This fact has been the focus for redshirt junior Jordan Sherit, as they look to enter the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta as one of the hottest teams in the nation.
If a return to Atlanta was not enough motivation, the LSU Tigers (both on and off the field) provided more than enough incentive with their antics, from AD Joe Alleva down to Joe Shmo Tiger fan on Twitter. This Florida team wanted to make LSU pay for their words, which was evident from Head Coach Jim McElwain’s postgame press conference. For defensive end Jordan Sherit, McElwain’s ability to push his team is certainly useful, but unnecessary given the circumstances.
“Yeah, he does a good job of that,” answer Sherit about his head coach’s impetus. “But along with that every Florida player in their own right, you have to self-motivated to play the game. If you need someone else to get you fired up to go play in front of 100,000 people, against a team that said this, that and the other on social media, or whatever they did say, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. You got to love to play the game and love to compete. That’s what we have is a team full of competitors.”
Both teams are well aware of the recent history in this contest. The Seminoles have taken 5 of the past 6 meetings after losing 6 in a row from 2004-09, successfully flipping the momentum of a series that has been very streaky since its inception in 1958. The Gators will look to carry to return the favor against a Florida State team that is not without flaws, as evident by their first three loss ACC campaign since 2011.
"All I know is this is the next opportunity to do that, so I mean, we're putting everything we have into it,” emphatically replied Sherit when asked about shifting the tide of this important in-state rivalry. This Florida State senior class can make history Saturday, as a victory over the Gators would see them finish their careers 4-0 against both Florida and Miami. Sherit and his team understand the importance of keeping the Seminoles out of the winner’s circle. “This is a game that everybody wants to win. No one is taking it lightly. We're going to give it everything we've got. We're not looking forward to any other game. We're not looking forward to this team losing, what could this mean for us. We take care of Florida and we take care of Florida this week, and that starts up in Tallahassee. So we're 100 percent locked in. You can already feel it at practice, how it was last week. I think that win for us kind of gave us a little motivation. It was good to see the team come out of that win like that. We're excited for this week for sure."
While the Gators defense answered the questions asked of them by a formidable LSU offense, this week will be a different animal altogether. Florida State’s offense is loaded with players that were recruited by the Gators, chief amongst them are running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Deondre Francois. Both flirted heavily with Florida before ultimately being seduced by the dark side. Cook presents a problem for a banged up defense and Sherit knows he is priority number one.
"I mean, in my opinion, he's the best back we'll face,” replied Sherit when asked about former Florida verbal Cook. “What we have to do is not let him do what he likes to do, and that's hit the edge and get going. He does have tremendous speed, so we've got to limit the perimeter and stuff like that and just wrap up and tackle. If we do what we're coached to do, we'll have the same result we had last week."
Francois represents the most complete dual-threat quarterback the Gators will see in the regular season and containing the elusive signal-caller will also be vital to a winning effort in Tallahassee.
"Exactly, exactly,” answered Sherit when asked about the threat of the quarterback extending plays. “So it's a big part for the D-ends and the outside linebackers this week. That's something we're going to practice on moving forward. That's obviously something we have to do, especially up front for us, is keep him in your pass-rush lanes. So we have to do a good job of that. But like I said, if we do what we're coached to do and we do it 100 miles an hour, we'll be successful."
The Gators are not the only SEC team to struggle with opposition from the ACC. Since 2012, the mighty SEC has a losing record against their perceived-weaker brethren. The Gators are only 1-3 over that span and no one is more aware of this than Sherit. You get the feeling that this team takes it personally. If LSU is any indicator, this team is ready for daunting challenges. They will certainly have one on Saturday.
“I’m not one to speak on the SEC being better than the ACC,” replied Sherit when asked about his conference’s dubious record. “I can just talk for the University of Florida. I think we’ve underperformed the last few years and I think you can just feel it in the locker room, in the building this year is different. We’ve put a huge emphasis on it. We owe these guys something.”