Undefeated: Florida's Biggest Challenge Looms in October -- As Always

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Florida's undefeated through September -- which isn't that much news. What happens next will decide whether this is a special season or another brief ray of hope.

Florida will have an undefeated September. There's no dispute about this, largely because the Gators don't play another game until the Oct. 6 showdown with LSU in the Swamp. Not that there's anything new about that; Florida has been undefeated through September every year since 2008, when they lost to Ole Miss, and we all know what happened after that defeat.

This September start might be a little bit more impressive than the last three, though, because it included trips to Texas A&M and a Tennessee team that was thought to be improving before Florida capsized the Volunteer Navy in the second half. Still, it's reasonable to take the Ronald Reagan approach and trust Florida this season -- but have them verify that this season is for real.

Victims: Bowling Green, at Texas A&M, at Tennessee, Kentucky

Remaining schedule: LSU, at Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, at Florida State

What's gone right: Mike Gillislee tops the list; even after suffering a groin injury in the Texas A&M game, Gillislee came back the next week to run for 115 yards in the win over Tennessee. He's rushing at a healthy 5.8 yards per carry average, gaining 402 yards and five touchdowns on 69 attempts. Jeff Driskel has also been exceptionally efficient, even if he doesn't throw for eye-popping yardage totals, and has added 148 yards on the ground. With a defense that only allows 305 yards a game and limits opponents to 12.75 points, that's more than good enough on offense to win a few.

Potential pitfalls: Balance for balance's sake can be a mistake, but Florida has taken things a bit far in the other direction by only passing for 183 yards a game, putting itself in the bottom 20 in terms of yardage. And offensive line is giving up an average of three sacks a game -- providing even more incentive for other teams to fill up the box and try to shut down the run or get to the quarterback, or both. And the Gators have their own issues bringing down the quarterback in the backfield, ranking 12th in the SEC in sacks. But the most daunting aspect of Florida's future might be that schedule -- LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and the trip to Florida State are all undefeated and have at least an outside shot to still be so when Florida faces them. (Though it's worth pointing out that South Carolina and Georgia play each other before either faces Florida, so one of them will have a loss at that point.)

Prognosis: October is going to be decisive month for Florida. Win at least two of those games and the Gators won't still be undefeated, but should be on track for the kind of nine- or 10-win season that will keep Will Muschamp on the sideline for another year. Even if Florida loses the three strongest games on the schedule, though, it could still be at least an eight-win regular season -- add on a ninth victory through the bowl game and the head coach can claim he's making some progress. A seven-win regular season is almost assured -- but it would be a disappointing outcome that would probably warm up Muschamp's seat and make next season a make-or-break proposition.

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