Florida Football: Can the Gators Return to Greatness in 2008?

Ron Johnson@TLCCaptainSenior Writer IJune 6, 2008

Everyone knows about Florida football.  They also know that you can't keep a tough Gator down.

To prove that, their schedule for next season has them looking at yet another BCS berth, but these guys didn't give themselves an easy road.

Game One: Gators vs. Hawaii (5 Stars)

If this showdown happened last season, it would have been a pretty good game between the two QBs—Tim Tebow vs. Colt Brennan.  But this should still be good.

The Gators spent the off time beefing up the team after losing a majority of their National Championship squad, but they look just as dangerous as that 2006 team. It will be a shootout, but if the Gators learned anything from last season, it's simply this—Georgia found the Warriors' weakness in January.

Game Two: Gators vs. Miami (FL) (5 Stars)

The battle for the Seminole War Canoe returns as the Gators collide with in-state rival Miami to start their Governor's Cup defense.

The Hurricanes are looking past last season, and just like Florida, they will be looking to reclaim the glory days of the past.  When these two teams meet up, it's usually a very physical encounter.  I don't expect anything less in Urban Meyer's first showdown with the "U."

Game Three: Gators at Tennessee (5 Stars)

This is the start of Florida's SEC title hopes.  A big win against Philip Fulmer's Volunteers is a good way to start the SEC portion of their season.  But the Vols are known as Florida's kryptonite.

The SEC Champion or runner-up usually comes out of this game, and it's almost guaranteed with the loss of LSU's go-to quarterback that one of these teams will be represented in the final two.

Game Four: Gators vs. Ole Miss (3 Stars)

The Rebels couldn't get off the ground much last season, and every year the Gators use them as a punching bag.  This year won't be different.  Expect Tebow to run and gun his way to another win over Ole Miss.

The Gators will most likely rely on Emmanuel Moody, who finally gets his chance to prove his worth this season.  With Meyer's knack for making good backs into great ones, Tebow will not have to carry the entire workload for this game.  It will be a blowout, and the defense will be giving the Rebels offense a ton of trouble.

Game Five: Gators at Arkansas (4 Stars)

No Darren McFadden means perfect timing for Florida.  With new Hogs coach Bobby Petrino at the helm, this will be a perfect test for both him and Meyer.  It's also a rematch of the SEC Championship that started the Gators' trend back in 2007.

Though their big-time backs are gone, Arkansas is still a threat to the Gators' chances of making it to the SEC Championship.  However, Florida's defense will win this game for them, and Tebow will have his clutch moments as always.

Game Six: Gators vs. LSU (3.5 Stars)

A few months ago, this would have been a great game to watch.  But after Les Miles' decision to send Ryan Perrilloux packing, this game has lost some of its anticipated luster.

This game won't be at Death Valley this time around.  It's known that no one comes out of the Swamp alive, and LSU's name will be added to the laundry list of victims of the Gator Nation.  The repercussions of the elimination of Perilloux will be felt massively in this game by the Tigers.

Game Seven: Gators vs. Kentucky (2.5 Stars)

Tebow and Percy Harvin enjoy playing Kentucky.  It's mainly because of the shootouts and speed that are consistent with these two teams.  But with Andre Woodson gone, a good portion of the speedy offense of the Wildcats has to be made up before Florida comes calling.

The only thing that can be said about this one is that Kentucky will have to deal with a stingy defense that loves to cause turnovers and have a sack party.  Don't feel bad though, because Kentucky will try to do the exact same thing to keep Tebow from connecting with Harvin.

Game Eight: Gators at Georgia (4.5 Stars)

Despite what the peanut gallery has requested, I will still call this "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."  Just like Tennessee, Georgia has something to prove.  Two of their biggest wins last season came against Florida and Hawaii.  But they got shafted out of the SEC Championship and the BCS Championship Game.

But Florida has something more to prove.  They know that this will be a glorified slugfest, and they will be ready.  If the offense continues their dominance, and the defense keeps the pressure on the Bulldogs, the Gators should win this one on some major fourth quarter clutch performances.

Game Nine: Gators at Vanderbilt (2 Stars)

Vandy spends more time working on its basketball program than its football program.  This will bite them in the rear again when Florida visits this season.  And the Gators are looking pretty hungry.

If they want to see how the second and third stringers work out, this is the game to do it.  Florida is almost guaranteed at least one win this season, and it will be at the Commodores' expense.  Expect Tebow, Moody, and Harvin to have some fun with Vanderbilt's defense—and expect the Gator defense to establish dominance early and often during this contest.

Game Ten: Gators vs. South Carolina (3 Stars)

Two years ago, Florida used two blocked field goals to give former coach Steve Spurrier an unhappy homecoming.  Now the Gamecocks are coming back to the Swamp for another round.  Think things will be different this time around?

Think again.  There are several games that are personal to Florida, and South Carolina was added to that list the moment Spurrier took the job there.  Florida will put personal differences aside so that they can completely focus on beating the Gamecocks on the field.  Spurrier won't win this game in the Swamp—and don't expect any Christmas cards to be exchanged between him and Meyer in the future.

Game Eleven: Gators vs. The Citadel (1 Star)

This is a game that needs no huge description.  The Citadel usually plays Florida at the beginning of the season, but this should be a nice change of pace from their hectic SEC schedule.

You won't see much of the starters in this game.  They'll probably be in for a series or two, and then the backups will take over.  This will be a blowout.  Enough said.

Game Twelve: Gators at Florida State (5 Stars)

This has to be one of the biggest games in both Meyer's and Bowden's careers.  After a tumultuous season for Meyer, and a insulting offseason for Bowden, both of them are looking to the future.  The Gators will most likely be padding their resume for a possible BCS berth, and so will the Seminoles.

Considered one of the greatest rivalries in college football, Florida versus Florida State is guaranteed to be a fight straight to the finish.  But here's the moment of truth for both teams: After the fight that broke out at the Swamp a few years ago over the celebration of Florida State, will the Gators return the favor in Tallahassee?

Schedule Grade: A-

Season Outlook: 11-1


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.