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Gators prepare to embark on November to remember

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As October comes to a close, two-thirds of the college football season is now history. As the calendar turns to November, what does the upcoming month look like for the University of Florida?

The hope is it ends with the knowledge they will earn a return engagement with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

To put it simply, it will be a November to remember for Coach Jim McElwain and his team. Florida has three conference games yet to play, plus a trip to Tallahassee to face Florida State.

The good news is the 10th-ranked Gators have their destiny in their own hands. At 6-1 and 3-1 in the SEC, they will head to Atlanta to face the Crimson Tide if they can win two of their remaining conference games.

Two of those games are on the road, beginning Saturday when Florida heads to Fayetteville, Ark. to face the Razorbacks (5-3/1-3 SEC). Arkansas was ranked 17th until their 56-3 pasting at the hands of Auburn Oct. 22. Florida will likely get the best effort from a humiliated team.

While teams should never take an opponent lightly, the Nov. 12 game against South Carolina at home is expected to be a victory. At the same time, it must be remembered the Gamecocks stunned Tennessee last week.

The game also marks the return of former Gator Coach Will Muschamp, who will likely have some inspired players looking to win one for their coach.

Then comes the trip to Baton Rouge Nov. 19 that never should have been. Instead of hosting LSU in The Swamp in October, Hurricane Matthew and some wrong moves led to switching the game to Tiger Stadium. This was supposed to be a bye week.

Not only is the switch of venue unfortunate, the 15th-ranked Tigers look to be gelling under interim coach Ed Orgeron. LSU was also without star running back Leonard Fournette in October. He will be in the lineup on Nov. 19 barring injury.

Should Florida somehow lose two or all three games, Kentucky (4-2 SEC) and Tennessee (2-3 SEC) are the only two that can deny the Gators the SEC East title.

Tennessee has the tie-breaker over Florida based on their 38-28 victory over the Gators Sept. 25. The Vols need the Gators to lose two more conference games while winning their final three against Kentucky and Missouri at home and Vanderbilt on the road. That is not an impossible task.

Florida has the tie-breaker over Kentucky earned by their 45-7 rout in the conference opener at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Sept. 10. The Wildcats host Georgia on Saturday before traveling to Tennessee on Nov. 12.

Both of Kentucky’s remaining two opponents are under-performing. The Wildcats may also be playing to save the job of Coach Mark Stoops.

Following Florida’s game at LSU, the Gators will know whether they have qualified for the conference title game. They will then heal a little before getting ready to bus to Tallahassee to face the Seminoles on Nov. 26.

After the November to remember, and should Florida win the East, it will be off to Atlanta Dec. 3 to face Alabama without a week off in between. It’s bad enough facing that defense even with an extra seven days to prepare.

The coming month will say a lot about what this Florida team is made of.


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

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