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That's right, the defense will be as good and possibly better than last season, when the Gators' defense was ranked No. 8 in the nation.
The Gators return 10 of 11 starters. So there is no reason to think they won't be at least as good—likely better, due to experience—than last season.
Projections from the various preseason publications have the Florida defensive line ranked as high as No. 2 and consistently in the top 10. The linebackers all return and will be one of the nation's best units. Also, the defensive backfield is projected to be one of the most improved in college football.
In summary, this defense is very close statistically to the two national championship defenses of the 2006 and 2008 Gators. With the special-teams units in the top five nationally, all that is needed is for the offense to raise its level of play just a bit.
To get a better insight into the numbers and comparisons of the Florida defense, please read my article published on Bleacher Report on August 4. It provides additional detail not included here.
The 2012 Florida Gators are close to being a championship-caliber team. Whether they will beat out Georgia and South Carolina for a spot in the SEC championship game remains to be seen.
If the Gators get the expected play from the quarterback position early in the season, there is no reason not to expect Florida to be in the SEC race all year. But the Gators will need a fast start if they expect to win it.
They cannot enter the game with South Carolina with more than a single SEC loss and expect to win the East. The Gators need to beat both Texas A&M and Tennessee. Winning both sets them up to be in the race all season.
A&M is a bit of an unknown due to its coaching change. But the Florida defense will likely make a difference there.
Having won seven in a row from UT could create a false sense of confidence going into Knoxville. Just keep in mind; this is a different bunch up there now. If the Volunteers win their first game over N.C. State, be ready for a war in Neyland Stadium.
At 7-6 last season, this team was closer to the top than it looked. With important conference games early, we will know early on if the Gators are capable. Win early, and they will be in it all year.
Lose early and Florida will likely be playing spoiler when it gets to South Carolina and Georgia.