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Florida’s football Camry, led by Billy Napier, remains parked next to Georgia’s sports car: Toppmeyer

  • Billy Napier’s challenge at Florida is compounded by the success of rivals like Georgia, Florida State, and LSU.
  • The Gators’ recruiting class is a source of optimism. Now, pair that with a transfer haul.
  • At the very least Billy Napier’s humble ride is best than Auburn’s clunker.

I would not know much about living in a gated community, but I imagine it must evoke a certain form of pressure and envy.

You park your Toyota Camry out front and feel all right until you see your neighbor’s Audi pull into his driveway. One other house over, you see a BMW. Down at the top of the road, there is a Ford Mustang.

Suddenly, you do not feel so good puttering around in your Camry.

Billy Napier is driving that humble Camry in his second season at Florida, and he’s about to be reminded of what he doesn’t have. Here comes Kirby Smart’s red Audi, screaming into Jacksonville. Then there’s two more rival neighbors you may’t stand, Florida State and LSU, and their riches.

I’ve written before that Napier’s challenge of elevating the Gators is compounded by most of Florida’s rivals punching as much as their weight, at the identical time.

No. 1 Georgia eyes a three-peat. No. 4 Florida State could qualify for the College Football Playoff for the primary time because the 2014 season. No. 15 LSU misfired, but it surely’s roaring now. The Tigers may win the SEC West.

And Florida is dipping and dodging past South Carolina. Sure beats losing to the Gamecocks, but, boy, seeing rivals flourish when you fight to make ends meet is hard on the psyche.

After Florida’s ugly season-opening loss at Utah, I questioned whether it could even be at this place, touting a 5-2 record, entering Saturday’s Cocktail Party against Georgia (7-0, 4-0 SEC).

The Gators’ road woes persevered, and so they needed all of Graham Mertz’s heroism to wriggle past South Carolina.

Seeing Mertz thrive in Napier’s system restores confidence within the coach’s quarterback-development ability, after the talented Anthony Richardson failed to achieve his potential or develop consistency last season.

The Gators have shown resolve, they have been regular at The Swamp, and the offensive line improved after a disastrous start.

“They’ve played their best football the last two weeks,” Smart said of Florida’s victories over Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

That is a backhanded compliment, considering the opponents Florida beat, but after the Utah debacle, I wondered about Florida’s ability to beat even the SEC’s meekest squads.

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