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Is Florida going to turn around in one season and win the national title? No.
Could the Gators be competitive and contend for the SEC East title? Absolutely.
New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's scheme is designed to get athletes out in space and prevent defenses from getting creative with their schemes. Perfect for Florida, which doesn't have proven playmakers outside but does have plenty of athletes to go around.
For the first time since he took the field for Florida, quarterback Jeff Driskel isn't a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. He's in an offense that not only accepts his capabilities as a dual-threat quarterback, but one that thrives with a dual-threat quarterback who's most comfortable taking snaps out of the shotgun.
The problem for Florida is, even if it makes a dramatic jump and is competitive in every game, can it win the SEC East? With a road game at Alabama on Sept. 20, the traditional neutral site tilt with Georgia in Jacksonville and tough home games vs. LSU, South Carolina and defending SEC East champ Missouri, this schedule doesn't exactly do Florida any favors.
Head coach Will Muschamp and the Gators will be fighting an uphill battle to unseat either Georgia or South Carolina—which I think are the two front-runners in the division heading into the season. But the Gators will be in every game.
If you're in every game, sometimes you get the breaks needed to win them.
@BarrettSallee do you think either Ole Miss or Mississippi State can make a run in the West this year? Which one has a better chance?— Sanjay Kirpalani (@skirp1) March 21, 2014
No, I don't think either can make that step—because it'd be a giant step.
I think both programs will be competitive and take a small step forward—perhaps to seven or eight regular season wins—but that won't sniff the SEC West title.
Defending division champ Auburn has a boatload of talent coming back on offense and, let's be honest, can't be much worse defensively. On top of that, the Tigers gave up far too many big plays last year and still nearly parlayed it into a national title.
LSU and Alabama don't rebuild, they reload. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin proved when he got the job in College Station that he can adapt his offense to the specific skills of his quarterback.
Can either Mississippi State or Ole Miss beat most—if not all—of those programs in 2014? Not likely.
But an upset or two wouldn't be the most surprising development in the world.
No. It needs (and will eventually adopt) a nine-game conference schedule because it's very much in the television programming business, but doing so for the inclusion of two teams in the College Football Playoff is a hit-or-miss proposition.
Sure, playing another conference game would add to a team's strength of schedule, especially considering the Pac-12 and Big 12 already play nine conference games and the Big Ten will in 2016. But the landscape that defines elite teams in college football changes from year to year, so it's impossible to determine whether that ninth conference game will help on any given year.
Sometimes, it'd hurt—especially if it results in a loss to a national title contender.
The SEC will go to a nine-game schedule and dressing up the conference for the selection committee may be part of that decision. But it will only be a minor role when compared to the importance of creating television inventory for the SEC's television partners and the SEC Network.
If a nine-game conference schedule becomes a bigger piece of that decision, it will likely be a reactionary move to keep pace to prevent the perception of an uneven playing field.
Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee.