Kan Li / Scout

Jim McElwain wants the Florida Gators to embrace opportunity

Florida faces its toughest challenge of the season on Saturday in Baton Rouge.

In the offseason, an undefeated matchup between Florida and LSU when they met in Death Valley seemed unlikely. Now it’s a top-10 matchup between the team with the Heisman Trophy favorite and the one of the nation’s biggest surprise.

As the Gators concluded practice on Wednesday, McElwain wanted his team to understand that and embrace an opportunity that will have the eyes of the country. Florida’s 6-0 record came with an unlikely comeback over Tennessee to win the program’s 11th straight game over the Volunteers. One week later, the Gators surprised the nation by blowing out then-ranked No. 3 Ole Miss.

Now they have a chance to win their toughest game yet -- a night game at LSU.

“We’re playing a really good football team that for all the right reasons probably thinks they’re going to put it on us and that’s the way it should be,” McElwain said. “It should be exciting. I know how much fun it is playing there at night. We had an opportunity back a couple years ago at Alabama to go in there in a night game, and you talk about fun environments and passion, just SEC football at its best. It should be really exciting going in.”

A long week of practice for Florida has come with plenty of distractions. Will Grier was suspended for a calendar year on Monday for taking a supplement that contained a substance banned by the NCAA. On Wednesday, backup cornerback Deiondre Porter was suspended indefinitely while facing four felony charges.

For a team that looked charmed with good luck and improved performances in the first six games, the Gators have been challenged this week to keep their mind right and focus on the opponent.

“Let’s talk about chaos and distractions, playing in Tiger Stadium in a night game, there’s a lot of it going on,” McElwain said. “So, I think the important thing is eliminate the clutter, take care of yourself, do your job and let’s go focus and have a good time doing it.”

McElwain and his staff have done their best to keep the pressure off the team this week, letting them head into the most hostile environment they’ll see this season and play at full speed. A strong week of practice has him feeling good about his team as they head to Baton Rouge.

"We had a really, really positive (day)," McElwain said of Wednesday's practice. "I thought it was a really good day. The guys were really good in communication."


Tight end C’yontai Lewis (hand) is probable for Saturday. He practiced with a cast on Wednesday but McElwain said he was able to use the hand to catch, something that didn’t happen last week. Safety Marcell Harris (ankle) is questionable for Saturday.

Linebacker Jeremi Powell (foot) “should be ready to roll” and returned to practice on Tuesday. Linebacker Alex Anzalone (shoulder) is ahead of schedule, but McElwain wouldn’t say what his schedule is.

“For this late in the season, still doing pretty good,” McElwain said.

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