Gators close to ending drought

After five years, Florida has its first real chance at a title.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:19 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators spent recent Novembers hoping for help in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.

They needed to win out and have Tennessee tumble or Georgia stumble to make the league championship game in Atlanta. It never happened, leaving Florida out of the title game each of the last five years.

The seventh-ranked Gators are in position to end the drought. They don’t need any assistance, either.

“That’s a real nice feeling,” linebacker Brandon Siler said. “It’s hard cheering for other teams and hoping that things happen. Even though you’ve got to concentrate on your game, if somebody else loses, then you know your destiny is different. It’s way different now. I don’t have to watch other teams play.”

Florida (7-1, 5-1) can win the East with victories at Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-4) on Saturday and against South Carolina (5-3, 3-3) the following week. The Gators also would clinch the division with a win Saturday and a loss by Tennessee. The eighth-ranked Volunteers host No. 13 LSU.

“It’s definitely a new feeling,” senior receiver Jemalle Cornelius said.

“We haven’t been this fortunate around here for a while, so we’re trying to make sure we don’t let this opportunity slip away from us. We’ve got to make sure we stay focused, keep playing hard and find a way to win games.”

The Gators beat Georgia 21-14 Saturday to stay on top of the division, ending a brutal four-game stretch against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and the Bulldogs with a 3-1 record.

“That was a big one,” Siler said. “That’s a big lump to get over. Of course, we’ve got to keep playing how we’re playing and win on out. But that was a big lump. That was a big stretch we’ve been talking about and the nation’s been talking about.”

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