After getting trashed in the Fiesta Bowl, the Gators begin the 1996 season as a top-5 team along with two-time defending champions Nebraska, Florida State, Colorado, and a rising Tennessee led by quarterback Peyton Manning. Sports Illustrated has the Gators third, thanks to the addition of defensive coordinator Bob Stoops from Kansas State.
Safety Lawrence Wright is one player who is using the end of UF's last season as motivation for this run.
The Gators have opened their 1996 campaign with defense stealing the show. Propelled by four defensive touchdowns, the No. 4 Gators defeated Southwestern Louisiana 55-21. Florida cornerback Fred Weary had two touchdown returns; a 64 yard fumble return and a 65 yard interception return.
It was not all good news for the Gators as Heisman candidate Danny Wuerffel struggled and was even benched for a series.
The Gators face Georgia Southern next week with their SEC opener coming two weeks later at Tennessee.