It must be difficult to know that everyone is sitting around waiting to see if you’ll screw up or not.
And yet, every single member of the Florida team is aware of the reputation. They know that we always have an asterisk next to their #1 ranking because the narrative that they can’t peak at the right time has become so entrenched with the very thought of the team. The team might as well be called “Florida But” because every time someone is asked who should win National Championships, the answer starts with “Florida, but . . .”
Like most trends in sports, the perception and the reality don’t always line up. There have certainly been years (recently too) where peaking has not been Florida’s problem, but that will hardly matter to the team. Sometimes, reputation is stronger than truth.
And so, Florida will enter into their final performances of 2012 once again as the #1 team and with more to prove than ever. Every year they have a team this talented and fail to win the title, the pressure, narrative, and perception all grow even larger. And the larger something gets, the harder it is to overcome. Florida has to prove that this team will rise above the narrative, not bow down to it. They have to show us they can hit for the title before anyone will start to believe it.
All signs seem to indicate that they can do it this year . . . but we said that last year, too. And the competition is even stronger this year. In 2011, Florida had a mandate. No one doubted they were the best team in the country. That’s not the case this year. Florida could solve the peaking problem, hit amazingly in Finals, and still lose the title.
And so the pressure grows.