GAINESVILLE -- After Florida’s win Saturday, before Oregon or Kansas State had stepped onto the field to play their respective games, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was asked if the Gators still have their sights set on somehow making it to the national championship game.
“Anything can happen at this point,” he said.
The response turned out to be prophetic, as the top-ranked Ducks and Wildcats both fell Saturday night, positioning No. 4 Florida for at least a berth in a BCS bowl game, possibly even the championship in Miami even though it has a blemish on its record and “style points” have been in short supply in recent weeks.
In the crazy world of college football, that’s reality.
After Georgia clinched the Southeastern Conference East division and a trip to Atlanta for the conference championship game, coach Will Muschamp said he spoke to his team about what was still out there within reach.
“They are very well aware of it,” he said. “We all understand where we are. Generally, if you don’t address it, you can stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not going to get talked about. It is going to get talked about.”
Where they are is right in the thick of the national discussion. But, of course, what happened to Collin Klein and the Wildcats and Marcus Mariota and the Ducks can happen to the Gators this weekend in a rivalry game with the Florida State Seminoles.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who filled in Saturday for injured starter Jeff Driskel, said the topic is discussed in every practice and every team meeting.
“Every win counts,” he said. “In one game, it all can be shattered, so make sure we become 1-0 for that week.”
Even if UF is able to beat FSU, the loss to Georgia means Florida still needs help. And although the Gators have played the nation’s toughest schedule and tout three wins against teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS Standings, if it comes down to choosing between Florida and several other one-loss teams for a top bowl, lackluster wins against Louisiana-Lafayette and FCS opponent Jacksonville State could hurt the Gators.
Expectedly, Muschamp said he is not a fan of style points. Asked why wins take a back seat to perception, he said: “Because there [are] too many people on the radio and TV that have nothing to do.”
Florida’s recipe for success might not be pretty at times, but it’s hard to argue with the finished product. The Gators have a few key ingredients, namely a dominant defense, that keeps them in every game they play and allows them to grind out wins while those around them continue to fall. That’s exactly what Muschamp said he had in mind before the season.
“I thought we were going to be a team that was going to have to grind it out a little bit offensively, that’s going to need to play very good defense, that going to need to stay injury-free, especially inside defensively because of our lack of depth in some situations, which we’ve been able to,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s a better defense in the country.”
If there is, the Gators will see it on Saturday. The Seminoles top the charts nationally in total defense and rushing defense and are ranked fifth in scoring defense and passing defense.
And although the appeal of a potential BCS berth can certainly become a distraction, Muschamp said he doesn’t think that will be a problem against Florida State.
“When you play in a rivalry like we are going to face Saturday,” he said, “their juices will be flowing regardless of what may be outside of that.”