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Florida remains at No. 4 in the latest BCS rankings released Sunday night.

Sunday November 25, 2012Gators Gain Supporters in BCS Chase after FSU Win

Florida remains at No. 4 in the latest BCS rankings released Sunday night.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- They crammed into the narrow visiting locker room at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night full of elation.

Gators head coach Will Muschamp, his hair still damp from a Gatorade bath courtesy of offensive linemen James Wilson and D.J. Humphries minutes earlier, delivered a short and simple message following his team's 37-26 win over Florida State.

"That's what you have done all year,'' Muschamp yelled.

The Gators put away the Seminoles in the same fashion they did 10 other opponents on the way to an 11-1 regular season, a five-game improvement over Muschamp's first season.

They used a physical and stifling defense. They relied heavily on kicker Caleb Sturgis and the special teams. They forced five turnovers. They depended on the legs of running back Mike Gillislee and for quarterback Jeff Driskel to efficiently manage the offense.

They heard the critics and kept on winning their way.

"I think it was a really sexy win," Muschamp told reporters with a wide grin. "I was going to come in with my shirt off, but my players didn't want me to."

The Gators then packed and headed back home to Gainesville waiting on the outcome of the Notre Dame-South Cal game. They didn't get the outcome they wanted -- a USC win would have likely earned the Gators a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

Still, the Gators learned Sunday night they remain No. 4 in the BCS rankings and based on postseason projections, are headed to the Sugar Bowl as part of the BCS party. The top four teams in the final BCS rankings automatically earn BCS bowl trips.

The Gators would be in the running for the national title in two years when the BCS playoff system is implemented. For now, the latest BCS bowl projections have Florida facing Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans.

Adding to Florida's case is the fact the Gators are 4-1 against teams in the BCS top 13. The top three teams in the BCS -- Notre Dame, Alabama and Georgia -- are just 4-2 against top 13 BCS teams.

While No. 1 Notre Dame is expected to face the SEC Championship Game winner between Alabama and Georgia, the Gators put together perhaps as strong a case as either the Crimson Tide or Bulldogs to play the Fighting Irish.

"At the end of the day you want to be in the conversation," Muschamp said. "We're in the conversation.”

The Gators own one of the most impressive résumés of any team in the country. Florida has wins over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State. Those four teams have a combined record of 40-8, which is all you need to know about the Gators' schedule.

Whatever questions existed about the Gators prior to the season, they answered them on a weekly basis.

"That's just a testament to what we've been doing all season,'' senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray said. "People had us not even winning eight games at the start of the season.

"We wanted to prove them wrong and we did. One thing I can say about this team is that we never lose confidence. We know what we've got on this team."

Florida's impressive comeback win over the Seminoles on Saturday -- the eighth comeback win of the season for the Gators and third fourth-quarter comeback -- resonated nationally.

"Notre Dame and Florida were the two teams that really stood out to me" over the weekend ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on Sunday night's "BCS Countdown Show."

Herbstreit's ESPN colleague, former Gators quarterback Jesse Palmer, was even stronger in his support of the Gators after watching Florida rush for 244 yards against the Seminoles, who entered the game with the No. 1 ranked defense in the country.

"When they run the football the way they did against LSU and Florida State, they are the best team in the entire country with that defense,'' Palmer said of the Gators. "They beat the team [Texas A&M] that Alabama lost to. They smashed the team [South Carolina] that smashed Georgia."

Muschamp made his push for the Gators after Saturday's win. He's seen this team do all season what others are talking about now.

"Our guys understand it's about 60 minutes, and it's about how you continue to play and perform," Muschamp said. "And we've really challenged our football team on winning the fourth quarter and getting in those games and those situations and performing well when the game's on the line.

"We didn't do that well a year ago, and we've done it pretty good this year. It's a 365-day job a year and you've got to continue to chop the wood every single day at it, and we have made tremendous progress."

There is no denying that fact regardless where the Gators stack up in the final BCS rankings.


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