They are saying and doing all the right things in Gainesville.
After two championships in three years, the Florida Gators appear primed and ready for another run at the title. Tim Tebow is back, along with seven more starters on offense. Brandon Spikes and the rest of the starting defensive unit also return.
Worried about losing Percy Harvin to football on Sundays? Super blue chip prospect Andre Debose could make his early departure a lot easier to take.
Word in Florida is that everyone is just as focused as ever, just as hungry.
But the Gators will not win the National Championship this year.
They should, they just won’t.
Sometimes “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” It happens when a scenario is just too comfortable, too easy. It’s how criminal masterminds get caught. They start to become so routine in their perfect capers that they lax their attention to detail. And all it takes is one slip up.
Florida almost went down this road last year. They lost a winnable game at home versus Ole Miss that put their road to a National Championship on a rockier path. One year removed form their win in the B.C.S. Championship game against Ohio State, they rallied behind a riveting post conference speech from Tebow, and joined in his crusade to work harder than any other team to get back on top.
It worked, and get back on top they did.
This year, however, I just don’t see everything lining up for the Gators the way it has in the past. Tebow has played relatively injury free football over his career. How long can that last? His offensive line is probably the weakest link. It may not be a liability, but it is bad enough they had to convert an already converted defensive tackle back to his original position of offensive tackle.
Florida doesn’t run the ball traditionally very well outside of Tebow, and there is word that Meyer will go to a more conventional I-formation to achieve a better run-pass balance without further risking his quarterback to injury. With all the things the Gators do right, running the ball right at you out of conventional sets isn’t one of them.
There is the schedule that is a little tougher than last year. They play LSU on the road, and the Tigers are still smarting from their loss to the Gators in which they were manhandled 51-21 at The Swamp.
Florida will likely be heavy favorites in every other game this year, but even that is a double edged sword. They still play in the SEC, and for my money, that means they will face the best of the best week in and week out, not to mention their annual date with Georgia.
What about another upset? A slip up this year to an Ole Miss type team and I don’t see Gator Nation capturing lightning in a bottle again from another postgame Tebow sermon.
Complacency will undoubtedly make its impression here somewhere. While Florida may feel they are just as hungry for another title as they were last year, the reality is that the Alabama Crimson Tide is hungrier than last year. The Texas Longhorns are a lot hungrier than they were last year. The USC Trojans and the Oklahoma Sooners are circling their prey, mouths drooling, looking for a meal as well. One of these dogs is going to bite.
Pressure will play a part in Florida missing out on the trophy. With all those returning starters from a loaded team to begin with, they will be expected to go undefeated, and while I don’t see Urban Meyer as a coach who will coach his games “not to lose,” the pressure of constantly winning big each and every week will have an effect on players somewhere down the line.
Recruiting wasn’t a piece of cake this year for Meyer either. They didn’t have a top 10 class, and while that is probably due to the fact so many starters are returning, depth at some positions could be a concern, especially along the offensive line.
Focus is another concern. Already there have been rumors and stories, and stories of rumors, that Urban Meyer is more than a little irritated at Lane Kiffin of the Tennessee Volunteers. It seems a lot of attention is being paid to what Kiffin is doing on the hill, whether it’s negative or positive. Not saying that Florida shouldn’t be favored by 30 in their game with UT, but why is Goliath so concerned with what David is doing?
As long as they don’t ruin their appetite, the good news for Gator fans this year is that Florida is loaded, experienced, and still lead by Urban Meyer. The bad news is they still have to play the games.