By ROBBIE ANDREU
Sun sports writer
AP Photo/Steve Cannon
There is a huge difference.
Florida's formula for winning its first SEC Eastern Division title since 2000 is very uncomplicated now.
Win two games.
Beat Vanderbilt on Saturday and South Carolina in two weeks and the Gators are going to the SEC title game Dec. 2 in Atlanta, regardless of what anyone else does in the division down the stretch.
The situation is so unlike three of the past four seasons, when the Gators were clinging to contention and needing help from other SEC teams.
No scoreboard watching is required this season. The Gators just need to win.
"That's a nice feeling when you know you're in control," junior middle linebacker Brandon Siler said Monday. "We're in control of our own destiny."
UF did not have control in 2002, 2003 and 2005. To win the division, the Gators needed help.
In 2002, they needed Auburn to beat Georgia. It didn't happen.
In 2003, they needed Tennessee to lose down the stretch. It didn't happen.
Last season, they needed to beat South Carolina and get an Auburn win over Georgia that same night. It didn't happen (UF lost at USC).
The Gators don't need anybody's help this season.
"I'm glad I don't have that feeling anymore. That's a way different feeling," Siler said. "It's a lot worse when you have to depend on other teams. You don't know what other teams have been doing in the offseason, you don't know if people are nicked up. You have to root for and against people you don't even know. That's a bad feeling. It's hard cheering for other teams, hoping things happen.
"It's way different now. I don't have to watch any other teams play. Just win. That should be everybody's motto. That's an easy one. In the last couple of weeks if we win, we go (to the SEC title game). That's what we've been trying to do."
The Gators actually have a chance to clinch the division title Saturday. If UF beats Vanderbilt and Tennessee falls to LSU in Knoxville, the Gators are heading to Atlanta.
But the UF players say none of their focus is on the UT-LSU game. Siler said he wasn't even aware that those two teams were playing Saturday and what the outcome could mean for Florida. The Gators say they're focusing on Vanderbilt - and themselves.
"We're in a good position right now and it's a one-game season for us from here on out," senior wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius said. "So, we've got to make sure that we're focused on the team we're playing.
"Vanderbilt has got a good team this year. They beat Georgia. They can put some points up and they can play some good defense. We've got to make sure we prepare well for them."
This is the best chance any of the current UF players have had to win the division.
"We haven't had a lot of winning around here. We haven't won any rings or championships," junior defensive end Jarvis Moss said. "That's something everyone really wants. That's the reason we've been playing the way we have this year. We have a lot to play for. It's very reachable for us.
"We really can't be concerned about LSU and Tennessee. We can take care of ourselves and that's by winning out. If we do that, we'll be right where we want to be. We just have to worry about the Gators. We have to prepare and win the rest of our conference games."
The rest is now down to just two - Vanderbilt and South Carolina. The Gators will be favored in both games.
"It's game-time now," junior cornerback Ryan Smith said. "We've got to execute. I think these are winnable games. If we come out and execute like we should I don't see why we shouldn't be in the SEC Championship Game.
"For a lot of seniors, this is their last chance. This is a hell of a run for us. I think it will hurt if we come out anything less than SEC champions. We've got to win it for those guys."
Robbie Andreu can be reached at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org