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Florida vs. Tennessee: Every game is a "must-win" for the Gators and Will Muschamp

The talk of the Gators needing to win this weekend at Tennessee ignores a simple fact.

Kevin C. Cox

Florida must win this weekend at Tennessee to keep Will Muschamp's seat, hot as Hades as it is, from incinerating.

And then it must win next weekend against LSU to stay in position to win the SEC East.

And it must win against Missouri in two weeks to get revenge for a 2013 beatdown and take down a team that will be no less than tied for the lead in the East at that point.

And the Gators have to beat Georgia to prevent Muschamp from falling to 0-4 in that border war.

And ... well, you get it.

Florida's given up the only gimme it gets in SEC play, and they're all must-wins from here on in, except maybe for that trip to Tallahassee to face Florida State.

Muschamp touched on this in his Monday press conference after being asked about Florida's "margin for error" and told "you're already facing a must-win" by the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson (the relevant exchange begins at about 4:35):

"They're all must-win, Edgar. When has it ever changed? I mean, really?"

Muschamp delivered that answer without much of the good humor that he sometimes lends to honest answers to dumb questions; you could call the exchange "testy," and you wouldn't be wrong. But Muschamp's not wrong, either: It has become more and more clear over his tenure that Florida fans expect the Gators to win every game they play on a football field, making all of them "must-wins" of varying degrees.

This Tennessee game is arguably the "most" "must-win" of Florida's must-wins this year. Without a win on Saturday, Florida will likely need to go 5-0 over a five-game stretch against LSU, Missouri, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina to be sure of a shot at the SEC East, even given the East's diminution this season, and will sit at 2-2 overall for the first time since 2003.

But winning against Tennessee won't have any bearing on Florida fans expecting, in the abstract, Florida prevailing in the rest of its games. Such is the intensity of this fan base for this team, especially after a season in which must-win games were lost with stunning, dismaying frequency.

Yes, this is a must-win game that Florida plays on Saturday at Neyland.

So is every other game Florida plays in 2014.