GAINESVILLE — There are two very different sides to No. 10 Florida having had its only open date last week. On the one hand, injured Gators got healthy — most notably RB Trey Burton (back spasms), TE Jordan Reed (head) and DL Dominique Easley (knee) — who are all expected to return Saturday against LSU.
Then there's the flip side.
The Gators (4-0, 3-0 SEC) now play eight consecutive weeks with an October schedule that includes No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina. No. 3 Florida State awaits in November in Tallahassee.
Last season, the Gators faced a similar October schedule and lost to Alabama (38-10), LSU (41-11), Auburn (17-6) and Georgia (24-20). The Gators are 1-7 in October over the past two seasons.
Florida expects a much different outcome this year.
"I think we're as prepared as we can be going into this month," senior WR Frankie Hammond Jr. said Monday. "We definitely don't want that same outcome as last year."
"We didn't go in last year (vs. LSU) saying hopefully we don't lose by 20, or we'll try to keep it close," sophomore QB Jeff Driskel said. "This year we're definitely confident. It'll be a lot closer, that's for sure. It won't be like last year."
Coach Will Muschamp has insisted that his players never forget last October.
"I told the guys all along, in the offseason and while it was going on, don't ever forget the feeling you have right now," he said. "As a competitor, it ought to motivate you. If you are truly a competitive guy, it ought to really motivate you not to be in that situation again. I know I use it, and I think that the players I've tried to continually remind them about October, about the fourth quarter, about being outscored, about all of those things. And as a competitor and to be a competitive organization, those are things that I constantly bring up."
NOT FOOLED: The AP voters thought less of LSU after its lackluster 38-22 win over Towson, dropping the Tigers one spot in the AP poll, but the Gators expect a fiercely competitive game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Muschamp said after watching portions of the LSU-Towson game he doesn't believe for one second the Gators will see the team Towson faced.
"We won't see the same LSU football team, from an enthusiasm standpoint, from a passion level, from a pad level," Muschamp said. "I don't look at games and say, 'Look at this score that means this is going to happen.' I look at every Saturday is a different day. Everybody matches up differently with different people."
LSU allowed season highs in points (22), rushing yards (188) and total yards (291), but coach Les Miles said Monday some credit should be given to Towson. He also said he failed to get his team focused well enough coming off a two-point win over Auburn Sept. 22 and with Florida on the horizon. He expects something different Saturday.
"This is a team that understands how to play and certainly understands the culture in our building and in our school," Miles said. "And so I suspect that they'll play well against Florida."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.