Florida Gator Football Preview
FLORIDA GATORS: CAN YOU SAY "REPEAT"?
Today we take a look at the Florida Gators, the defending BCS national champions. Here's the rundown:
2008 Record: 13-1 SU, 12-1 ATS
Three-Year record ('06-'08): 35-6 SU, 25-21-1 ATS
To Win SEC East Division
- FLORIDA -800
- Georgia +500
- Kentucky +2500
- South Carolina +800
- Tennessee +1200
- Vanderbilt +5000
To Win SEC title -275
To Win National title +175
Over 11 wins -110
Under 11 wins -130
The spread option is alive and kicking in Gainesville, and the Gators are just re-tooling it a little. The most important operative is back; of course, that is Tim Tebow who had a significant role in the team's first national title under Urban Meyer when he was just a freshman, then won the Heisman Trophy the next year, and led the Gators to the national championship as a junior. Tebow completed 64% of his passes last season, with an insane ratio of 30 TD's to just four interceptions.
Tebow was the team's leading rusher last year (with 673 yards) and Percy Harvin, primarily a wide receiver, was second, but Chris Rainey (652 yards), Jeffery Demps (605 yards) and Emannuel Moody (417 yards) are back, and comprise a strong rushing "committee." ALL of them averaged over seven yards a carry last season. What Tebow will have to do is find some new targets. Harvin left for the NFL and was a first-round draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings. Louis Murphy, who led the team with 655 receiving yards, went in the fourth round to the Oakland Raiders. The leading returnee is tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had 34 catches. Demps will play a hybrid role, as Harvin did, and maybe Deonte Thompson, a top shelf recruit who made 18 receptions last year, gets a chance to shine with extended playing time. Brandon James, who is a threat every time he touches the ball (including the return game); Carl Moore, who was a junior college All-America, and Andre DuBose, perhaps the top high school receiver available this year, add to what is potentially a very strong unit.
With three starters back, the offensive line should be in pretty good shape. Remember, this is the line that paved the way for those seven-yard averages, and one of its members, center Maurkice Puincey, is an All-America candidate. This group averages 318 pounds across. There's not much for Gator fans to worry about here.
In the BCS title game, Florida took an Oklahoma squad which had scored over 60 points in five straight games and held it to 14 points. On the season, they allowed an average of 12.9 ppg. Now consider that this stop unit brings back the entire first AND second team, and you could be seeing a defense that rivals that of USC's 2008 version. Conceivably, there could be three All-America selections in defensive end Carlos Dunlap (10 sacks), linebacker Brandon Spikes (93 tackles in '08) and cornerback Joe Haden. There are all-conference caliber players all over the place, including safety Ahmad Black (seven INT's last year), linebackers Lorenzo Edwards, A.J. Jones and Dustin Doe, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (who should get away with a light suspension after being arrested for an off-campus incident).
This team is once again loaded, and when you are the University of Florida, and have won two titles in three seasons in one of the richest football states in the nation, you simply continue to reload. Urban Meyer gets his share of thugs (24 player arrests since his arrival) but he is always going to have talent to replace departing stars. It would be no surprise if this was the fastest team in the nation, or the one with the best defensive unit. This team lost to Ole Miss, but beat everyone else by double digits. It's a long season, and I'm not sure there's a lot of value in that +175 at BetUS for a national title, but the Gators are clearly the class of their conference and deserve a pre-season #1 ranking.
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