TALLAHASSEE — They have blown away opponents from the Pacific islands to the Atlantic Coast. They won in August by 46 points, in October by 58 and in November by 51. The defense has been tough, and the offense sublime.
By now, there is little left to wonder about the Florida Gators except maybe this:
Gee, I wonder if they're any good?
Naturally, I joke. But only a little.
This is an outstanding college football team, worthy of every bit of praise it has earned. Should the Gators win the Southeastern Conference title, they deserve a spot in the BCS championship game in January.
This has been one of the finest regular seasons in program history, on par with the national championship teams of 1996 and 2006, as well as the 1995 team that began the season 12-0.
Florida has won at home, on the road, in the heat and in the pouring rain. The Gators have beaten rivals, and nobodies. They have won praise and admirers.
But, as they walked off the field after humiliating Florida State 45-15 late Saturday afternoon, I couldn't help but wonder about the ease with which UF has won this season. And it made me wary of what that means.
The Gators have certainly done their job, but their opponents may not have held up their end. Look over Florida's schedule, and point out the signature victory this season.
Tennessee? The Vols are so bad, they fired a coach. LSU? They could finish with their worst record since the Gerry DiNardo era. Georgia? A decent team that just got beat by Georgia Tech. Florida State? The Seminoles have had a revival but are probably on their way back out of the polls.
So what does it all mean? Perhaps nothing. Maybe the Gators really are this good. They are certainly one of the five best teams in the nation, and a month from now they could be proclaimed as the very best.
"We're playing the best ball at the University of Florida that I've ever seen," tight end Aaron Hernandez said. "We're just ready to go and go and go."
Florida has won 11 games by an average score of 48-11, and that doesn't come about by happenstance or luck. In some ways, the Gators look far better than they did in 2006 when they beat Ohio State for the national championship. That UF team won four games down the stretch by seven points or fewer.
"We've got some key guys from that '06 team, and we know what it takes to win it," linebacker Brandon Spikes said. "So we're just going to come out, and prepare well and try to get back there."
The one time the Gators found themselves in a close game this season is also the one game they failed to win. UF had a couple of critical fumbles against Ole Miss and played like a team on the verge of panic in the second half.
The Gators have been a different team since that 31-30 loss on Sept. 27 and have run off the most impressive seven-game winning streak in Florida history. Maybe that's because the SEC seems a little weak this season. Or maybe it's because the Gators have the best collection of talent Gainesville has ever seen.
"Ever since they lost to Ole Miss, and probably before that, they score so many points so fast that everybody gets out of their game plan," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "You're trying to catch up, and you start doing things you shouldn't be doing."
The Gators certainly beat the bejeebers out of FSU on Saturday. And the fact that it wasn't at all shocking tells you how large the gap has grown between these two programs.
Florida has now won five consecutive games against the Seminoles for the first time since winning six in a row in the early 1980s, and Urban Meyer is the first UF coach to put Bowden in his hip pocket. Bowden essentially had the upper hand on the half-dozen coaches that preceded Meyer, going 17-13-1 against Doug Dickey, Charley Pell, Galen Hall, Gary Darnell, Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook.
Against Meyer, he is 0-4.
For a moment or two Saturday, it appeared the heavy rain and slippery field might give Florida State a chance against the Gators. That notion wore off pretty quickly as Tim Tebow ran through and passed over the FSU defense.
By game's end, the Gators had proved themselves again. Was it against a lesser opponent? Absolutely. Does it mean Florida is now ready to take on Alabama in the SEC title game? Perhaps.
No doubt about it, this is a good team.
We'll find out how good next week.
John Romano can be reached at (727) 893-8811.