in the 2009 SEC Championship game and missing out on a second straight appearance in the BCS National Championship, the Gators have suffered through a myriad of issues, including a head coach with one foot out the door, quarterback issues and a "decided schematic advantage" that never materialized.

Until Saturday.

Florida went toe-to-toe with a fast, physical LSU team, and it came away with an emphatic 14-6 win over the No. 3 Tigers.

It was the type of game you expect from high-quality SEC teams. The kind of smash-mouth, physical football that has been a hallmark of the last six national champions.

Florida has not only jumped into the discussion to be the next in line, but it should be mentioned in the same breath as the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Gators imposed their will on the LSU front seven in the second half, a second half that saw running back Mike Gillislee gain 117 of his 146 rushing yards and score both of Florida's touchdowns.

Think about that for a minute...they imposed their will on LSU—one of the most dominant defenses in the country.

That's pretty strong.

While Gillislee was amazing in the second half versus LSU, Florida's defense dominated the Tigers for a full 60 minutes.

Led by safety Matt Elam and his seven tackles and one forced fumble, the Gators limited the Tigers to just 203 total yards, 56 of which were on a Zach Mettenberger pass to Odell Beckham Jr., which resulted in a fumble.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn't flashy. The sophomore completed 8-of-12 passes for 61 yards and only had one rushing yard after all of the sacks he took. But he was smart with the football, didn't force passes and relied on his running game when it was the smart thing to do.

Running the ball? Playing defense? Sounds awfully similar to the recipe for success that several other SEC teams have used en route to the crystal football.

We witnessed a passing of the baton at the Swamp on Saturday. Actually, it wasn't a "passing." The baton was taken forcefully by a Florida team that proved to the rest of the country that it's no longer the pushover that it has been over the last two seasons.

Welcome back to the national stage, Florida. Judging from what we saw on Saturday, it looks like you'll be here a while.