Surging Gators tackle upstart Louisville in the Sugar Bowl

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Florida safety Matt Elam dogs Louisiana State's Odell Beckham in the Swamp (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)
  • Florida safety Matt Elam dogs Louisiana State's Odell Beckham in the Swamp (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

Florida safety Matt Elam dogs Louisiana State's Odell Beckham in the Swamp (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

January 2nd

8:30 P.M.

ESPN

Gator Nation has to love how sweet it is.

It’s first twelve win season since their 2009 stint in New Orleans where they trounced the Cincinnati Bearcats 51-24, just within grasp.

Or, at least they should.

The psychological and emotional landscape of the Swamp has lilted since that last Sugar Bowl victory. There’s a plethora of factors to consider -- or blame. Crackling folk warrior Tim Tebow graduating to the NFL, taking his playmaking and gusto along with him. Former head football coach Urban Meyer hitching his cart and leaving under the cover of night a year later. A three season famine of SEC Championship appearances.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi filed a fantastic column about the thickening malaise of the Florida fanbase. For the third straight postseason, and the second under sophomore head coach Will Muschamp, the University of Florida has failed to fulfill their ticket allotment. In contract, their opponent, the Big East’s Louisville Cardinals, have more than doubled UF’s ticket orders. The team from a supposed basketball conference that recently got poached and defected into literal nonexistence this fall. An ennui has slumped shoulders and rested chins onto fists throughout the Gator Nation.

But it shouldn’t be. Because these Florida Gators are special.

A punishing running attack and unfathomable defense have proven that Will Muschamp is the truth, who has transformed last season’s meek Florida Gators into a hoard of walking, talking battering rams. Had it not been for a turnover-filled defeat to the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, these Gators could be playing for it all in Miami next Monday. They’re gritty. They’re steeled in the Southeastern Conference furnace. They’re the best Florida team in years.

They need your love.

If the Gator defense can stymie Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater the way they’ve devoured opposing quarterbacks all season long -- and they’ve been grinding offensive units into talcum powder in fourth quarters this year -- then Florida will taste twelve wins again on the Bayou. Look for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel to run often, exploiting a relatively undersized Cardinals defensive front behind the imperious Gator O-line. Expect running back Mike Gillislee to get his, too.

Move the cable television needle, Florida fans. Muschamp and company need to know you’re there. Because, as this season has proven, they’re certainly out there performing for you.

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