No. 8 Florida looks to continue 'the discovery' against FAU
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida coach Jim McElwain wants his team to continue ''the discovery.''
It's his way of trying to keep the eighth-ranked Gators (9-1) humble, hungry and honed in on the next task at hand, which is Saturday against heavy underdog Florida Atlantic (2-8) in the Swamp.
Florida only has a few chances left in a surprising season that's seen the Gators rise from low expectations to Southeastern Conference and national championship aspirations.
And with rival and 16th-ranked Florida State up next before the SEC title game, Florida can't afford to slip up against the Owls.
''You never arrive,'' McElwain said. ''As soon as you think you arrive, there's someone out there to beat your tail. The discovery is every single day. ... You constantly have to discover to reach a new elevation. So many times what happens is you become comfortable, which is OK. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's not how you're going to be if you really want to be successful.''
Although Florida ranks eighth in the College Football Playoffs rankings, winning out - which likely would include a victory against Alabama in Atlanta next month - would put McElwain's team in the mix for one of the four playoff spots.
''We know that every game is a playoff game from here on out,'' Gators cornerback Jalen Tabor said. ''We know what we've got to do to reach our goals. We've got our heads on straight.''
Florida has talked all week about avoiding complacency and not overlooking the Owls, who are 31-point underdogs.
''We know if we mess around with this game, Florida State really doesn't matter and we're not going to reach our goal anyway,'' Tabor said. ''So we've got to take care of this team first.''
McElwain has done his best to sell Florida Atlantic as dangerous, telling players that quarterback Jaquez Johnson is a running threat and that the Owls execute ''a ton'' of trick plays. The Gators have been burned by both this season, so McElwain used that to remind his players about finding new ways to be successful.
''These are lessons that help businesses, successful businesses, successful organizations that don't just sit on what they've done,'' he said. ''They're constantly reinventing, constantly discovering ways to be successful. Our guys, they find something new every single day. That's what's really cool about it.''
Here are some more things to know about FAU and Florida:
FAU'S FOCUS: The Owls haven't spent a lot of time thinking about upsetting Florida, even after McElwain said most FAU players would love to be playing at Florida. Owls coach Charlie Partridge has his team singularly focused. ''Our players want to get better,'' he said. ''That is our focus right now: to improve our execution and to get better as a football team regardless if it is Florida or the (New England) Patriots or anyone else on our schedule. ... Obviously, they are talking about playoff implications and those kind of things and we are a football team that is focused on getting better as a team. That really is our mantra for the week.''
THIN GATORS: Florida will be without three defensive linemen and also could be without starting left tackle David Sharpe. McElwain ruled out Alex McCalister (foot), Jordan Sherit (hamstring) and Joey Ivie (knee) against the Owls. Sharpe re-injured a foot in practice Thursday.
SWAG TAG: Tabor said this week he likes McElwain's swagger, referring to the coach's penchant for going for it often on fourth down. When asked about having ''swag,'' McElwain offered this: ''It's not a disease, is it? ... You can't be afraid to fail, because if you're afraid to fail, you're going to fail. I just hope that disease is contagious with everybody.''
OWL INJURIES: FAU could be without two of its top rushers, with Trey Rodriguez (shoulder) and Jay Warren (hip) listed as questionable. Rodriguez is second on the team with 419 yards rushing and has a team-high five touchdowns. Warren is third with 268 yards on the ground and two scores.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org