There are nine days until Florida's football opener against Florida Atlantic on September 3. There are 18 entries remaining in our 50 For 50 series. You do the math. And check out Alligator Army's 50 For 50 series for more of our 50 reasons to be excited for Florida football in 2011.
I'm not going to excerpt that much of Bill Connelly's fantastic preview of the 2011 Florida Gators, but I'll excerpt these bits to make a point: It "wouldn't surprise" SB Nation's Bill Connelly if Florida won the national championship, and it makes sense to be cautiously optimistic about greatness in The Swamp this fall.
...the Gators rank first in terms of four-year F/+ performance.
...the Gators rank fifth in terms of five-year weighted recruiting average.
...Will Muschamp is a tremendously successful defensive coach, and the Gator defense is absolutely littered with former five-star recruits.
...Charlie Weis is a tremendously successful offensive coach, and the Gator offense is also littered with former blue-chippers.
...Florida has the best home-field advantage in the conference.
For all his issues as a head coach, Weis is a strong assistant coach who will carve an identity out of this unit.
Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn have as many or more toys to play with than Weis.
Perhaps no defense in the country has more potential at tackle than Florida.
After the jump, that key quote from the headline and a little context.
Still, because of upside alone -- and the fresh blood and motivation brought in with the new staff -- the Gators are one of just a few teams on my "It wouldn't surprise me at all if they won the national title" list. (That isn't the same as predicting it, of course. In fact, I am taking the perfect, gray-area stance: if it doesn't happen, then that's fine because I didn't predict it; but if it does, I will try to convince everybody that I nailed it.) You have to have a certain amount of pure, raw potential to pull off a national title run, and Florida passes that test. Now they just need a) the offense to get out of its damn head and play football, and b) a young defensive line to take a step toward dominance. If that happens (and it might not), look out.
I suspect, like Bill, that I wouldn't be surprised at all to see this team hoisting a crystal football come January — there's talent enough for Florida to get frighteningly good in a blur if the offense can figure out how to score points. But I suspect that Bill, like me, wouldn't be entirely stunned if these Gators go 7-5 despite being statistically impressive, simply because of their withering schedule.
Hope, naturally, is better succor for the frustrated fan than pessimism.