The last major hurdle standing in the Gators’ way is the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
And the Florida players aren’t avoiding the subject. In between the “one game at a time” comments, multiple Gators players said after Tuesday’s practice that they understand just how much is on the line. As part of the program that leads the entire conference with 10 appearances in the game, there isn’t one on the Florida roster that has been a part of it.
The carrot of a trip to Atlanta has dangled in front of the Florida players in recent weeks, and a win on Saturday would go a long way towards making it a reality.
"We're not ignorant to where we're at right now,” Florida receiver Ahmad Fulwood said. “We understand what's going on. We control our destiny. Our destiny and our next stop is Georgia. We don't get to Atlanta unless we play Georgia first, so that's what we're focusing on."
The Gators can’t clinch the SEC East on Saturday. If they do win, Vanderbilt is the only other team that could sneak in and win the division. It seems unlikely that the 3-4 Commodores would go undefeated through the remainder of their conference schedule, which includes at Florida, at Tennessee, vs. Kentucky and vs. Texas A&M.
If the Bulldogs win on Saturday, the Gators aren’t completely eliminated from the SEC East race. Both teams would have two conference losses in that situation, but while Georgia would have the tiebreaker, the Bulldogs would still have games against Kentucky and at Auburn on the SEC schedule while the Gators end league play against Vanderbilt and at South Carolina.
The Gators know all of the different scenarios can be made much easier with a win on Saturday.
“A whole lot’s at stake,” Florida running back Kelvin Taylor said. “That’s just an extra chip on our shoulders. We’re going to go out there, play with an extra chip on our shoulder. Everyone knows what’s at stake. Everybody is going to play hard, and we’re just looking forward to having a great time on Saturday.”
The Florida players have also talked this week about expecting Georgia’s best shot. That’s not new in any rivalry game, but the Gators came into last season’s meeting as a heavy underdog and ended up embarrassing the Bulldogs while rushing for 418 yards and throwing just six passes for 27 yards.
Georgia knew what the Florida offense was going to do and couldn’t stop it. And there’s zero doubt in the Gators’ mind that their opponent has spent the last two weeks hearing about that game.
“We’re in the same position that they were in last year,” Florida left tackle David Sharpe said. “They have a chip on their shoulder. They want to come in and beat us the same way we beat them last year. We’ve got to take a big emphasis on keeping the streak going and knock them off the ball, get the run yardage up.
“This is a rivalry game so it’s always special, everybody’s fired up to play them.”