There was a time when winning the SEC East was a foregone conclusion for Florida football.
In the Steve Spurrier era, the Florida Gators won the east in seven of the first nine years of divisional play. Trips to Birmingham and Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game were the norm, not the exception.
Alas, it’s Kirby Smart’s world now, as Georgia has won the SEC East in five of the last six years. UF did interrupt that string during the pandemic season in 2020, winning the SEC East before the beginning of the end of the Dan Mullen era.
Center of attention: Florida football has a key player expected back for Tennessee game
Ground game returns: Florida football has a key player expected back for Tennessee game
Florida will begin its quest to end divisional play on a high note when it hosts rival No. 9 Tennessee on Saturday at The Swamp (7 p.m., ESPN). Not many are expecting UF to unseat Georgia as division champs in its second season under head coach Billy Napier. The Gators (1-1) have been picked to finish anywhere from third to fifth in division and enter this week as 7.5-point underdogs at home against the resurgent Vols, who went 11-2 last season.
But September remains a time for optimism. If Florida could upset the Vols, it would go a long way in changing perception about UF’s ability to compete for a division crown.
“I remember Coach Spurrier talking to us about the importance of winning the SEC East, what that meant when we beat Tennessee in September, to give us basically a two-game lead in the standings,” former Florida receiver Chris Doering said on the Gainesville Sun’s Swampcast last month.
Napier, who grew up a fan of Florida’s football teams under Spurrier in the 1990s, understands the importance of the divisional game as well.
“It’s an incredible opportunity, man,” Napier said. “I think for me in particular, I can…
Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/last-division-race-florida-football-080444390.html?src=rss
Author : The Gainesville Sun
Publish date : 2023-09-12 08:04:44
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