GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Urban Meyer spent the first part of Sunday's practice talking about the national championship picture and what it means to the Gators, a topic that had been off-limits for the players.
Five games after the loss to Ole Miss, Florida (8-1) has clinched an SEC East title, and on Sunday it moved up in the Associated Press and USA Today national polls to No. 3, jumping ahead of one-loss Texas. In the BCS standings, Florida is No. 4 behind No. 3 Texas, No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 1 Alabama, a scenario many BCS experts believe could set the stage for a Big 12/SEC national championship game depending on how the teams fare down the stretch.
What Meyer wants most is for Florida's attention to be on its 3:30 p.m. home game Saturday against No. 24 South Carolina. But he realizes he can't avoid the topic of the BCS any longer.
"I just want a clear picture of where we're at, and what we need to do to get to where everybody wants to go,'' Meyer said Sunday morning. "And then it's done, put it in the back (of your mind) and put all your focus on South Carolina.
"There's a lot at stake,'' Meyer added. "I don't mind mentioning it now, we're playing for a lot. The first goal is to get to Atlanta and the second goal is to be in the national picture. And we're in the national picture. So we know a lot of guys, they are very understanding of where we're at with the full thing.''
Former UF coach Steve Spurrier said his South Carolina team is playing its best defense since he arrived four years ago, but the team is still "struggling'' on offense. Unfortunately, Spurrier said, the Gators are better, too.
"I would say Florida has a better team this year than they had two years ago that won the national championship,'' Spurrier said. "They're a stronger team, it appears right now, than two years ago.
"Two years ago you felt like you had a chance, and a lot of teams had chances. Certainly Florida won the close ones two years ago that led them all the way through to the national championship. Now they are sort of blowing out people pretty regularly.''
Meyer said he'll rely heavily on his team leaders to keep the players' minds where they need to be. Junior QB Tim Tebow doesn't expect that to be a problem.
"We're just focused on taking care of our business and we think if we do that, we'll have a chance at our goals,'' Tebow said. "Who knows what's going to happen?''
JOHNSON INJURED: Redshirt sophomore OL Carl Johnson injured his knee in the Vanderbilt game Saturday, and his status is uncertain. Johnson has played in all nine games this season, starting five. "I know it's a meniscus,'' Meyer said. "They are pretty positive right now, so we're going to remain real positive about it."