Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
It is time. Engage Championship Mode.
Florida has done its work on the road in the SEC, winning a game at Texas A&M in the Aggies' SEC debut, a game at Tennessee that every Vol desperately wanted, and a game at Vanderbilt over the perpetually upset-minded Commodores. The Gators have knocked off the most talented team it's faced, LSU, and taken punches to the gut from both the Tigers and Aggies and hit back harder with combinations that left both teams floored.
That's how Florida's gotten to 6-0, and the ride's felt pretty damn good: Florida has won somewhere it never had before, made its offense and defense over entirely, rolled in the fourth quarter, and made explosive offense an afterthought.
But something's missing.
Florida's had the upper hand in the waning moments week after week, but hasn't needed to make a last-second stand. Florida's won all of its games so far, but only really blew out Kentucky. Florida generally seems like the team with the most impressive collection of wins in 2012, but it's hard to make a case that Florida's the most impressive team in the country, or even fifth in the category, given that the Gators' competitors have played more primetime games (Kansas State, Notre Dame) and blown out more foes (Alabama, Oregon).
That offense that has been so effective has only occasionally been spectacular, with Trey Burton and Jeff Driskel dazzling against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, respectively. Driskel hasn't been consistent as anything but a game manager in the passing game, and his receivers have been alternately adequate and abysmal. Mike Gillislee's great, but his is the kind of greatness that is tailored to ballads, not YouTube.
That could change today.
Florida gets a beaten-down, banged-up South Carolina team in The Swamp today, one that got punished on the lines by an LSU team that Florida bullied in the trenches. Marcus Lattimore may be injured, and may be off his 2011 peak; Jadeveon Clowney has been wearing a walking boot, and reportedly had the flu this week. Connor Shaw's off his worst game of 2012, and the collection of South Carolina skill players is led by Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington, both the sort of short speedsters that Florida has the personnel to handle in the secondary.
Florida could dominate this game, or fend off South Carolina late, or block the 'Cocks one more time, and pass another national eye test with all of college football-loving America watching.
Will Muschamp apparently told Tracy Wolfson the sort of thing Gators need to hear from their head coach today:
Will Muschamp saying "Florida is not back until we win a championship!" Check out the full interview on our pregame show. 2:30et #SEConCBS— Tracy Wolfson (@tracywolfson) October 20, 2012
The Gators' chances of winning one in 2012 are still small: To ensure a spot in the national title game, Florida must still beat South Carolina, Georgia, Florida State, and, in all likelihood, Alabama, a gauntlet that fully eclipses the Texas A&M-Tennessee-LSU troika. But it's all there for Florida right now: Those first three games are all in the Sunshine State, and all three of those teams have flashed fatal flaws.
Florida hasn't, and Florida might not, especially not if the players who have come of age under Muschamp (and Dan Quinn, and Jeff Dillman, and Brent Pease) can make another Classic Moment In Championship Mode happen today.
But we have a responsibility, too. Championship Mode is ours. I'll be at the game, wearing a blue Gators polo and a very '90s snapback. I will be yelling so loud that I would bet on not having a voice on Monday, standing for everything but halftime. If you're at the game, I hope you join me in that.
If you're not, text your buddies and tell them to do so. Call your family and tell them how much this game means to you. Say what you feel when you're writing comments and sending tweets.
Do not lose faith.
The 'Cock Block is perhaps the best example in Florida history of how not losing faith is rewarded: It saved a game, and a season, and paved the way to a title. It was a feat from a player, Jarvis Moss, who gave his best when Florida needed his best most.
Today, Florida needs all of our best most. For the rest of the season, Florida will need that, to one degree or another. Let's return to Championship Mode, Gators, and go back where we know we feel most home: