We might finally be seeing the real Florida Gators.
On the way to their 7-0 start this season, the Gators won with a dominating defense and an opportunistic offense. In hindsight, those first seven games should have been an omen for the last two: A&M was playing its first game of the season with a Freshman QB; Tennessee has looked increasingly inept; LSU's offense has rotated between doing just enough to win and being a complete tire fire; and South Carolina just couldn't get out of its own way. Knowing what we know now, the Florida-Missouri contest went exactly according to this familiar script.
The stats aren't awe-inspiring, but when have they ever been for this Gator team? The Gators managed just 276 yards of total offense, while giving up an uncharacteristic 335. The reason for only allowing 7 points? James Franklin's four interceptions, which were less a result of good secondary play than simple bad throws. The Gators even managed to get beat in time of possession, 33:57 to 26:03. The touchdowns that decided the game both came on plays where the skill guy took a short gain and turned it into a long score: Mike Gillislee, a running back, caught a screen pass and ran 45 yards; and Omarius Hines, a wide receiver, took a hand off and scampered 36 yards.
It didn't often look pretty, but the Gators won again today with a dominating defense and an opportunistic offense. Even though many fans let themselves briefly entertain delusions of SEC and National Championships, this team just isn't there yet. What this team is, however, is very good yet very flawed. Even though the Gators likely won't be winning any trophies this year, only the most pessimistic of fans wouldn't be encouraged by this entire season. The Gators are 8-1, 7-1 in the SEC, and will almost definitely finish perfect at the Swamp. The season has also seen the emergence of a solid young core of Gators that will be the future stars of the team: Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard, Antonio Morrison, D.J. Humphries, and, most importantly, Jeff Driskel. Those are the Gators that will eventually be playing for championships. And at 8-1, that might be sooner than we all expected.