You can feel it… It’s in the air… Football is finally just around the corner for the Florida Gators and their legions of fans anxiously awaiting Year Two under the Urban Meyer Era. I asked our fearless writers to put together their Top Five Pre-Season Predictions and here they are!
1. Gators versus Auburn 2x—Florida will win the SEC Eastern Division title. The Gators will win at least nine regular season games and face Auburn in the Georgia Dome. Georgia is too inexperienced at certain positions. South Carolina will once again finish ahead of Tennessee, who will lumber behind the Gators, Dawgs, and Gamecocks.
2. Up and coming Gators—We all know the names of Florida’s stellar returning personnel. Thomas, Siler, Moss, Nelson, Leak, Baker, Caldwell, RayMac, and Everett (if healthy) will definitely be in the mix for post season All-SEC honors. Might there be a few that step up and receive votes? Yes. Let me throw a few other names at you…Drew Miller, Ryan Smith, Jemalle Cornelius, and possibly even Cornelius Ingram. Miller, Smith, and Cornelius will have outstanding campaigns and be among the best in the conference. If Ingram gets the opportunity to run after the catch a few times early this season, add him to the list as well.
3. Most improved…—Joe Cohen and Jarvis Moss- Cohen might not be deep in the mix for all conference nominations, but he will finally have a stellar season for the Gators. Cohen impressed me during those early August workouts. It wasn’t so much his strength or experience, but his athleticism and first step off the ball were outstanding. Injuries prevented Big Joe from demonstrating those attributes last season. I asked Drew Miller and Phil Trautwein who will block Jarvis Moss this season and neither had a clue. Moss’ first step is blazing, his strength has improved dramatically, and he has enough experience to know what to expect. Furthermore, Moss told me that he is determined to become known as a run stopper. Can you say All-SEC?
4. They’ll play well enough this year—By the end of the season everybody will be ready for the first day of spring practice- Tim Tebow, Mitch Mustain, and Chris Smelley will eventually establish themselves as confident reserves or challengers with their play as freshmen. There is no more high profile guy than the quarterback and three young guns is very good for the SEC. Who will earn the top spot on the all-freshman team? Well, Tebow and Mustain are best suited to step in and contribute because of their familiarity with their offense. However, Tebow will help Leak lead the Gators to a division crown. Give the nod to Tebow.
5. Mr. Transfer himself—Willie Williams will get bounced out at West Los Angeles Junior College after attending a Hollywood party and determining that the sound system would look best at the pawn shop near campus. Williams will assist in the “transfer” of the product to its new digs without the assistance of a motor vehicle through the front door. He’ll use the “rescue money” to purchase additional gold teeth and some seafood.
With the start of the season just hours away, here are five things that absolutely WILL happen this fall. If ANY of them fail to occur, you owe nothing. And you get to keep the ginzu knives!
1. Nobody runs the table —– Sure, there are some awfully good teams out there, but no super ones. Some really talented ones, like Ohio State and Auburn play too many good teams to expect them to win ‘em all. This prediction includes West Virginia even though they play a schedule that is an absolute joke. Still, they have the best chance to go unbeaten… but I say they won’t do it!
2. The Gators will win the SEC East —– They’ve cost themselves SEC titles with bad losses in recent years, but not this time. Key will be getting no worse than a split out of the LSU/Auburn quinella in early October.
3. Some idiot commentator will praise the new BCS format —– The latest tweak calls for five games, but not the “plus-one” format many of us advocated that would take the top two teams after the bowls. Instead there will be two games at the Fiesta Bowl, the second of which will be the national title game. You know some chowder head will be trying to sell us on its virtues before the first weekend is over.
4. Brady Quinn will win the Heisman —– It’s hard to top his combination of talent, coaching and teammates. Quinn will also get lots of exposure for his run. He needs a fast start, facing Georgia Tech, Penn State and Michigan the first three games. If Notre Dame wins those games and Quinn throws for 1,000 yards or more, it’s over.
5. Bobby Bowden will misidentify one of his players on his TV show —– This one is too easy, but I wanted to make it absolutely certain that I got at least one of these correct.
