By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE — Florida’s chances of winning the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division are slim.
The 10th-ranked Gators need to win their final two conference games and have No. 6 Georgia lose twice in the next three weeks to get to Atlanta for the first time in three years. The Bulldogs host Missouri on Saturday and then play at No. 12 Auburn before finishing league play back home against Texas A&M.
No one in Gainesville is counting on that scenario playing out, so Florida has altered its goals down the stretch.
After weeks of talk about possibly getting back to the SEC title game and being in the mix for the College Football Playoff, the Gators (7-2, 4-2 SEC) are now focused on winning 10 games in consecutive years for the first time in a decade and making another New Year’s Six bowl.
It’s a realistic outlook if Florida can avoid another “Cocktail Party” hangover.
The push begins Saturday against Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4), which has lost five straight and 27 of the last 28 in the series.
“It’s hard to win double digits in college football,” defensive tackle Adam Shuler said. “We think we’re capable of doing it. It would mean a lot to us — to leave our names.”
Florida hasn’t notched double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons since quarterback Tim Tebow’s final two years (2008-09). Coach Dan Mullen mentioned that to his team after last Saturday’s 24-17 loss to Georgia in Jacksonville, reminding players “there’s an awful lot to still play for, a lot of football still left.”
“For our guys, the focus has to be the competitive nature,” Mullen said this week. “If you’re a competitor, you can’t wait to get back out there and get back to work. You can’t wait to go find a way to win the game this Saturday and hit the field again.”