The last time I checked in on the blog about the Gators was after Week 2 of the season when I thought “things [were] looking up” for the Florida team.

They were relegated off of the AP Top 25 College Football Poll, then they bounced back on, but a loss to Tennessee had them on the verge of leaving the Poll again.

Since then, the Gators have won 3 straight and gradually made their way up to a new high of #10 this week with a record of 6-1 (4-1 SEC).

Week 1 – Rank 25 – Sept 3: W 24-7 vs UMess

Week 2 – Rank N/A – Sept 10: W 45-7 vs Kentucky

Week 3 – Rank 23 – Sept 17: W 32-0 vs North TX

Week 4 – Rank 19 – Sept 24: L 28-38 vs #14 Tennessee

Week 5 – Rank 23 – Oct 1: W 13-6 vs Vanderbilt

Week 6 – Rank 18 – Oct 8: LSU Game Postponed due to Hurricane

Week 7 – Rank 18 – Oct 15: W 40-14 vs Missouri

Week 8 – Rank 15 – Oct 22: Bye

Week 9 – Rank 14 – Oct 29: W 24-19 vs Georgia

Week 10 – Nov 5: @ Arkansas

Week 11 – Nov 12: vs South Carolina

Week 12 – Nov 19: @#15 LSU

Week 13 – Nov 26: @ #19 FSU

The good news for the Gators is that the other SEC East Division teams have had some difficulties and with only 4 games left to play, it gives them a good shot at advancing to the SEC title game in back to back seasons, something they haven’t done since 2008-9.

The teams that could challenge Florida include Kentucky (won 3 straight) and Tennessee (losses include Texas A&M and Alabama).

SEC East Division
Overall Conf Home Away Neutral
Florida 6-1 4-1 4-0 1-1 1-0
Kentucky 5-3 4-2 4-1 1-2 0-0
Tennessee 5-3 2-3 3-1 1-2 1-0
Georgia 4-4 2-4 1-2 2-1 1-1
S Carolina 4-4 2-4 3-2 1-2 0-0
Vanderbilt 4-4 1-3 2-2 2-2 0-0
Missouri 2-6 0-4 2-3 0-3 0-0

The numbers don’t tell the whole story, however.

Florida’s offense has struggled, especially since QB Luke Del Rio suffered a left knee sprain during the 3Q of the North TX game.  He missed 2 games after that and while he had the benefit of rest when Hurricane Matthew postponed the LSU game and a bye during week 7, he has looked just average or even below average at times.

For example, Del Rio only had a passer rating of 47.4% during the Missouri game & he intercepted the ball 3 times.  For the Georgia game, he improved somewhat (60% passer rating), but combined, the last 2 weeks have been his weakest performances for the season so far.  Nationally, Del Rio is only ranked 83rd in QBR (52.0).  And, Florida’s Total Offense has a poor ranking of 75th; 71st Passing Offense; and 67th Rushing Offense.

Luckily, Florida’s defense is damn good.

In fact, they are currently ranked 2nd in Total Defense nationally (239.9 yards per game) and 2nd nationally in scoring defense (11.7 points per game). They also have one of the best defenses in the country when it comes to forcing opposing offenses into three-and-outs.

Another aspect of the Gators defense that makes them so good is their ability to stop the run.  It currently ranks 10th nationally allowing only 105.6 yards per game.

These kind of stats give the Gators some swagger. Individual players like Cornerback Jalen Tabor think they have the best defense in the country right now.   Tabor said on Monday, “Whatever the best defense is, I think we’re the standard of defense.”

Going forward, if the Gators can win 3 of the last 4 games, they will clinch the top spot in the division.

But, memories of their unraveling towards the end of last season (when they lost 3 straight including the SEC championship game and bowl game) could haunt this team.

Will that happen this year?

Next up is Arkansas who is currently allowing 31.4 points per game.  If the Gators just hold on and keep doing what they have been doing, they have this one in the bag.

After that South Carolina comes to the Swamp.  It is the last home game for the Gators and they’ll need to win before heading off to face LSU and FSU.

Florida Center Cam Dillard summed up the team’s goals on Monday: “People love to hate the Gators, they don’t ever want to give us our respect or props, so we have to kind of go and take it ourselves.  We’re still a very hungry team.  This top 10 or whatever doesn’t mean anything to us.  We feel like we should be up there higher.  So we have to continue to push and work every day at it.”

Good luck, Florida.


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