Can the Florida Gators keep it up?

Updated: October 19, 2012, 3:33 PM ET
By Travis Haney

There's this intermittent storyline right now in college football, in which name-brand programs are deemed "back" after somewhat relevant victories. Maybe we, as fans of the sport, rush them there because we want them there. It enhances the game in a general sense. Except sometimes -- say, in the cases of the Florida State Seminoles and Texas Longhorns -- they're prematurely granted that status.

It felt early to put the Florida Gators in that category after the September wins against Texas A&M and Tennessee, impressive as those victories were on the road. The LSU game then provided as much of a signature win as Will Muschamp has accomplished in a year and a half -- and this week's top-10 matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks provides the Gators with another opportunity to step toward "back" status.

But the reality is it takes a season, if not more, to return to prominence, not one game or even a 6-0 start like Florida, second in the initial BCS standings, has enjoyed.

Muschamp is aware.

"Has our program improved?" he said Wednesday morning via telephone. "Are we headed in the right direction? Are we a better football team? Certainly, because of experience and maturity.

"But we aren't there yet. We aren't where we want to be."

Is this the year in which it does arrive, though? Can Florida find a way, beginning with another difficult test this weekend, to sustain the level of play from the first half and return to Atlanta? And perhaps the BCS? And maybe even the BCS title game?