Cautious Optimism

Florida coach Ron Zook refuses to say 'what-if' in regards to the possibility of a three-way tie for the SEC East...

Ask him after a loss. Ask him after three wins. Ask him whenever you want, wherever you want. Florida coach Ron Zook will give you the same answer.

"It doesn't matter what I think," says Zook.

Translation: He doesn't want to talk about it. And considering the present state of the Gators, it seems Zook can talk about whatever he wants. Fourth-quarter wins against Georgia tend to have that effect.

So while the rest of his followers will continue to wonder how a vote would impact the Gators' chances in the result of a three-way tie in the Southeastern Conference East, the coach will stick by his plan. He'll focus on next week's game against Vanderbilt – and nothing more.

"We're going to attack this game the same way we attack every other week," repeated Zook twice on Sunday's teleconference.

Smart move. Apparent by his past three wins against ranked opponents – most recently, Saturday's 16-13 win against Georgia – Zook knows what he's doing. And his desire to steer focus away from a potential tie between Tennessee, the Bulldogs and the Gators may be merited.

After all, such a three-way tie would require each team to win the rest of their conference games. And in a season as bizarre as this one, that could be asking too much. Florida, though, certainly appears to have a firm grasp on its share of the top slot.

After an open date this week, Georgia must play Auburn and Kentucky with a non-conference game against Georgia Tech.

Also, Tennessee, who struggled to a 23-6 win against Duke, must play Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Not to mention, next week's game against Miami could cause for emotional and physical distress as the season closes.

Against the Blue Devils, the Volunteers led 9-6 in the lackluster win. Considering the loudest cheers came when the final score of Florida's game was announced, Tennessee didn't exactly fare well.

"Any given day, any SEC team can be beat," offensive guard Shannon Snell said. "If we play like this every week, we will be the best team in the SEC."

So while both other teams are struggling, it remains unknown just how much better the Gators can elevate. Consider the recent play of true freshman quarterback Chris Leak, and you'll understand why the potential seems, well, scary.

"Chris can do some things that can win the game for you," Zook said. "He did some really, really good things last night. But we still have enough weapons where we don't have to put it all on Chris."

Leak led Florida 66-yards with three completed passes to set up Saturday's game-winning 33-yard field goal. But it's not just Leak. The Gators are quickly showing signs of a fast maturing process.

Take two more true freshmen, for example. Linebacker Channing Crowder had 15 tackles in Saturday's win, and punter Eric Wilbur booted his fourth punt for more than 60 yards.

One more person appears to be maturing, too. Zook, as well, has shown huge improvements from play-calling to personnel moves. The second-year coach has silenced his critics.

And until his team wins the rest of its games, he'll remain silent about anything other than anything but the present.

"You don't talk about accomplishments until the season is over," Zook said. "Our players understand they beat three good football teams. But all that's done is put us in a position to accomplish something else."

Fightin Gators Top Stories