5 reasons Florida still has plenty to play for in tough campaign

GAINESVILLE — With Florida’s 28-20 defeat at South Carolina last Saturday, the chances of the Gators going to a bowl game this season all but disappeared.

Just a week after a comprehensive failure of a performance at Missouri, the chance to make a bowl game by closing the season strong had been a rallying cry for a Florida team which has been through so much adversity this season. After all the suspensions, injuries and the loss of their head coach, to play in any bowl would say something about the character of the Gators who remained with the team. At South Carolina, the Gators played hard but came up short.

Florida State, trying to salvage its lengthy streak of bowls and winning seasons, rescheduled a game lost because of Hurricane Irma. Florida’s athletic department has not done so and at this late stage, in the midst of a coaching search, appears disinclined to do so. So Florida’s hopes of a bowl likely ended on Saturday unless the Gators get a surprise bid through their Academic Progress Rating score of 980. So a bid at 5-6 is theoretically possible.

Without a bowl game to rally around, it’s fair to ask how motivated Florida will be in its final two games, starting Saturday against UAB. It’s never easy to play out the string, and it’s even more difficult at the end of a tumultuous season without a head coach. It would be understandable if players and coaches had one foot out the door.

But there’s still plenty to play for too. Here’s five reasons the Gators should want to finish strong.

Defend The Swamp

Florida’s juniors and seniors have been quite good at home, losing once in Gainesville from 2015-16.

Florida’s ability to hold serve in The Swamp was a big reason season ticket sales spiked significantly entering this season, and a huge reason the Gators won back-to-back SEC East Division titles.

Florida’s trend of home dominance changed this October, with consecutive narrow defeats to LSU and Texas A &M.

The two remaining contests are a chance to finish this season strong in The Swamp and salvage some of the homefield advantage from the initial two years of the Jim McElwain era.

Film for the NFL — or the next coaching staff

Call this “pride” if you want, but, more than pride should motivate Florida’s players to finish the season strong.

Players like defensive tackle Taven Bryan and Martez Ivey are almost assured being selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. Bryan has rocketed up draft boards with a monstrous junior campaign in which he often has made opposing linemen look silly. Ivey has slipped a bit in his first full season playing his natural left tackle position but remains the third-rated left tackle available according to The Sports Exchange’s NFL Draft aggregate rating.

For other Gators veterans like senior Duke Dawson, junior Cece Jefferson and tight ends C’yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby, these games are the last chance to put something on film which could help make them rise from a late-round draft pick or undrafted free agent to a mid-round pick with a more secure financial future.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

And the Gators who remain for 2018 should consider these final two games an early positional competition, a chance to put live game reps on film for the new coaching staff to evaluate. Players only get so many chances to put live repetitions on film. Why squander them?

Not losing to UAB, which just restarted football

The Gators won’t want to be a part of a football team which finishes with the school’s worst record since 1979, when Florida finished an ignominious 0-10-1.

UAB dropped its football program at the end of the 2014 season, then reinstated it within months, but the Blazers didn’t play a game for two seasons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *