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No. 3 Florida has shot to clinch SEC East

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No. 3 Florida has shot to clinch SEC East

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Getting to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference championship game is the goal for every team in the Southeastern Conference.

Florida has accomplished it more often than anyone else.

Maybe that's why the third-ranked Gators are taking such a ho-hum approach to Saturday's all-important game against No. 12 Georgia. A more likely scenario, though, is that it's early, and players and coaches are saving all the hype and hoopla for the weekend.

``Nothing's changed for us,'' coach Will Muschamp said Monday. ``We're not working any longer, harder. Practice, it's all the same. We don't approach things differently based on the situation because next week's important, too.''

Not quite like this one, though.

The Gators (7-0, 6-0 SEC) can clinch a spot in the conference title game with a victory against rival Georgia (7-1, 5-1). The Bulldogs, meanwhile, need to beat Florida and probably win remaining games against Mississippi and Auburn to get to Atlanta.

``It's good for us,'' Gators linebacker Jon Bostic said. ``That's one of our goals from the beginning of the year. We certainly want to get to Atlanta, but we've got to take it one game at a time. It's another SEC game we want to win.''

Florida has represented the Eastern Division 10 times since the inception of the title game in 1992. The Gators also have more wins (7) than anyone else.

But few outsiders expected Muschamp's team to contend for the division in his second season. Not after last year's 7-6 record that included the coach calling his players soft. Not with a sophomore quarterback. Not with a new offensive coordinator.

The Gators, though, have surprised just about everyone.

They came from behind to win at Texas A&M and Tennessee. They were more physical than LSU and South Carolina. They have been most impressive with halftime adjustments, second-half stamina and special teams play.

Now, all that stands in the way of another trip to Atlanta is Georgia.

``It's another big game,'' quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ``It's an SEC East game, and it's the Florida-Georgia game. You couldn't really ask for more. You come to Florida to play in games like this. We're excited to start preparing and we're ready for another big week. ... We know what's at stake, but we're going to prepare like we have been all year and just be ready when it comes Saturday.''

The Gators have plenty of motivation, too.

Not only is the SEC East at stake, but Florida lost to Georgia last year. And those late-season losses seem to be propelling the Gators this season.

They admitted as much after beating LSU on Oct. 6 and drubbing South Carolina on Saturday, saying they wanted to avenge setbacks from last year's disappointing season.

``We just get another chance,'' Driskel said. ``Like coach said, you don't get too many second chances in life and we have yet another one this week. We're going to make this one (count). I don't want to say revenge. We're just going to go out there and play hard and practice hard, you know, work hard this week.''

Muschamp spoke to his team last week about possible distractions stemming from the program's lofty ranking and a No. 2 spot the first Bowl Championship Series standings. Might he do it again this week, with the SEC East on the line?

``When there are obvious possible distractions for your football team, you can stick your head in the sand and pretend everything's OK or you can address it with them,'' Muschamp said. ``And that's what I choose to do. So I address things and say, `All right, if we need to talk about it, let's talk about it.' And we'll all agree that we don't need to.''

Just another ho-hum week in Gainesville, right?

Not quite.

``There are some games where there will be a little more adrenaline flowing, certainly,'' Muschamp said. ``And there will be in this one. But as a competitor, you prepare yourself the right way each week, regardless of the opponent or the situation. And certainly, when there's a little bit more at stake, you may get a little bit more excited.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—OTA report, fans excited about young D-line

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NBC Sports Washington

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—OTA report, fans excited about young D-line

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 25, 62 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Trades, misses and mistakes explain Redskins' dead cap—This post does a good job of outlining where the Redskins’ dead cap came from. It should be noted that dead cap is a part of the cost of doing business in the NFL and the Redskins have done fairly well managing it this year. Only about a dozen teams have less dead cap on the books than the Redskins $5.2 million. 

Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins—I received some comments saying that my worst-case scenario, a 6-10 finish, is not low enough. Since we’re talking about events that won’t begin to happen for about three and a half months, I can’t really argue with them. But it’s just hard for me to see them dropping more than a game from last year when they were hit harder with injuries than any other team in the NFL. 

Pre-OTAs Redskins player one-liners, defense—An extension for Matt Ioannidis seemed preposterous a year ago, now it seems like a good idea. How many sacks for Lanier? When will Ryan Anderson get his first sack? Plus offensive player one-liners here

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp—You can’t tell everything from OTAs, but you can tell some things. Taking another look at this post, I gave a good, detailed look at the session, but I didn’t really mention the overall feel, which was fun and energetic. 

Tweet of the week

Certainly, Derrius Guice is the fan favorite of the rookie class. But the great reaction to this tweet shows that there is plenty of love for Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, last year’s top pick. 

In 2016, the starting defensive line consisted of Ricky Jean Francois, Chris Baker, and  Ziggy Hood. The top reserve was Cullen Jenkins. They all had their good qualities and made some plays. But Baker was the youngster of the group and he turned 30 during the season. It clearly was a group on the decline. 

Two years later, the picture is quite different. Payne and Allen lead a younger group that will get better over the next few years. Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Tim Settle, and Stacy McGee should round out the group. McGee is by far the senior member of the group at age 28. None of the others have celebrated his 25thbirthday yet. 

Fans should perhaps temper their optimism with the knowledge that potential doesn’t always develop into performance. But unlike years past there is something to look forward to. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 18
—Training camp starts (7/26) 62
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 76

The Redskins last played a game 145 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 107 days. 

In case you missed it

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