Coaches Muschamp and Fisher after Florida's bashing of FSU.
The Florida Gators are back. Yes, they did lose one game to the Georgia Bulldogs (and some would say the Gators beat themselves), but there is no other team in the FBS that has a resume of work that comes close to that of the Florida Gators in 2012.
The Gators have defeated four teams that are ranked in the BCS top 12:
- @Texas A&M (currently No. 9 in the BCS. Oh, by the way, they defeated at-the-time No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa)
- LSU (currently No. 7 in the BCS)
- South Carolina (currently No. 12, but just defeated No. 11 Clemson. And, the OBC, aka Ole Ball Coach, devoured the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs earlier in the season)
- Florida State (currently No. 10 in the BCS, but not unlike their conference partner Clemson, will drop out when the new BCS rankings are released on Sunday, November 25, 2012)
The Gator Nation has every reason to be very happy after expectations for the season have been greatly surpassed. Some will look to the game in Jacksonville, when Florida succumbed to the Georgia Bulldogs, as a black eye on this year's schedule, but they shouldn't. Georgia is a very good team that very well may end up representing the SEC in the BCS title game.
Here is an overview of the 2012 season as well as a prediction at the end of who the Gators will face and where when bowl time arrives.
The Florida Gators have been known to open their seasons with cupcakes and not-so-thrilling performances, and the 2012 season kept up with that tradition. Bowling Green came calling on the Gator Nation, and what should have been a walk in the park turned out to be a nail-biter.
Tied 14-14 in the third quarter, the No. 23-ranked Gators finally pulled away with a couple of field goals and a 50-yard TD reception to WR Frankie Hammond to seal the deal, 27-14.
The spotlight in this game belonged to RB Mike Gillislee. A backup to former Gators Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, the senior finally had his day in the sun. He finished with 24 carries for 148 yards and two TDs.
Nevertheless, the Gator Nation was reeling, thinking that a repeat of the 2011 season may be at hand.
The Aggies of Texas A&M and their "12th Man" welcomed the Florida Gators to Kyle Field, and at the start it looked as if the Gators should have missed the plane.
To open the game, the Aggies marched downfield on 15 carries for 65 yards, which eventually led to a field goal giving Texas A&M a 3-0 lead. A personal foul courtesy of the Gators didn't help Florida's cause.
Florida, however, would answer quickly. QB Jeff Driskell, starting his first road game, drove the Gators down the field going 75 yards on 13 plays. The Gators would eventually line up for a field-goal attempt, but Trey Burton would take the fake and get the first down instead. Soon thereafter, RB Mike Gillislee scored a TD, making it 7-3.
However, at the half, the Gators found themselves looking up at the Aggies, 17-10.
What happened in the second half became the highlight of the Florida Gators team for the entire season: adjustments made at halftime in the locker room. The Gators have definitely been a second-half team.
Coach Muschamp stressed mental and physical toughness when he arrived at Florida, but by the end of the 2011 season he questioned the team and even mentioned the dreaded word "soft." What happened in the second half of the Texas A&M game eradicated any doubt about the Florida Gators in 2012.
The Aggies would not score again, and the Gators held them to 65 yards in the second half. QB Johnny Manziel, perhaps the front-runner for this year's Heisman Trophy, was held to under 200 yards in the air.
The Florida Gators were 2-0, but more importantly, glimpses of a tougher, more disciplined team were witnessed.
The day of reckoning, or at least what many felt, arrived on October 6, 2012 when the LSU Tigers faced the Florida Gators in "The Swamp." The Gators were 4-0 when they ran onto the field to face LSU, but many remembered that they were 4-0 when Alabama ran on the field back in 2011, and it was the beginning of the downward spiral for Florida.
Would history repeat itself in 2012?
LSU kicked two field goals in the first half while holding the Gators scoreless. Would the Gators be able to make adjustments at halftime and come out fighting in the second half?
Florida would hold LSU scoreless while putting two TDs on the Tigers to win 14-6. Mike Gillislee would earn his sixth and seventh TDs of the season.
This game was over before it really started. The Gators took advantage and converted three Gamecock turnovers into TDs, scoring 21 points in the first half.
QB Jeff Driskel also threw four TD passes as the Gators annihilated South Carolina in "The Swamp" 44-11.
Steve Spurrier would eventually become the all-time wins leader at South Carolina, surpassing Rex Enright, when they defeated Clemson for the fourth straight season.
The Georgia Bulldogs arrived in Jacksonville, Florida still recovering from the beatdown South Carolina put on them a few weeks prior, but this was the Florida Gators they were facing. If they were to salvage their season, they had to dominate the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and pull one out against their hated rivals.
The Gators did their best to assist by committing six turnovers. Georgia had four turnovers, too, but in the end Florida simply could not overcome its own self-inflicted mistakes.
The memory of TE Jordan Reed fumbling the ball away as he was crossing the goal line late in the fourth quarter, and later sitting on the sidelines with tears in his eyes, summed up what the Gator Nation felt that day.
Unfortunately, those tears would represent what could have been if the Gators handled the Bulldogs that day in Jacksonville.
The Gators marched into Tallahassee with the world thinking that they had absolutely no chance of defeating FSU. The line on the game was the Gators plus six at kickoff.
It should have been FSU plus 10.
The Seminoles heard murmurs out of the War Chant from time to time as Florida's defense manhandled FSU's offense. QB E.J. Manuel was knocked out of the game but would return late in the fourth quarter, to no avail. The Gators brought their SEC-tested defense and gave a clinic that the Seminoles failed miserably.
The Seminoles get to limp into the ACC title game against Georgia Tech, which was throttled by SEC-East and in-state rival Georgia, 42-10.
That ACC title game should be a real barn-burner.
Sports pundits are predicting that the Florida Gators will face the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar or Fiesta Bowl when it is all said and done.
I say it will be the Sugar Bowl.
Oklahoma has had a good season with a 9-2 record going into next week's showdown against TCU for the Big 12 championship. The Sooners will be favored to win.
Through games played on November 24, 2012, here are the team statistics of the Gators and Sooners:
- Florida Gators: No. 101
- Oklahoma Sooners: No. 9
- Florida Gators: No. 5
- Oklahoma Sooners: No. 44
Oklahoma lost to Kansas St. and Notre Dame, both quality teams, but they have not experienced a defense like Florida's.
Unless the Gators perform like they did against rival Georgia, the Sooners should be in for a very long night
Florida 24, Oklahoma 14.