Florida football confident, motivated in Vanderbilt prep; Gators enter first playoff rankings at No. 10

By Adam Silverstein
November 4, 2015

If the No. 10 Florida Gators are actually going to go to Atlanta and play in the SEC Championship Game, well, they still need one more victory. That can come Saturday afternoon against a Vanderbilt Commodores team that may not have a winning record but is certainly playing better football – especially defensively – than it is given credit for playing.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain is well aware of that, which is why his message to his team this week is all about concentrating on Vanderbilt and not worrying how things are going to play out after that.

“We’ve got a lot ahead of us. No, we aren’t looking towards Atlanta, because if we do, we won’t get there,” the coach explained. “What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to look forward to today. Now, whether we do it or not? I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re mature enough. I don’t know if we understand the position we put ourselves in.”

McElwain said that the way the Gators handle themselves in the week leading up to this game – particularly with additional distractions in the form of their playoff ranking and homecoming festivities – will tell him a lot about the team. “To me, this is an opportunity to see how far we’ve come as an organization,” he said. “We’ve got an opportunity to go win a ballgame and solidify us being in Atlanta. That’s the way it should be. That’s why you come to the University of Florida.”

The coach pointed out that the team’s upperclassmen lost to this Vanderbilt team on homecoming a couple years ago, ending an extended winning streak and enduring a serious feeling of embarrassment. As such, UF has plenty of motivation entering a game Saturday against an opponent ranked in the top 25 in total defense and scoring defense nationally, one that according to McElwain has held six of seven opponents to season-lows in offensive production. He hopes those same upperclassmen take pride in turning the tide back to their program in the annual battle with VU.

“I just can’t tell you how proud I am of them and what they’ve done to invest not only in themselves but in this football team and to this university. I think that’s a credit to those guys. I think the seniors, they’re the ones that we should take our hats off to because those guys are playing really hard,” he said. “I think it’s about their opportunity to leave a legacy to restore some order. The reason they came here was to play in games that mean something in November – and they’re doing that.”

But it can’t be all about those upperclassmen – or even the players on the field – according to McElwain, who decided to challenge the Gators’ crowd to really be on top of its game for Saturday’s noon kickoff, a time in which Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has not been filled in recent years with a late-arriving crowd that often lacked enthusiasm early in contests.

“The Swamp has been electric, and it’s been awesome, but now let’s make sure we stumble on into that stadium and be ready for when we’re hustling out of the tunnel because we need all the support we can,” he began. “Believe me, I think they will. This has been a great place to play. It seems like the last time we played here was last year some time. I know we’re really looking forward to playing at home.”

All in all, McElwain just hopes Florida is able to cut the “clutter” and “white noise” out so it can focus on the task at hand. “There’s a lot of stuff that means absolutely nothing,” he said. One way or another, the Gators will learn something from Saturday’s game – either they’re not prepared for the pressure of a big stage, or they’ll be headed to Atlanta to play for a league title for the first time since 2009.

Florida checked in at No. 10 in the initial College Football Playoff Rankings of the 2015 season, sliding into the rankings as the third-highest one-loss team.

Three undefeateds – Clemson (8-0), LSU (7-0) and Ohio State (8-0) – opened the rankings 1-3 with Alabama (7-1) closing out the top four and Notre Dame (7-1) slotting in as the first team out of the playoff. Baylor (7-0), Michigan State (8-0), TCU (8-0) and Iowa (8-0) also slotted ahead of Florida (7-1).

Though CFP chairman Jeff Long said the CFP Selection Committee’s evaluation of the Crimson Tide and Gators was “close,” his explanation that Alabama had one additional quality win compared to Florida – which supposedly explained the Tide being in the playoff while the Gators were nowhere near the top four – did not hold water in the eyes of most.

UF is 3-0 against common opponents of Ole Miss, Georgia and Tennessee, while UA is 2-1 against those teams; the Gators demolished the Rebels 38-10, the same team to hand the Tide their only loss of the season 43-37. Florida outscored UGA and UT by a combined 55-30, while the Alabama won those games 57-24. Consider then that UF’s only loss is to a CFP-ranked No. 2 LSU team, which earned a projected touchdown victory with a fake field goal in a home night game.

So while the CFP’s decision to rank Alabama ahead of Florida was questionable, the fact that the Gators are so far below the Tide – which are “in” the playoff – makes even less sense. Alas, the rankings do not matter much at this point, and Alabama hosting LSU this weekend should allow that situation to shake out right away.

Rounding out the rest of the CFP Rankings are, in order (11-25): Stanford, Utah, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Florida State, Michigan, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Temple, UCLA, Toledo and Houston.


