The Gators are a walking dichotomy these days: They have a viable chance to represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff, on the presumption of victory over the next two weekends; and yet, it wouldn’t have been truly stunning news to see Florida fall to Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
To be fair, the Gators and Owls played in monsoon conditions at The Swamp, keeping the scoring low. Within that scope, though, Florida just doesn’t have enough offensive playmakers to run-and-hide from opponents — even challengers from outside the SEC — especially when receiver Demarcus Robinson doesn’t factor into the box score.
Eight completions for quarterback Treon Harris? By extension, no Florida receiver with more than three receptions? It’s a wonder tailback Kelvin Taylor (114 total yards, one TD) only touched the ball 27 times — in a game where Florida and FAU posted similar numbers with first downs, rushing yards, passing yards, total yards, turnovers and time of possession.
Once again, the Gators (10-1 overall) can thank their unyielding defense (ranked sixth nationally) for saving the day, although the Owls had a few golden chances at pulling off the upset. In fact, there were probably a large number of poncho-clad fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium who initially believed Nate Terry had corralled the potential game-winning catch in overtime (on third down).
For what felt like four seconds of real time — tracking when Terry leaped high and long for the ball and eventually hit the ground — Florida’s realistic hopes for a national title had momentarily vanquished. But with narrow victory … comes another chance to impress the Playoff committee at another date; and very few teams can match Florida’s finishing kick of Florida State and likely Alabama in the SEC title game.
For the Gators, it’s still an occasionally ugly, but air-tight case of Win, And You’re In!