For the Florida Gators, however, it begins this Saturday and continues throughout the month of October.
Yes, the SEC scheduling gods decided to play Trick or Treat on the Gators who face a terrifying gauntlet which includes #3 Ole Miss this Saturday in the Swamp, a trip to east division rival Missouri the following Saturday, #9 LSU in Baton Rouge October 17, and finishes up with #8 Georgia in Jacksonville on October 31.
On paper, this schedule looks to be a trick for the Gators but fans are holding out hope for a treat.
The Gators will likely be at least a touchdown underdog in every game except Missouri, but if they can navigate the difficult schedule victoriously, a top ten possibly top five ranking awaits.
That would be huge for a team that was unranked to start the season and hadn’t been ranked in the AP poll for almost two years before sliding in this week at #25.
I’m guessing, however, that fans would be happy if the team could at least break even for the month of October. Depending upon how they look in the games even a 6-2 record heading into November should be enough to remain in the Top 25.
Ole Miss looks like the most complete team of the four. They’ve had a strong defense for a few years now and are deep and experienced led by the Nkemdiche brothers. DT Robert Nkemdiche looks like a potential top pick in the draft with his size, strength, speed, and athleticism.
What this team has lacked is solid, consistent quarterback play. They’ve got that now with Chad Kelly the Clemson transfer. They’ve got perhaps the deepest wide receiver corps in the SEC with a two deep rotation where every receiver is 6-2 or taller.
Wideout Laquon Treadwell was the nation’s top receiver coming out of high school and has played like it the last couple of seasons.
It will be an interesting matchup with top CB Vernon Hargreaves. The two last battled each other as high school seniors in the Under Armor All American game at which Hargreaves was named an MVP.
The Gators’ deep and talented defensive backfield , one of the SEC’s and nation’s best units, will be supremely challenged against Ole Miss. It should make for an exciting strength versus strength matchup.
Of the four teams, unranked Missouri should be the Gators easiest matchup at least on paper. Starting quarterback Maty Mauk, who torched the Gators a couple seasons ago, has been less than stellar despite the promise he showed as a freshman.
Mauk is suspended for this week’s game against South Carolina and the official word is his suspension will be evaluated after that game. So there’s a chance he won’t even play against the Gators.
LSU is a typical LSU team, big and physical with a stout defense. Led this year by potential Heisman winner RB Leonard Fournette who looks like he could be a 2,000 yard rusher before season’s end, the Gator defense will have a 180 degree challenge from the Ole Miss game.
The Gators front seven, which lacks depth in the linebacker corps and has struggled to stop the run consistently, will be tested against LSU. They’ll need to do a much better job of tackling than they did against Tennessee.
If they thought Dobbs and Hurd were difficult to bring down, they’ll have a rude awakening trying to stop Fournette.
LSU and Ole Miss should battle for the SEC west championship and will be in the running for the national playoff.
The other SEC team in the running for the national playoff is east rival Georgia whom the Gators face on Halloween.
Despite winning this game easily in rather shocking fashion last season, the Gators will likely be decisive underdogs this season.
This Georgia team is probably the best since Mark Richt has been their head coach and it is led at quarterback by Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert who has been the surprise of the SEC thus far in the season.
The Bulldogs have the best stable of running backs in the SEC and arguably in the nation led by the versatile Nick Chubb who has all the tools with size, speed, and agility, and he’s a solid receiver out of the backfield.
If Mark Richt doesn’t get a national championship ring this season he may never as coach at Georgia.
The Gators will certainly be tested against the Bulldogs but as always in this game, paper victories aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
The biggest question will be what the Gators’ psyche is like after the October gauntlet. If they lose two or three will they be up for this game or simply ready to call it in for the season? If they somehow surprisingly win out, will they be able to handle success and the accolades that come with it.
Believe me, if somehow they’re able to navigate this crazy schedule they will be getting a ton of national attention which can be difficult for a young team to handle.
Regardless, October presents a Trick or Treat of sorts for the Gators. The haunting schedule is most likely a trick but could very well turn out to be a treat for fans and players alike.