GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida players didn’t need to wait for the votes. They knew.
Another SEC Media Days came and went last week, and yet again the Gators were not voted as the favorite in the Eastern division.
“We take it as something that fuels the fire,” UF cornerback Duke Dawson said. “It kind of puts a chip on our shoulder because we’re still not getting respect. We ask ourselves, what else do we have to do to earn that respect? I guess if we keeping winning, they’ll start to realize it.”
“We have that problem every year. We have to come out and prove it to everyone. As you can tell, that’s just what we did the last two years. Getting that taste of nine and 10 wins, now want to get more than that.”
The Gators have won the last two East titles, making Jim McElwain the first coach in SEC history to take his team to Atlanta in his first two seasons. However, the media views Georgia as the East favorite in 2017.
UGA received 1,572 votes last week, edging the Gators by 46 votes. The Bulldogs also had 138 first-place votes for the Eastern division, ahead of Florida’s 96.
“We’re the two-time defending East champions, so it doesn’t matter what people say,” UF left tackle Martez Ivey said. “We’ve been the underdog the last two years and won it, so this year makes no difference.
“If we have to go out and do it three times to earn respect, then that’s what we’re going to do. Our goal is not only to win the East, but the SEC as a whole.”
While the players admittedly pay attention to the preseason picks, McElwain said they don’t bother or interest him. He also thinks that kind of motivation can only take his team so far.
“That’s not something we really focus on,” McElwain said. “The only way you have an opportunity to test yourself and see who you are is to go out there and play. It doesn’t matter at this juncture where we’re picked.
“And how much truly does motivation get you through the hard times? I’m not sure, right? It’s the preparation and the attention to detail that you’ve put into it going into whatever event it is that’s going to help you be successful. Will somebody at least say we exist? That would be nice, I guess.”