Going back to spring practice everyone paying attention to Gator football knew that Florida was facing a brutally difficult schedule in 2006. Well, if the top coaches in the game know what they are talking about, that belief is well founded.
Florida opponents are in the pre-season top ten, lead by sixth-ranked Auburn. The tigers are joined by another group of Tigers from LSU who are ranked ninth and Florida State is listed at # 10. For the eighth-ranked Gators that would be enough to get their attention, but there’s more.
Three other Gator opponents are in the pre-season poll. Georgia, coming off a ten-win season is ranked 14, Tennessee which is looking to rebound from a dismal 5-and-6 season is number 23, one spot ahead of Alabama.
Those teams would have been ranked higher had it not been for quarterback questions at all three places. Georgia has to replace D.J. Shockley who passed for 2,455 yards with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Alabama must get by without Brodie Croyle who had similar numbers (2,499, 14/4) for the Crimson Tide. Tennessee returns Eric Ainge, but the once promising junior is coming off a terribly inconsistent season in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes (45.5), passed for less than one thousand yards (737) and had more interceptions (7) than touchdown passes (5).
For good measure, South Carolina received enough support to finish 30th in the voting and the Gamecocks return the league’s best receiver in Sidney Rice who caught 70 passes last year for 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Other Poll Tid-Bits
The coaches certainly made ABC’s day by voting Ohio State number one and Texas number two. The Buckeyes and Longhorns will meet September ninth in Austin and the winner will be the early favorite to win it all.
Notre Dame which always seems to rise very quickly is tied for the number three spot with Southern Cal. As always the Irish and Trojans will meet during the regular season. This year’s game is in Los Angeles and is set for November 25th. Notre Dame has a tough early schedule with losable games against Georgia Tech, Penn State (#19) and Michigan (#15) to start the season.
Oklahoma will be hard-pressed to live up to its # 5 ranking after the dismissal of quarterback Rhett Bomar for taking money for a summer job he didn’t work.
Thursday, November 2nd could be an important night since that’s when West Virginia (#7) visits Louisville (#13). Both schools have rather weak schedules and pretty talented teams and could reach that game unbeaten.
Florida State (#10) and Miami (#11) play what is almost an elimination game on opening day. The loser of that game will be hard pressed to make up ground in the polls since neither will play more than two or three ranked teams the rest of the way.
Thank You Mister Commissioner
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was in a tough spot. The SEC’s regional television partner Lincoln Financial (formerly Jefferson Pilot) wanted either Alabama against Hawaii or Florida and Southern Miss for its game on September 2nd. Neither school wanted to move the game to a 12:30 (Eastern) kickoff, which meant the Commish had to choose.
He chose “C” none of the above. Slive got Georgia to agree to the move, putting the Bulldawgs and Western Kentucky on the tube. And, obviously he got Lincoln Financial to go along.
Oh it’ll be hot in Athens that day, but probably not as oppressively hot as Gainesville 330 miles to the south. And Alabama certainly could not have wanted to kickoff its season prior to noon. So it appears just about everyone wins; especially those who will be sitting in the shade at 6:00 in The Swamp rather than broiling in the midday sun.