I have been a student at the University of Florida for over two years now and one common theme I have always heard from my classmates is “Wow, I wish I went to school here from 2006-09.”
Those were the days when UF was on top of the world.
Four combined National Championships in football and basketball, all kinds of athletes and stars on campus, and I’m sure, as you can imagine, some of the best partying this country has ever seen.
Well, I’ve got some news for ya. We have never been as close to those glory years as we are right now. Gator football is back where they belong, an undefeated Top 10 team in the country and Gator basketball is being projected by many to be a number one seed in the NCAA tournament this year. Teams are winning conference and national championships all over the place at this school. We are getting back to where we once were.
This weekend is the beginning of the path back to the top.
This city has come alive for this game like I have never seen it before. Auburn has been a game circled on our calendars for months now, knowing that it could very well be one of the biggest matchups of the season. The anticipation only built as we watched Auburn rack up wins out of the corner of our eye. We watched as quarterback Bo Nix captured the national media’s hearts by beating Oregon in a thriller and absolutely running through Mississippi State, leaving the Bulldogs missing our head coach like they said they never would.
Meanwhile, we watched the Gators eke out a close one against in-state rival Miami, then they lost leader and starting QB Feleipe Franks for the year in a comeback for the ages against Kentucky. Now we’ve seen everybody’s favorite player, the backup QB, come in and keep our season on track with a 5-0 record.
But now the Gators face their toughest test yet. This is the chance they have been waiting for to prove that they belong back among the elite programs in College Football. It’s not just Auburn though. The Gators have a grueling month of October and this weekend is the only time they’re in The Swamp. After this weekend they go to Death Valley (recently announced as an 8 PM on ESPN start) to play a Top 5 LSU team, then South Carolina on the road before the bye week leading into Georgia.
It’s a crazy stretch that would scare any team in the country, and the Gators might have more to prove than any team in the country. The pressure is on and the nation is watching, but the Gators don’t seem phased. When he was asked if he had ever been through a stretch like this before, Dan Mullen had this to say: "Yeah. At Mississippi State we played No. 2, 4 and 6 in consecutive weeks. It was actually 6, 4 and 2 in reverse order. We played No. 6, won, we played No. 4, won, played No. 2, won."
Another common theme guys talked about this week was the motivation for a game like this comes naturally. Mullen was very straight forward about that saying “This is one of those weeks you don’t really need to do that. If we do, we’re in a lot of trouble. I told our guys today, if they need me to give a ‘rah-rah’ to get us going, then they’re pretty messed up in the head right now. This is what you come here for, to play in these games.”
And that train of thought and confidence that Mullen puts on display is clearly contagious, as Wide Receiver Josh Hammond doubled down on that way of thinking in his press conference saying “everybody will be motivated just because of the game. There’s not really much to say. You shouldn’t have to wind guys up for games like this.”
But for the Gators, that extra intensity doesn't distract from the task at hand and they remain focused on their preparation. Hammond followed those comments up by saying “I think the biggest thing for us will be going into practice, controlling the things we can control, make sure we’re preparing the proper way so we can execute at a high-level Saturday.”
Based on Monday’s press conference there is a confident calmness that the Gators are carrying this week and you can tell it starts at the top and trickles down. That is something that should definitely excite Gator fans and from being in town this week I can feel it does. Like I said, I’ve been in Gainesville for over two years now and I’ve never felt the town have this much energy the week of a game. Everybody knows what is lurking on Saturday and the anticipation for it builds by the hour.
I can not remember the last time I was this excited for a Gator game. There is a Top-10 SEC matchup barreling towards The Swamp and College Gameday is coming to our city. These are the kinds of games that you come to the University of Florida for. It’s the kind of game that you take a moment sometime in the third quarter and tell yourself “I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be here.”
It’s the kind of game that you should not and can not miss. Especially if you are a student.
The Swamp is a special setting and when it gets rocking it is the loudest stadium in the country. The reason it rocks that way is because of the students. We set the tone for the atmosphere and when we are on top of our game, the Gators are as well. It’s time for us to prove that we can still bring it and that The Swamp is still the best atmosphere in the country. Show up early. Be loud. Lose your voice. And stay to the end. We’re in for a battle that we won’t soon forget.
I’m tired of hearing that the students show up halfway through the game. I’m tired of hearing that we don’t care about Gator football anymore. I’m tired of hearing that we don’t bring it every Saturday. My challenge to you is to end that narrative this weekend by showing out more than we have since the glory days.
Midtown will always be there, games like this won’t.
It’s time to show the country that the Gators are back. This is the type of weekend that will make kids in 10-15 years say “wow, I wish I went to school here back then.”
The road back to the top starts now. We’re getting back to the glory days. Don’t let them pass you by.