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Florida Football 100 For 100, No. 92: The First Four Games Will Set The Tone

I'd like to go back to this moment in time and live in it forever. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
I'd like to go back to this moment in time and live in it forever. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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Last year, we tried 50 For 50, and got halfway done before things cropped up. This year, Alligator Army is coming back with 100 For 100, with 100 articles in the 100 days leading up to the first Florida Gators football game of the 2012 season, and will run down storylines, profile players, examine history, and make some predictions, possibly all haphazardly. The only thing we can promise is that each day's entry will bring us all one step closer to "Herrrrrrrrre ... come the Gators!"

It seems pretty obvious, and it sort of is, but Florida's first four games will set the tone for the rest of the season. The past three seasons opened up with two games against "cupcakes," followed by games with Tennessee and Kentucky. Florida went 4-0 each time. The last time the Gators lost a game during the first quarter of the season was the 2008 loss to Ole Miss. Tim Tebow gave a speech afterward.

But the first four games of the 2012 season will be a little tougher. Florida should win comfortably against Bowling Green in Week 1, but the Gators will have to go on the road to Texas A&M the following Saturday. I imagine the Aggies and their 12th man will be pretty hyped for their first SEC game. And while Texas A&M is no Alabama or LSU, it certainly isn't UAB or South Florida (of 2010) either. This will be a challenging game for the Gators on the road with Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel making a start in a tough environment.

Florida travels to Knoxville in Week 3 for an intriguing matchup with Tennessee. Florida hasn't lost to Tennessee since 2004 and Derek Dooley has never beaten the Gators. With Dooley possibly fighting for his job and the Vols having a solid offense with Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, beating Tennessee on the road won't be the easiest thing ever.

Florida wraps up the first quarter of the season with a home game against Kentucky, which is usually seen as a confidence booster before a Week 5 matchup against Alabama or LSU. Florida will be heavily favored against Kentucky and should have no problem handling the Wildcats.

It's a tougher opening stretch than recent years, but certainly doable. If Florida can navigate these four games without suffering a loss, it'll give the team -- and whoever is playing QB -- a degree of confidence heading into a much more difficult stretch: LSU, at Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Georgia in Jacksonville.

In 2010, Florida struggled through the first three games before embarrassing Kentucky at home, the game in which Trey Burton scored six touchdowns. That had the team and some fans thinking an upset wasn't totally out of the question the next week on the road against Alabama. Then Trey Burton attempted a jump pass -- key word: attempted.

But many saw it as "Alabama is just too good." The following week, Florida came a lucky-as-hell fake field goal conversion away from beating an LSU team that went on to beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl and finish the season 11-2. The wheels didn't come off until the next week when Mississippi State upset Florida in The Swamp.

2011 was similar. Florida capped off its perfect start to the season with a blowout win over Kentucky. Alabama vs. Florida was in order for Week 5, except this time it was in Gainesville. Fans were more cautious about calling for the upset this time around. John Brantley got off to a hot start throwing the ball -- seriously, how awesome was that TD pass to Andre Debose? -- but once he got injured, well, you know what happened.

Starting the 2012 season 4-0 would boost the team's confidence heading into Week 6 (Week 5 is Florida's bye week) when LSU visits Gainesville. If Brissett and/or Driskel can find confidence and a go-to target to compliment Florida's nasty defense, the Gators could ride the momentum of a perfect first quarter of the season and start 5-0 for the first time since 2009.