Many outside Florida did not pick the Gators to return to the SEC Championship game. Many even questioned if UF were going to win the SEC East or beat Tennessee or LSU this season. Now the Gators are once gain the underdogs as Alabama come into Saturday as the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC title. However, do not tell that to Florida.
"Anything can happen this week," said offensive guard Tyler Jordan.
Jordan, who is now a year wiser, admits things were a bit overwhelming at times last season when the Gators played in the Georgia Dome. However, with a SEC title game under his belt, Jordan is ready to return to Atlanta.
"Last year everything was a little bit chaotic," saidJordan. "I was a freshman starting in the SEC Championship. So you run out there and you look up and it's just, the dome is up there. Overall it was an amazing experience but we didn't get the result that we wanted like I said but now we know what we expect. It's going to be a physical, tough game that we need to grind it out. "
Although a cliche among coaches and players, the Gators have really only focused on themselves this season, trying to negate any of the talk from the outside. On Saturday, Florida enters the game as a 20 point underdog to the Crimson Tide.
"It's all about us," said Jordan. "We've got to do what we've got to do. Watch more film. Hit the sled out there. First period today we were hitting the sled, rolling up on it. Like [UF head] coach [Jim] McElwain says, it's all about us, so we've just got to do our job, focus on our job only."
In order to focus Jordan and the Gators had to move on quick from the Florida State loss that left them "hurt" and "heartbroken" last weekend.
"The main feeling was anger. We came out there, we fought hard, but we didn't get the result we wanted. So coach Mac told us to keep our heads up, we can't let this affect this week because we've got a bigger challenge," said Jordan. "For me, when I got off the bus I was still upset. I was angry. Kind of that bus ride you think a little bit, and by the time I got to Gainesville, I was mad but I was like all right, we've got something bigger to focus on. Got to go to Atlanta and take care of business."
The Florida offensive line will certainly need all their focus facing off against a physical 'Bama front seven. Alabama ranks first nationally in scoring defense with 11.4 points per game, ranks sixth nationally in third down defense and has amassed 41 sacks.
"They are very physical and they are very athletic," said Jordan. "They run mainly, they run a lot of odd up front and they've got a younger guy, Da'Ron Payne, number 94, and he is extremely explosive. He is quick and he brings his hands well."
The Crimson Tide has not allowed a touchdown since Oct. 22, meanwhile the Gators offense ranks 127th in red-zone offense and has not scored an offensive touchdown for the last five quarters.
"You've got to win on first down.Makes second down a whole lot easier to handle," said Jordan. "First down is going to be huge for us this game. We take care of first down, getting to the 2nd and 6, 2nd and 5, we'll be able to take care of business picking up the first."
In Saturday's loss to the Seminoles, Florida could not convert one third down and quarterback Austin Appleby was sacks six times. In contrast the two previous match-ups against LSU and South Carolina, the Gators not only protected Appleby but were able to establish a good run game to control the clock.
"I think we can be very consistent at times, and then other times we're very inconsistent," said Jordan. "I think if we come out there each drive and just do our own job, know that the person next to us is going to take care of their business, we're going to be fine."
Although the offense had its fair share of ups and downs this season, Jordan is confident in where this program under McElwain is headed.
"He [McElwain] is the first coach, the first two years to go to Atlanta. It's pretty special you know. He's a great coach. He's got a great game plan. He came from the Saban tree and you know this game is going to be a lot of fun."