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Gators firmly in control of their own destiny

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After Saturday’s 21-3 win over the Missouri Tigers, the Florida Gators can feel good about a conference win on the road against a quality opponent. They can feel great about their immediate future.

By improving their conference record to 4-0, the Gators are firmly in command of their post season future. They are now the odds-on favorite to represent the Eastern Division in the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009.

Going into Saturday, Georgia and Florida were poised to roll into their October 31 showdown knowing that a victory over the other would likely propel that team to the championship game. Following a bitter defeat at Tennessee on Saturday, the Bulldogs, with two conference losses, now need help.

The Bulldogs actually lost twice on Saturday, placing a major pothole on their road to the Eastern Division title. The knee injury suffered by Heisman Trophy candidate Nick Chubb removes a vital component to the Georgia offense. The Bulldogs cannot rely on their defense to take up the slack.

Georgia’s loss puts next Saturday’s Florida vs. LSU game in a different context. LSU will be favored at home over the Gators, but even if Florida falls to the Western Division Tigers, they would still have only one loss.

After next week’s game in Baton Rouge, Florida will have two weeks to prepare for Georgia. The Gators are likely to be favored in that game and in their final two conference games against Vanderbilt and South Carolina, both winless in conference play.

Should Florida come up short at LSU, they are still in charge of their own destiny. Coach Jim McElwain will rightfully have none of this. His only focus is beating the Tigers.

Florida is certainly the beneficiary of lowered expectations this year. The level of their success, like that of the Big Ten’s Michigan, was thought to be a year away.

Gator fans should call it a bonus. Enjoy the ride.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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