  1. jimmee b says:

    WE, THE FLORIDA GATOR FOOTBALL TEAM and our University have only one way to go — UP!! watch the turkeys fall as Thanksgiving approaches and the cream (GATORS) WIll rise to the top.

  2. Spuntly says:

    “Alabama had one additional quality win compared to Florida” This is one reason why we need to do a better job of OOC scheduling. Next years OOC schedule is embarrassing. We should be trying to get a possible 2 quality wins out of the 4 OOC games.
    Fortunately, over the next there (or 4?) years we have Miami and Michigan scheduled. But there is not a lot of help from OOC games next year if we get caught up with a bunch of one loss teams at years end.

    • Dave Massey says:

      Florida is getting hurt by the weakness of the East Division of the SEC not by their OOC schedule. We do play half ass u every year and they are always ranked in the top 25. South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Mizzou are awful this year. Kentucky may be improving but they are still average at best. Georgia is pretty average without Chubb. Tennessee to me seems to be the only one moving in the right direction. Florida needs the east to drastically improve and their schedule will be fine.

  3. Dave Massey says:

    I didn’t really have an issues With the way the committee voted last year, especially at the last vote. But this is clear prejudice for ND and Bama. I thought they were above this, but I was way wrong. I know a lot of games still have to be played but I don’t believe they will get it right this time. They need an 8 team playoff anyways.

    • Spuntly says:

      Totally agree with at least an 8 team playoff. I think it should vary. Whoever deserves to be in, should be in. This year, just take all the undefeated and one loss teams. Then no one can complain and all arguments will be decided on the field. The 8 team play off would be much better than it is, but it would still leave out teams like Toledo, Memphis, Houston, and other cinderella teams who should at least have a chance if unbeaten at years end.

  4. GatorChomp says:

    Who cares about the poll. To quote Coach Mac, if we take care of business today, tomorrow, walk through on Friday, every play against Vanderbilt and so on and so forth the poll will take care of itself.

  5. GatorGrad98 says:

    Am I missing something? Who cares what the CFP rankings are right now? Whatever team wins the SEC Championship Game will be in the top 4, period. I don’t even understand why they come out with it so quickly anyway… It doesn’t really matter until December. I’m just so excited we can even say those words this year! So proud of this Gator team and our awesome coach! I hope we never lose Coach Mac, he is truly one in a million! GO GATORS!!!

    • Michael Jones says:


    • SW FL Joe says:

      The ranking right now mean nothing but they are released to get people talking and keeping CFB front and center. KC won the World Series in 5 games and the NBA is starting up but all the talking heads can discuss is this week is the CFB Playoff Rankings.

    • Dave Massey says:

      I for one care about the committee rankings right now. It shows what they are thinking. And what they are thinking is very corporate commercial with that BS vote.

      I wouldn’t assume the SEC is a lock for the top 4, in fact, I’d say it’s 50-50 at best. Everybody seems to be assuming we’re going to beat half ass u and that is anything but a given. Lose to them and we’re out. Alabama and LSU from the west are the only teams realistically that can make the final 4. Ole Miss won’t get in with 2 losses. There’s a good probabllity of 3 undefeated teams right now and if that happens the SEC will be fighting with a bunch of teams for that fourth spot. And let’s face it, the SEC is not as strong as it has been in the past. Outside of Florida the east is very weak. Arkansas and Auburn are pretty average in the West. The West teams still have a lot of the top teams playing each other yet.

      The committee put Bama six spots above Florida despite the fact they lost at home to Ole Miss and Florida beat Ole Miss by four touchdowns. Florida also has it’s only loss to LSU, #2 on the road at night in one of the most difficult stadiums to play in as a visitor. And they use the excuse of Bama has one more quality win? Really? That completely ignores the Ole Miss deal and I am assuming they are referring to Wisconsin. Wisconsin is 7-2 and has lost to the only two decent teams it has played, Bama and Iowa. They have 5 home wins. They have beaten Miami, OH (1-8), Troy (2-6), Hawaii (2-7), Nebraska (3-6), Purdue (2-6), Illinois (4-4), and Rutgers (3-5). They are playing Maryland this weekend ((2-6) and don’t play Penn State, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State. And the committee considers that a quality win? By what standards? That is the deciding point between 4 and 10? That’s a bunch of BS is what it is. If those people are thinking like that we really have the wrong people voting. Hell I would put Notre Dame ahead of Bama too because they lost on the road to #1 Clemson. Bama’s loss is to #18.

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