On Saturday night, college football fans in every corner of the country other than the South will have no choice but to become Notre Dame fans. That’s because to avoid another national nightmare- i.e., an all-SEC National Championship Game- the Irish need to hold on and win at USC.
We’re just kidding of course, but that’s the reality college football fans are facing, courtesy of the Florida Gators. Will Muschamp’s crew once again took care of business Saturday afternoon and upset heavily favored rival Florida State 37-26.
For college football fans this final was not only surprising not only in the one-sidedness of the final score, but in the one-sidedness of how the game played out. In every facet of the game the Gators were simply the better team, and used a big fourth quarter to turn a once-close game into a laugher by the final whistle.
That dominance on offense started on the first drive when they took the ball 54 yards before eventually settling for a field goal, and didn’t truly end until late in the fourth quarter when Florida put up 23 points on the Seminoles in the final 15 minutes of play. In total they accounted for 393 yards against a team which had allowed just 236 per game entering Saturday, and they also put up 37 points on a club which had been allowing just 13 per contest as well. The Gators weren’t completely dominant, but they were efficient when they needed to be.
And while the stat sheet will tell you that Mike Gillislee was the star for Florida (in his defense, he did finish with two touchdowns, including a back-breaking 37-yard run in the middle of the fourth quarter) don’t sleep on the role his offensive line played, or the heart that quarterback Jeff Driskel showed as well. The sophomore quarterback was hobbled all week with a bad ankle, but gutted out four quarters of brilliant play to help his team win. Driskel finished the afternoon with 147 yards passing and a touchdown, and also committed zero turnovers, while his counterpart from Florida State E.J. Manuel had four. Like his team, Driskel wasn’t perfect, but made enough winning plays to help his club seal a win.
Now, with the hard part over, the excruciating part begins: The Gators need USC and their former thorn-in-their-side Lane Kiffin to pull the upset over No. 1 Notre Dame.
The upset isn’t likely, but if it happens, Florida will almost certainly end up as the second school invited to the BCS National Championship Game. At that point one of the three teams ahead of the Gators (Notre Dame) would already have a loss, and one of the other two (Georgia or Alabama) will have one as well, after they play each other next week in the SEC Championship Game.
And while it is a long-shot, if the Gators do somehow get to Miami, it wouldn’t be an unwarranted trip. Florida will finish the regular season with the most impressive resume of anyone in college football, with victories over a pair of 10-win teams in Florida State and LSU, as well as two teams (South Carolina and Texas A&M) which are going for their 10th wins on Saturday night.
Now everyone in Gainesville can do is watch and pray and hope for a Notre Dame upset.
Who would’ve ever guessed that Florida fans would one day root for Lane Kiffin?
It’ll happen tonight.
For all his opinion, analysis and insight on college football, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.