This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
I am on the record for saying that Florida 2010 will not be a fun season. Between John Brantley becoming The Man and working Andre Debose, Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley into the systems, there will be a lot of growing pains. However, it is very realistic to predict a Florida-Alabama SEC Championship Game.
We don't know in July who will be playing for Florida in September, which makes predictions this far out hard. Powell and Easley are great talents, but they don't have the advantage of spring practice. They could show up in training camp like bulls in a china shop; all talent and no intelligence. That's not saying they are dumb kids, just that it make take them more than three weeks to figure out the playbook. Plus, UF will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator.
But Georgia is also breaking in a new defensive coordinator and quarterback. So is Tennessee. With South Carolina moving up simply by not having total chaos on campus, there is a legit four-way race for the SEC East. I have always felt that with Florida's recent dominance of Tennessee, South Carolina and FSU, that eventually, the other guys will win. This might be that season.
The schedule doesn't help UF. The Gators face a frisky USF, who went on the road to defeat FSU last season. Before you say, "We are not FSU," USF has a legit QB in B.J. Daniels and their usual stout defense. That's followed by road games at Tennessee (winnable, but still scary) and at Alabama (this might be like the 2005 Bama game). UF gets LSU and Mississippi State at home in October, both winnable but it will depend on how strong UF is playing by then.
The games that concern me the most are Georgia and FSU. The Bulldogs always worry me because I think UGA takes the game more seriously than we do. For Florida's current generation, this game is our birthright. For Georgia, it's a total embarrassment. Teams can take wins for granted and lose because of it.
Such is the case with FSU. I absolutely hate FSU. More than I hate anything else in my life. But I have to give credit for Jimbo Fisher's coup finally putting a charge into a dying program. The Christian Ponder Heisman campaign may seem like bull, but he was going good until an injury last season. Their defense isn't a world beater, but good enough to win the ACC. With this year's game at Tallahassee, and UF in rebuilding mode, this might be the time for FSU to catch us and snap our winning streak in the series.
I think Florida will lose to Alabama. I could also see a loss at home to LSU, similar to Auburn in 2007. UF could still run the table and win the SEC East, setting up the Alabama rematch.
I think the most important thing for Florida is to win, but to also constantly improve this season. It is one thing to lose by 21 at Alabama, but it is much worse when the mistakes made in that game are made against Georgia three weeks later. If the annual goal is to win the SEC, maybe the Gators should focus on winning the SEC East. I understand that this is counter to common thinking, but look at the big picture. Only delusional people think UF should be National Championship contender. I'm willing to just be a division contender, to set up our 2011 run for a National Championship.