Perhaps no other football program in the nation has been more successful the past five years than the Florida Gators. These are just some of the accomplishments Florida has acheived since Urban Meyer's first season in 2005:
58 wins versus 10 losses(includes bowl games and SEC championship games)
Tim Tebow winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy
2 SEC titles
2 National Championships
2010 however is the beginning of a new era for the Gators. One of the best college football players in history, Tim Tebow, has graduated and moved on to the NFL. Most of the pieces that made Florida's offense explosive the past two years such as Louis Murphy, Percy Harvin, David Nelson, Riley Cooper, and Maurkice Pouncey have also moved on to the NFL. Florida also had excellent defensive players such as Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, Ryan Stamper, Joe Haden, and Major Wright move on to the NFL.
Can Florida win a third SEC East division crown despite losing all that talent, with pretty much all of them being starters? A lot of preseason college football magazines are prediciting just that. They deserve to be in that position, as they have arguably been the best football team these past five years.
Let's see why they will win a third SEC East crown and what will keep them from reaching that acheivement.
Why Florida Will Win the SEC East
1. The offense. Despite Florida's offense losing several marquee players, they still have enough pieces in place for a great attack. John Brantley should establish himself as one of the best passers in the SEC, and that will make the offense more explosive than it was before. Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody return to man the tailback spot and both have been productive.
Wide Receivers Deonte Thompson, Carl Moore, and Chris Rainey have been waiting to break out since they arrived at Florida , and this year might be that year. All three are immensely talented, yet have not played up to their potential. Perhaps the best news about this season is that four starters return on the offensive line, most notably Maurkice Pouncey's brother Mike.
2. Talent- According to Rivals.com and various other recruiting sources, every Florida recruting class that dates back to Meyer's first year in 2005 was at least ranked in the top 20, with three of those years in the top 5. Florida arguably pulled in its best recruiting class yet this year with 21 of the their 27 signees being ranked four stars or more.
This elite talent influx is a big reason why Florida has won two national championships, and has managed to stay near the top of the SEC. The 2010 Florida Gators squad will arguably be Meyer's most talented unit yet.
The futility of Tennessee and Georgia- It certainly doesn't hurt that two of the teams Florida competes with for the SEC East championship have not been doing so good lately. Georgia has been blown out by Florida the last two years, and Tennessee has not beaten Florida since 2004. This year I can see more of the same as Georgia is experimenting with a new defesive scheme and possibly losing its biggest offensive threat, while Tennessee is looking to rebuild its football program after the Lane Kiffin fiasco.
Why Florida will not win the SEC East
There have been signifigant losses on defense. Florida has lost several important defensive starters, most notably Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, Ryan Stamper, Joe Haden, Major Wright. That is half of your starting defense that was one of the best in the country gone.
While Florida has certainly brought in elite talent the past couple of years, talent alone does not make a defense good. The aforementioned players not only had the talent to make plays, they also executed their assignments to perfection, and avoided making stupid mistakes that could change the outcome of the game.
2. Not-so-friendly schedule- Florida's 2010 schedule is arguably their most difficult yet in the Urban Meyer era. For one, this is Florida's most brutal SEC schedule yet. They play No.1 Alabama on the road,then play No. 24 LSU the following week at home, along with all of Florida's division opponents.
The non-conference slate also picks up this year as Florida plays USF in the second game of the season, which is not good considering USF has upset many good teams such as Auburn, West Virginia, Kansas, and FSU during the first month of the season. To close out the year, Florida plays an FSU team that is rising back to the top in Tallahassee. This will make repeating the past two year's success extremely difficult.
3- South Carolina- It seems weird to make South Carolina a reason why Florida won't win the SEC East this year, but you'll get it soon enough. South Carolina has been one of those teams that seems lacking in one area to make them successful. That would be a strong running game, which is needed in the SEC.
Part of the reason South Carolina's running game is weak is because of offensive line play. That should be fixed as Spurrier hired one of the top offensive line coaches around in Shawn Elliot, a former Appalachian State assistant.
What has also hurt is having neither a workhorse running back or a game-breaker. Signing Marcus Lattimore, who was the consensus No.1 running back in the 2010 class, gives them both.
If those two things come together and play well, then South Carolina will be a dangerous team next fall. The Gamecock's defense has always been good, and the passing offense will at least be decent as long as Spurrier is the head coach.
Carolina also benefits from their schedule. They get many of their tougher SEC opponents at home like Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Arkansas. The only tough non-conference game they play is their archrival Clemson, the rest are cupcakes.
This is South Carolina's year to contend for the SEC East. To make their SEC Championship dreams come true, they must beat Florida on the road. If they do that, then all signs lead to South Carolina's first SEC Championship game in years.
My Prediction: I see this year mirroring the 2007 season a lot. Good offense that had to carry an inexperienced defense. Had to play the No.1 team on the road and lost, and had to play a quality SEC West opponent at home. If this happens, then Florida will have a good season, but may not play in a third straight SEC title game.
Overall record:9-3 or 8-4
Losses to Alabama, LSU, and South Carolina
Possible Loss to FSU?
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