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Florida vs. Georgia, Game Thread, first half: For the Gators, it's time to restore the order

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The Gators are ahead of schedule. And today, they can rip a page or three off their calendar.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Florida shouldn't be here.

One year ago, when Florida was heading into the Georgia game with a new starting quarterback after a Homecoming beatdown, it was all but a given that the Gators would have a new coach in 2015. Despite their stunning win over Georgia, the Gators did shoo Will Muschamp, eventually, setting up a rebuilding year and a renewal of hope.

What few expected in 2015, though, was a return to glory.

Yet that's what Florida's gotten under Jim McElwain, with wins both big (Mississippi) and stirring (Tennessee). Even the Gators' losses in 2015 — the one of Will Grier, and then the one to LSU — just feel like growing pains, rather than the dull thuds against strained metal that losses under Muschamp eventually became.

And now McElwain's Florida has a chance to do something no other Florida coach's Gators have: Go undefeated against SEC East teams in his first season, and make the SEC Championship Game.

Steve Spurrier's Gators didn't do that in 1990, even though there wasn't an SEC East then, but they didn't do it in 1992, either, falling to Tennessee before rallying to win the division. Urban Meyer's didn't in 2005: They lost to South Carolina for the first time since 1939. And Muschamp's 2011 season featured a 3-2 record against the SEC East.

Naturally, the other guy whose Gators did go undefeated against the SEC East in their first pass was Ron Zook. But losses to Mississippi and LSU that year left the Gators at home when it came time to trek to Atlanta.

McElwain's team has three more games to go to make it to Atlanta. Win all three, against Georgia and Vanderbilt and South Carolina, and the Gators will be SEC Championship Game-bound for the first time since 2009, with their "rightful" place atop the SEC East's pecking order restored.

I would never have expected that this season, certainly not a year after I jokingly predicted naught but unhappiness for Florida fans after the Georgia game. But I was happy to be wrong then, and I am even happier to be wrong now; I'm not predicting anything for this game because I don't want to worry about being right or wrong about this game on this day.

I want to be happy. And I think Florida can make me happy.

And that's really refreshing to say. Let's go, Gators.