GAINESVILLE — There are still two games remaining in the regular football season, but the big game for the Florida Gators this week is taking place on a hardwood court.
Coach Billy Donovan is taking his eighth-ranked team to Columbus, Ohio, to face No. 3 Ohio State tonight (8, ESPN2, 620-AM). It is a rematch of last year's game which the Buckeyes won 93-75 in the O'Dome, and the Gators' first road test of the season.
"I feel like there's a level of excitement going there to play Ohio State," Donovan said Monday. "For players, I don't know if they necessarily look at it as an opportunity to grow as maybe coaches do, in terms of what we really need to address. But I do think that they like the fact they are playing against a really good team, that they have a lot of respect for, that they know is really, really good. A team that they played last year, and I think got a first-hand glimpse of how good they were. Now we're having to go there and play, and I think there's a level of excitement and enthusiasm in playing a game like this."
Several years ago at the urging of SEC commissioner Mike Slive, Donovan and other league coaches began to beef up their non-conference schedule to bolster postseason resumes come tournament time. But just playing the games isn't enough. Donovan said winning and growing from the higher level of competition is imperative. Otherwise you're just a demoralized team with a lot of losses against tough opponents.
ROBERSON OUT: Freshman CB Marcus Roberson will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a neck injury in the loss to South Carolina. Coach Will Muschamp said Roberson should be able to return in the spring. Roberson played in 10 games this season and had 22 tackles (17 unassisted) and one interception.
"We're still evaluating him, but our medical staff has informed me that he will be out,'' Muschamp said. "It's nothing that's going to be permanent. He'll be fine in four to six weeks. He strained his neck there, and they're just taking precautionary measure, obviously, with something like that. He'll be fine."
Also on the injury front: OT Chaz Green (ankle) is probable this week. Muschamp said the Gators had hoped to have him back last week but his ankle began swelling Thursday and he couldn't go. DE Lerentee McCray (shoulder) is also probable.
LETTING GO: For Florida QB John Brantley, Saturday's five-point loss to South Carolina was hard to accept. Brantley described the plane ride home from Columbia, S.C., as "very quiet" and "a real, long tough flight." The hardest part was trying not to replay the game in his head.
"Saturday night I was definitely sitting around trying to figure out what went wrong and everything and there's a bunch of what-ifs?" Brantley said. "But the game's over with and there's nothing you can do now. All you can do is move on and move forward and get better."
The Gators will attempt to do just that against Furman on Saturday at 1 p.m.
DID YOU KNOW: The football team has five wins this season, and those victories have come against teams with a combined 15-34 record; none of the opponents has a record above .500. On the flip side, its losses have been against legitimate teams that are a combined 41-9.
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.