Florida vs. Vanderbilt: The Gators Still Need to Prove They're Top-5 Material

Thomas BonifaceCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2012

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 06:  Tharold Simon #24 of the LSU Tigers attempts to tackle Quinton Dunbar #1 of the Florida Gators during the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Each year the college football season brings us surprise teams that we did not think would perform as well as we had thought they would in the preseason.

Last year's teams were Arkansas, Michigan and Baylor.  Each of them started the season either low in the preseason rankings or unranked.

One team that is arguably surprising us right now is Florida.

The Gators entered the season ranked in the Top 25 but sat pretty low at No. 24 after a 7-6 season for Will Muschamp in his first season at the helm.  The Gators did not beat a ranked opponent all season and lost to rival Florida State in the season finale.

This year, things seem to be different. 

The Gators are 5-0 on the season and 4-0 in the SEC already.  Their signature wins include a come-from-behind thriller against then-ranked No. 23 Tennessee and a grind-it-out slugfest against then-ranked No. 4 LSU.

In both of those games, Florida has gotten stronger defensively as the game went on.  This is a clear indication of the effect that Will Muschamp is having on the team.  The Gators allowed Tennessee to score only six points after halftime and held LSU scoreless in the second half.

The Gators also do a phenomenal job running the football and are currently ranked as the No. 24 rushing offense in the country.  Senior Mike Gillislee has led the charge in that category by racking up 548 yards and seven touchdowns.  Do-it-all guy Trey Burton comes in to give the Gators another big-play threat on the ground.

While this all makes the Gators seem like they could possibly contend for a national title, I must channel my inner Lee Corso and say, "Not so fast my friend!"

We have all seen this tune sung before by a team from the SEC. 

A strong, swarming and relentless defense, an offense that has trouble throwing the ball but can run it for seemingly days on end and a coach that can get a little crazy at times.

The LSU Tigers sang us this same song last year and proceeded to make fools out of everyone. 

The Tigers ran the table and rightfully earned a spot in the BCS National Championship game.  However, once there they proceeded to drop a big goose-egg on the scoreboard and trick us into thinking that defenses can carry teams to championships.  The Tigers had trouble on offense many times throughout the year and couldn't throw the ball to save their lives. 

And when their defense finally got tired from being on the field all the time, they were inept at best.

Florida is on a similar path this year. 

The Gators do run the ball extremely well but they also lack an effective passing offense, which is ranked No. 115 in the country.  Without that aerial attack, opposing teams could effectively put eight guys in the box and shut down the Gator offense with ease. 

This could then lead to the defense being on the field more and getting worn out as the game goes on, making it easier for opposing teams to score points against the Gators.

My point here is that Florida needs to show us more before we automatically anoint them Top Five team status.  This is not to say they do not deserve their current ranking, but their place at No. 5 in this week's polls was more about teams in front of them losing and less about the Gators being extremely good.

This week the Gators face Vanderbilt, a team that Florida should have no problem beating. 

However, the Gators face No. 3 South Carolina and Steve Spurrier at home in The Swamp the following week, which makes the Vanderbilt game much more important.

The Gators cannot get caught looking ahead to the South Carolina game.  If they do, Vanderbilt could sneak up and beat the Gators, especially considering this is a home game for the Commodores and it's the SEC.

This week, Florida needs to establish their usual rushing attack, play strong, sound defense and upgrade their passing game against a weak opponent.

If Florida can win these next two games and show that they have a legit passing game, they can then be considered to be a Top Five team.