So that’s what happens this fall. Or not!
1. FSU loses to Miami in a Field Goal fest.—I know Miami has nobody on offense thanks to poor recruiting and suspensions. I just think FSU has the worst offensive line in the entire state of Florida (UCF, FIU, USF, Lakeland H.S., etc.). This is a terrible matchup for FSU up front and Miami will dominate, lets say 5-1 FG’s for a 15-3 score.
2. The Gators will win the East and the SEC.—I believe the Gators are as talented as any team on their schedule this year. I think the schedule is tough but every game is winnable. They will slip against Auburn or LSU (most likely Auburn) and win out the rest, defeating FSU handily in Tallahassee on the way to the SEC Championship game victory over Auburn.. Georgia will finish third behind South Carolina in the east.
3. Jarvis Moss will break the single season sack record this year.—Moss is the fastest person on the entire Florida team in a ten yard burst. That despite being 40 pounds heavier than he was 15 months ago. He led the team in sacks last season despite minimal playing time and will start this year. He will have a monster year.
4. FSU loses four games despite the easiest schedule of any Florida team in two decades.—They have nine games in the state of Florida this year. They have eight home games, and I still think that FSU is living on borrowed time and their recent decline was masked by a shocking win against Virgina Tech and a close loss against Penn State.
5. Tennessee may miss bowl game again.—It is very rocky these days in Rocky Top. The Vols are suffering mightily. Their star players on offense were all shaky last season after proving it the year before. Everyone in Knoxville is quick to pass the blame around. Look for another 4-6 loss season.
1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DEFENSE: As good as the Gators were on defense last year, they could be so much better this year. Last year Florida won nine games with Ray McDonald out most of the year, Joe Cohen trying to play while recovering from hip surgery and Jarvis Moss available only in pass rush situations. If McDonald and Moss stay healthy the entire season, Florida should have the best pair of defensive ends in the Southeastern Conference, perhaps in the entire country. Now throw Cohen in the mix in the middle to go with a healthy Marcus Thomas, Steven Harris and Clint McMillan and you have a defensive line that can and will dominate. Considering how many teams spread the field, the Gators will only need two linebackers on the field most of the time so even though there’s not a lot of depth, Earl Everett and Brandon Siler can be plenty enough if they stay healthy. Ryan Smith is a godsend at the corner opposite Reggie Lewis and with Reggie Nelson free to roam anywhere from safety to corner to nickel, the Gators have the package to be the best defense in the SEC.
2. THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THE OLD CHRIS LEAK: He’s happy with the offense and comfortable with what he’s doing. He’s also got enough wide receivers that if someone goes down, there won’t be a serious talent dropoff this year. They’re rolling him out of the pocket and letting him throw on the run which means he won’t hold the ball so long and he’ll see more of the field opening up. He had 20 TDs and only six picks last year. He could double the TDs this year and it’s doubtful he’ll have many more picks. He could break a ton of passing records and get that ring he always wanted.
3. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: There are plenty of young guys to choose from that will make a significant contribution this year but the one that’s going to be a difference maker from day one is Percy Harvin. He is that guy that can take the pitch on the option or destroy opponents on reverses. He can make a short pass a long gainer because he’s just too hot to handle. He can also run a streak pattern so fast that it’s doubtful either Leak or Tim Tebow can overthrow him. Counting passes and running plays, expect him to get the ball at least four times per game. Oh, and can he ever run a punt back.
4. WHO SHOT J.R.?: There won’t be a re-run of Dallas this year. He was good last year but this year Dallas Baker will be even better. With healthy slot receivers that are so fast they will demand the double teams, Dallas Baker is going to have a lot of one on one coverage this year and he will turn that into a whole bunch of miserable afternoons in the secondary for opponents. He had 52 catches last year. A 75-catch, 1,300-yard season shouldn’t surprise anyone.
5. AND THE ENVELOPE PLEASE: The Gators can win nine games with their defense. With any kind of contributions from the offense, they could go 10-2 or 11-1. Given their schedule and this is the Southeastern Conference, anyone that would pick the Gators or any SEC team to go unbeaten should seek therapy.