How Does the USA Today Preseason Poll Alter Florida's BCS Hopes?
The USA Today coaches' poll was released earlier this week and the Florida Gators came in at No. 23. The Gators have been ranked in this poll every year since its inception in 1991.
Preseason polls have shown to weight heavily in the ability of teams to qualify for BCS bowl games, and the Gators have their work cut out for them in 2012. On top of playing a difficult SEC schedule, the Gators will play four teams that are ranked inside the Top 10 this season.
Ranked this low in the preseason, the Gators will have to fight an uphill battle if they want to have a chance to play in a BCS bowl game.
Let's take a look at how Florida's preseason ranking will affect their chances of playing in the Sugar Bowl this season.
Beat the Teams You Should Beat
If the Gators want to climb the rankings they need to take care of the teams that they are expected to beat.
We can split these games into two categories. The first being games that under no circumstances should be a loss and the second games that should be a win but the Gators could be upset.
Four games fall into the first category: Bowling Green, Kentucky, Jacksonville State and Louisiana Lafayette. A lose in any of these games would be a devastating blow to the season and is simply unacceptable at the University of Florida.
The second category consists of: Texas A&M, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Missouri. The Gators should be able to win all of these games, but an upset isn't out of the question.
If the Gators want to climb the ranking and be a serious contender for a BCS bowl game, they need to take care of these eight games.
Starting at No. 23 means the Gators will have to win games and win them impressively in order to move up. Florida could find themselves knocking on the door of the Top 10 if they can win their first four games and enter the bye week before playing LSU.
The Gators would need to beat Bowling Green, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky. The games against A&M and Tennessee will be away in front of two of the rowdiest crowds the SEC has to offer.
If the Gators can come away with two big road victories and win convincingly against Bowling Green and Kentucky, the Gators should be ranked in the low teens as they prepare for LSU.
Take Back the Swamp
"The Swamp...Only Gators Get Out Alive," a phrase coined by Steve Spurrier and backed up by his Gators. Urban Meyer did his part to protect the Swamp, but Muschamp lost two home games in his first season.
The Gators play Bowling Green, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Missouri, Louisiana Lafayette and Jacksonville State at home. The Gators will need to win seven of those home games in order to improve upon their home record from last year.
LSU and South Carolina will be tough games to win, but if the Gators offense can hit stride they have a chance in both games. The bye week before LSU will help the Gators against LSU, and if the defense can slow down Marcus Lattimore the Gators have a real shot to take down South Carolina.
Win Your Games Against Ranked SEC Opponents
The preseason poll had seven teams from the SEC crack the Top 25, including five of the top 10.
The Gators will face off against three of those teams this season, and they need to win at least two of those game to keep their BCS bowl aspirations alive.
Florida will play against No. 1 LSU, No. 6 Georgia and No. 9 South Carolina. Both South Carolina and LSU will be played in Gainesville while the Gators will play the Dawgs in Jacksonville.
Florida has lost the past two games to both LSU and South Carolina and will look to end the streak before it gets any worse. The Gators lost to Georgia last season but had won the previous three meetings.
Florida lost to South Carolina and Georgia by a combined nine points in 2011, and with any kind of offense, the Gators could come away with big wins against both SEC East foes.
Beat Florida State
Speaking of ending two-game losing streaks, the Gators travel to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles this year.
The Noles are coming into the season with high hopes and even higher expectations. Much like before the 2011 season, the Noles are ranked in the Top 10 nationally and favorites to win the ACC.
The Gators held FSU to under 100 yards of offense a year ago. Florida's offense coughed the ball up repeatedly and gave the game away.
The Gators offense should be much-improved from a season ago, and the defense will be looking to take the step from good to great or even elite in 2012. If the Gators want to finish ranked high they will need to win their last game of the season and give the voters a good showing against their hated rival.