GAINESVILLE — Right back where they want to be.
That was the common theme late Saturday night after Florida's 51-21 victory over then-No. 4 LSU. A loss to unranked Ole Miss two weeks ago put a damper on the Gators' early season, but as they head into an open week, they have risen to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, No. 7 in the USA Today coaches poll, and remain in the hunt to win the SEC East and advance to the conference title game.
"You're right where you want to be," offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said. "Our goal coming into this season was to get to Atlanta. We're coming into a bye week and then you have four straight weeks against SEC East opponents. We control our own destiny and that's exactly where you want to be. We win the next four … we get an opportunity to go to Atlanta. I think for us, we're feeling pretty good about our position."
Florida (5-1, 3-1) scored 20 first-half points, and the 51 total points were the most the Tigers had given up since a 58-3 loss to Florida in 1993. In addition, previously undefeated Vanderbilt lost to Mississippi State.
"Everyone has a loss in the East," coach Urban Meyer said. "We're glad to have a bye week coming at a good time. We're going to enjoy this tonight, then bring them back. We all know what happens when you're not ready."
SPIKES' REDEMPTION: After his subpar performance against Arkansas two weeks ago, LB Brandon Spikes organized a team meeting Monday and made a promise to his teammates.
"He said he wouldn't let it happen again," sophomore CB Joe Haden said. "He knew he didn't play as well as Spikes can play. He apologized to the whole defense. That's what leaders do. He came out and played his hardest.''
Spikes had two interceptions, returning one 52 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Oh, and about that penalty he picked up after punting the ball at the end of the interception run?
"The passion of the game took over me," Spikes said.
HARVIN HEALTHY? Because he practiced sparingly last week, Meyer put WR Percy Harvin through an impromptu 20-minute workout Friday to see if he was physically ready.
"We went full speed in the Swamp," Meyer said.
Harvin reinjured his sprained right ankle in the second quarter Saturday, got retaped and returned. "He still wasn't 100 percent in that game, but he played very well,'' Meyer said.
Harvin said he needs the bye week to get healthy again.
"It's not only me, our whole team, we've been battling all year just for injuries and a lot of people had offseason surgery," he said. "So we're going to take this bye week and make it real useful and get ready to play two weeks from now."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.