GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida could have two significant streaks at stake Saturday against Vanderbilt.
The Gators don't really want to talk about either of them.
Not only does Florida have a 22-game winning streak on the line against the Commodores, coach Will Muschamp's team probably needs a victory to extend the nation's second-longest active bowl streak.
The Gators (4-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) have gone bowling in each of the last 22 seasons, dating to former coach Steve Spurrier's second year in Gainesville.
That streak could be in jeopardy if Florida doesn't beat Vandy (4-4, 1-4). The Gators have games remaining against No. 13 South Carolina (7-2), lower-division Georgia Southern (4-4) and third-ranked Florida State (8-0) - and there's only one gimme in the group.
So the Vandy game is big - really big.
"We're definitely trying to make a bowl," quarterback Tyler Murphy said. "That's definitely a goal. We want to make a bowl. But we're really focused on just beating Vanderbilt. ... We're kind of in a hole right now, so we're just looking to keep fighting and find our way out."
Florida has dropped three in a row thanks to a combination of inept offense, porous defense, slow starts, costly penalties and missed opportunities.
The Gators trailed 20-0 Saturday against rival Georgia, which scored on its first four possessions. Florida rallied, cutting the lead to 23-20 early in the fourth quarter, but faltered down the stretch while trying to put together a game-tying or game-winning drive.
Making matters worse, Muschamp's defense couldn't get off field during the final possession, surrendering an 8-minute, 17-second drive that was aided by Darious Cumming's personal-foul penalty.
The Gators were penalized seven times for 70 yards. They were flagged four more times for unsportsmanlike conduct, but all were offsetting.
"That type of game, the emotions were high, we were coming back," safety Jaylen Watkins said. "A few guys kinda let their emotions get too high, and it really defeated the goal of winning the game. But that comes with the atmosphere. We have to be more disciplined in that point, especially when we're making a good comeback and everything."
Florida leads the SEC in penalties and yards, on pace to top the league in those categories for the third consecutive season.
"It's something we coach every day," Muschamp said Monday. "Obviously, we're not doing a very good job. It's something we emphasize, something we talk about. We talked about this is an emotional game. We gotta learn to walk away from those situations, and it's something I'm going to address with the team again today."
He has no plans to talk about bowl eligibility, although that's on many minds in Gainesville.
He doesn't believe his players need extra incentive down the stretch.
"Motivation is what you saw in the second half (against Georgia), those guys playing for each other," Muschamp said. "We've got a close-knit football team, a team that's got character and you wouldn't have seen that in the second half if that wasn't the case. So our guys will play. They'll play hard."
Although Florida wasn't bowl eligible in 1990, it wasn't because of its record. The Gators finished 9-2 and ranked No. 12 that season, but missed the postseason because of NCAA sanctions. The last time Florida failed to win enough games to become bowl eligible was 1986, when former coach Galen Hall's group went 6-5.
Nonetheless, this situation is nothing new at Florida.
Just two years ago, in Muschamp's first season, the Gators needed wins against Vanderbilt and lower-division Furman to extend their bowl streak. They won both and later beat Ohio State in the Gator Bowl to avoid their first losing season since 1979.
"Everybody is real disappointed right now," Watkins said. "We've lost three in a row and definitely canceled out our chances in the East. Now the main goal is to become bowl eligible. It's pretty weird, but back in 2011, it was kind of the same feeling. We did become bowl eligible and we did have a lot to play for that year."
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