UF quarterback Austin Appleby is living the dream.

The 23-year-old was on the Purdue bench this time last season. Now he is under center for the No. 15 Gators and will face top-ranked Alabama next week for an SEC title.

First, Appleby will square off against UF rival Florida State Saturday night in Doak Campbell Stadium.

It has been quite a whirlwind for Appleby, going from Purdue benchwarmer to the Gators’ backup to UF starter during the course of a year.

“If you would’ve told me I would’ve been number one at Florida, but the starting quarterback for the Florida Gators and just clinched the SEC East, I would’ve told you you were nuts this time last year,” Appleby said. “I’m enjoying every second of it. I love my teammates. I love this place.

“I’m just gonna cherish every second.”

Appleby has stepped in twice this season for injured starter Luke Del Rio. The second time was on Nov. 12 during a 20-7 win on senior day against South Carolina — Appleby’s one and only start for UF in the Swamp.

Last Saturday, Appleby threw a 98-yard touchdown to help the Gators beat LSU. It was the longest pass play at UF since 1977, a stretch of 39 years when Danny Wuerffel, Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman and other stars led the Gators’ offense.

Growing up in Ohio, Appleby was a Tebow fan and cannot believe he is following in his footsteps. If everything falls into place at FSU and against Alabama, Appleby could have a shot to do something Tebow did twice – win a national championship.

“It had been my dream to come here ever since I was yay big,” Appleby said. “I just worked hard, stayed faithful in God and, you know, he’s revealed himself to me in ways that

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