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Florida Football: What Gators Must Do to Reach 2014 SEC Championship

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Ofensive lineman Max Garcia #76 of the Florida Gators celebrates with fans after a 31- 17 victory against the Tennessee Volunteers  September 21, 2013 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Randy ChambersAnalyst IAugust 6, 2014

It’s become quite clear that the Florida Gators expect a major turnaround after last season’s 4-8 disaster. From their overwhelming confidence during SEC media days to the way some of the fans boast in the comment section, Florida clearly doesn’t have the mindset of a team coming off its worst season in decades.

Players are also tired of talking about the improvement that’s going to be made and are ready to let their actions speak for themselves, according to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.

"I really don't like to talk about what we're going to do," Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III said, "I just want to get out there and show it."

The Gators enter 2014 as a new team.
The Gators enter 2014 as a new team.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Last season, the SEC witnessed the Auburn Tigers go from worst to first in one season, winning the conference championship and coming within seconds of being crowned national champions. With the way Florida is talking, that magical turnaround has certainly popped up once or twice throughout conversations with the team.

What would the Gators have to do in order to shock the college football world and reach the SEC Championship Game?

The turnaround is quite simple and doesn’t require any magic to pull off. Get the offense to at least a respectable level. Sounds easy enough, right?

Brian Leigh of Bleacher Report brought this up in a recent article where he gave Florida a shot to compete for the conference title:

If Roper and Driskel can fix last year's offense, why shouldn't Florida contend for an SEC championship? It doesn't need to be great on that side of the ball; something in the national top 40 would do. With all the talent that returns on defense—a group highlighted by linebacker Dante Fowler and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III—and Muschamp and D.J. Durkin on the sideline, you know the Gators will make it hard for opponents to score. Plus, the SEC East is always up for grabs.

However, a top-40 offense is even asking too much for Florida to compete at the highest level.

Last season, Michigan State finished 13-1 with the second-best defense in the country and an offense that ranked 81st. Some thought the Spartans were good enough to play for a national championship. They had a defense that played at an elite level and an offense that wasn’t always pretty but scored when it needed to most.

As for the Gators, they had the eighth-ranked defense in the country, but their offense sat near the bottom at 115th. It was all-time bad, and there were points in the season when you had to question if Florida was capable of moving the ball against a high school team.

Florida doesn't need to become the next Oregon, just a team that doesn't rank 110th in passing yards and averages fewer than 20 points. The Gators had a top-10 defense last season, and that likely isn't going to change with seven starters returning. We've seen just how far a defense can carry a team in the SEC; it just needs a little bit of help to balance things out.

New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is working his tail off to make dreams a reality, and a healthy Jeff Driskel at quarterback doesn't hurt. 

The Gators have a lot more talent than a 4-8 team and already have one side of the ball looking like a championship contender. If the offense can make any positive strides this season, the Gators have a shot to be the second consecutive improbable SEC champion.

Florida would have then gotten its point across on the field. 

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