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Florida looks like a contender after impressive win over Ole Miss

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Ole Miss was supposed to be the SEC’s top contender for the College Football Playoff. It didn’t look that way Saturday. The top contender looked more like No. 25 Florida, the team that dominated the No. 3 Rebels from start to finish.

Sure, Alabama was impressive at Georgia. But after winning 38-10 against the team that beat Alabama, the Gators look legit.

The victory comes one week after Florida’s thrilling come-from-behind victory over Tennessee. Coupled with the Georgia loss Saturday, Florida is now 5-0 and sitting comfortably atop the SEC East.

Sorry, Jim McElwain. You can’t play the underdog card anymore with this team.

What this win means for Florida: The Gators’ defense was supposed to be good enough to keep them in any game this season. They lived up to those expectations and then some Saturday. But this offense looks like a completely different group than what fans had grown accustomed to seeing under former coach Will Muschamp. Florida finished with 38 points and 355 yards. All of a sudden, this team at least belongs in the playoff conversation.

What this loss means for Ole Miss: That victory in Tuscaloosa feels like a lifetime ago now. Ole Miss is still very much alive in the SEC West – one loss won’t kill those dreams – but it was the way the Rebels lost Saturday that hurts. Chad Kelly was average for most of the game. The offense line, minus star left tackle Laremy Tunsil again, was exposed. And the defense, which was expected to dominate up front, simply gave up too many big plays.

The game was over when: You could make the case that it was over when Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze attempted a field goal, rather than going for it on fourth down, on a 19-play drive to start the second half that ate up nearly 10 minutes of clock. But was really over when Florida safety Marcus Maye stripped Kelly late in the third quarter with the Rebels driving. The Gators forced four turnovers.

Player of the game: This one is easy. Battling the flu all week, Will Grier played the best game of his young career. The Florida quarterback went 24-of-29 for 271 yards and four touchdowns, all coming in the first half. From a 36-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson with Robert Nkemdiche draped all over him to his 77-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Powell, a hot read with the blitz coming, Grier was terrific.