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Florida's path to the BCS national championship

Serious challenges are ahead, but the Gators are trending in the right direction. Dave Miller

Print This October 08, 2012, 02:30 PM EST

Remember when Florida didn't have a quarterback?

The Gators entered their season opener against Bowling Green with Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett battling for the starting job under center, and the most important position on the field was a major question mark for a team that was looking to establish an offensive identity.

After six weeks of the 2012 season, the Gators have a QB. And an identity.

Smash mouth football.

Mike GillisleeUS PRESSWIREMike Gillislee is one of the biggest reasons why Florida can dream big.

Behind a much-improved offensive line and the breakout season from tailback Mike Gillislee, first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease has steadily built this offense into a physical, downhill attack. But he also is able to add in some wrinkles here and there with playmakers such as Trey Burton, Frankie Hammond, Jordan Reed and Omarius Hines. It's a unit that runs enough east-west plays to complement its downhill attack.

For UF, the best part of the offense is that Driskel doesn't have to be flashy. The sophomore was only 8-of-12 passing for 61 yards against LSU on Saturday, but he didn't force many passes and was able to lean on the ground game. Managing the game was all that was necessary.

Defensively, safety Matt Elam and the Gators limited the Tigers to 203 total yards and forced a key fumble after Zach Mettenberger hooked up with Odell Beckham Jr. on a long pass. All three levels of the Florida defense played well this weekend and have played very well in the second halves of wins against Texas A&M and Tennessee. And in the SEC, running the football and defending the rush will keep any team in any game.

Moving forward, the Gators never have to leave the state of Florida the rest of the season after their trip this week to Vanderbilt. Will Muschamp's team will host South Carolina, play Georgia in Jacksonville and travel to Florida State. As dominant as the Gamecocks were against Georgia, it will still be a tough test for Connor Shaw and Co. to come into The Swamp and steal a road win. And the Gators defense will be a more difficult test than Georgia's was in Columbia this past weekend.

If the Gators indeed make it to Atlanta for an SEC Championship game, they could meet LSU again if the Tigers can deal Alabama a loss. Obviously, the Bayou Bengals would hold the tiebreaker over the Crimson Tide. However, if 'Bama does take care of business in the West division and advance to Atlanta, the Gators at least have the defense to play a full game with the Tide. The question, then, would become whether Driskel could make enough plays through the air against a Tide defense that can make an offense one-dimensional in a hurry.

While any national title talk is premature, the fact that Florida is back in the national discussion shows just how good of a job Muschamp has done in Gainesville in such a short time.

This is a Florida program that really hasn't been the same since falling to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship game. But Saturday's win against LSU changed the direction of this team in 2012 and into the future. It may not be sexy football in Gainesville, but it's a brand that could carry the Gators to Miami and the BCS title game.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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