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2009 Alligator Army Season Preview

It seems like anything and everything has been discussed about the Gators and the most anticipated season in the 103 years of Florida football. Here are some storylines that haven't made it to the papers and you should keep in mind as the Gators get set to give us (hopefully) 14 heart attacks followed by euphoria.

Who are the surprise players?

Every championship team has one or two guys who have a career season, seemingly out of nowhere. I don't mean 2008 Brandon Spikes, but 2008 Ahmad Black and Carlos Dunlap qualify. In 2006, it was Jarvis Moss, who went from sickly under Zook to a monster under Meyer.

We may be jinxing them, but our picks in 2009 are Deonte Thompson and Frankie Hammond. Thompson has spent part of his time in Gainesville bitter about being buried on the depth chart, nearly transferring to Miami. With a chance to finally get regular touches, Thompson can fill the void left by Lou Murphy and Percy Harvin leaving. As for Hammond, one of those freakishly athletic kids, it's a matter of grasping the nuances of the offense. For all the talk about the spread being so exciting, the passing game is based on running precision routes and understanding where the defense is. If Riley Cooper still doesn't get this (too often he takes the fly option and not an inside route), we shouldn't be surprised if Hammond has some growing pains. But anyone who saw Hammond this spring knows he has the ability to be a standout for the Gators.

Root for Notre Dame (and Jacksonville and Cincinnati and...)

This comes courtesy of Brother Louis;

Me: I can't wait for the Notre Dame game. If they can't stop Navy, how are they gonna stop the Pistol?

Lou: No, you have to root for Notre Dame this year. Otherwise they'll fire Weis and try to get Meyer.

Yes, while Nevada defeating the Irish would be hilarious on so many levels, Florida fans need to root for Notre Dame. The longer Weis stays at ND, the less likely it is that they hit up Pope Benedict for the $6 million it would take to lure Meyer (or any high profile BCS coach) to South Bend. Of course, as long as Meyer wins, there is the chance of a NFL team offering him boat loads of money. While that is less likely, at least now, it's not impossible (see: Spurrier, Steve). But the nature of coaching has changed as two of college football's most successful coaches, Pete Carroll and Nick Saban, were NFL failures. I doubt that Meyer believes he'd be a failure in the pros, but perhaps he already looks at the pros as not for him. (And just to note, there is nothing that says Jacksonville or Cincinnati would fire their coaches or try for Meyer, but those two have geographical connections to Meyer.)

Is this the year SEC pride backfires?

Since 2003, when LSU won the BCS and USC won the AP title, SEC fans have defended the honor of their school and their conference. LSU's shared title pales in comparison to Auburn getting screwed the next season when the loser of the 2003 BCS Championship got a second chance in 2004 over Aubie. After a down 2005 (Georgia was upset by West Virginia in the displaced Sugar Bowl and the SEC was 3-3 in bowls), the SEC has won three consecutive BCS Championships. In addition, the SEC went 6-3, 7-2, 6-2 in bowl games in those years. No BCS Conference can match that record. In terms of losses, only the Pac 10 (12-2) and Big East (12-4) are better.

We saw a glimpse in 2008 of what could happen this season if we have a group of one-loss teams. Let's say Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, USC all lose one game on the road or at a neutral site. (This problem is further complicated with an undefeated mid-major or Big Ten team). If you think it is impossible for Florida to be left out after a loss to LSU or Georgia, you probably thought it was impossible for Tebow to get the most Heisman first-place votes and manage to finish third in the voting. There will be voters who will drop Florida further than normal with one loss and those were the voters who left Tebow off their ballots. Of course, if the National Championship game is Pac 10-Big Ten, I'd expect the SEC to secede from college football and start a super league with the Big 12 and Big East. They leave the ACC out because anyone who goes to an ACC school is trash or an elitist bastard.

(By the way, Alabama fans have already brought out the "S-E-C! S-E-C!" chant three times this morning in Atlanta.)

This is on you too.

The beauty of college football is that the fans can impact the game. Any SEC fan will tell you how true this is. Just as the Gators cannot get content, the fans cannot either. The bull's eye is on our backs too. Do not sit down at games (at least on the student side) and do not assume anything. The only thing you can assume is that every team, including Charleston Southern, will play the game of their lives against UF. The outcome of the Gators' season may not be as important as healthcare reform or job creation, but none of those things will make you as happy as Timmy Tebow with a crystal ball and a bouquet of roses in January. You can help with that. Use Championship Mode responsibly and have a great season.