No. 7 Florida plays ULL, then pulls for Auburn
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)
No. 7 Florida has one final shot to get to Atlanta.
And the Gators have no control over the scenario.
Coach Will Muschamp's team, which hosts Louisiana-Lafayette for homecoming Saturday, needs Auburn to upset Georgia later in the day to win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division and clinch a spot in next month's league title game.
So Florida (8-1) plays, then watches. That could be a recipe for trouble against the Ragin' Cajuns (5-3). But the Gators insist that won't be the case, especially when they recall what happened last year against lower-division Furman.
Florida came out flat last November and fell behind 22-7 at home before rallying. The scare still resonates with players.
''We definitely can't overlook them,'' Gators linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. ''Looking at the Furman game last year, it kind of reminds me a little bit of them. But I don't think we're looking past them.''
The Gators have won 49 consecutive games against teams outside the six Bowl Championship Series conferences. The streak started after a 17-11 loss to Memphis State in 1988 and includes two wins against Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Rajin' Cajuns are 27-point underdogs in this one.
In the program's first ''paycheck game,'' Louisiana-Lafayette lost 65-24 at Oklahoma State in September.
''We'll need to play much better against the Florida Gators, I can promise you that,'' ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said. ''They're a much better football team, obviously, than Oklahoma State. It'll take a great effort by a team, great preparation. We'll need to take care of the ball.
''We didn't take care of the ball at Oklahoma State. You can't go down to Florida and turn the ball over and not play sound and hope to have a chance. They'll smother you.''
Maybe, just maybe, ULL can surprise the Gators. After all, their players are coming off a grueling, eight-game stretch against SEC opponents, have rival Florida State in two weeks and certainly know they need help from Auburn against Georgia.
''We're definitely going to watch the game when we get done, just like we did last week,'' Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ''But you've got to worry about what you can do and kind of stay focused on what we can control.
''It is tough, but at the end of the day, you've got to put what's in the past in the past and worry about what you can do. And what we can do is play well this week.''
The Gators have played well most of the season. It hasn't always been pretty because of offensive struggles - Florida ranks 102nd in the nation in total yards - but defense and special teams have bailed the team out in several close games.
Florida lone loss was a costly one. Had the Gators beaten rival Georgia two weeks ago, they already would be making travel plans for Atlanta. But they turned the ball over six times and lost 17-9.
Now, the Bulldogs just to beat the Tigers to win the East.
Muschamp is trying to turn his team's attention elsewhere, reminding players that the new goal is to remain unbeaten in The Swamp. The Gators lost two games at Florida Field last year and have a shot at running the home slate for just the fourth time since 2000.
It essentially would be a consolation prize if Florida fails to get to Atlanta.
''I think we have one of the great arenas in all of sports,'' Muschamp said. ''We've got a great following. It's very important. We talk about you want to have a special season, it starts at home. It starts with winning at home.
''Having been a visitor here before, I understand how difficult it is to come in here and play well and win a game. So, I've tried to stress it since Day 1 with our players the importance of playing well at home and defending The Swamp.''