The favorite to win the BCS National Championship has to be the Florida Gators. The Gators return their whole two deep depth on defense. With middle linebacker Brandon Spikes leading the way on what should be a very good defensive group. On the offensive side of the ball the Gators return 8 starters. Florida offense is led by 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
The Gators have a lot to look forward to this year and have a chance to repeat as national champions. Most experts think Florida has only one speed bump on their way to the SEC title game. That would be a night game against LSU at Tiger Stadium.
LSU does not look to be much a challenge this year as in years past but in the SEC any team can win on just about any given game. If the Gators can get pass the Tigers they should beat any team in the SEC title game against what most people think will be Alabama or Mississippi.
There are three reasons why the Gators second straight national championship might be in trouble before it even begins.
The schedule is loaded with rivalry games:
As any college football fan can tell you when it comes to rivalry game you can throw out the records. Teams that are having a down year can always steal a win against their long time rivals. The history of college football is littered with upsets in rivalry games. The Gators have four such games in the 2009 season.
The big games on the Florida schedule start with a September date with the Tennessee Volunteers. There is nothing new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin would love more than to upset the Gators. The Vols might not have the talent level like most years but after looking like they quit the last two years against the Gators they will have a lot of pride on the line. One other thing is that Kiffin could use a win after calling out the Gators after he was hired. Good news for Florida is that they get Tennessee at home.
The next rivalry game is in Jacksonville in October on Halloween against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs lost a lot of talent with Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno leaving early for the NFL. The talent for the Bulldogs is surely still in Athens. By the time they play each other Mark Richt will have his team ready for the Gators. The Bulldogs would love to ruin the Gators chance at a title.
The next game is not a traditional rivalry but with ex Gators coach Steve Spurrier now head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks the game means even more for both teams. Urban Meyer has already won more national titles than Spurrier with the win last year. Spurrier would love to make sure Meyer did not repeat at the school he brought to national prominence. The Gamecocks get the Gators at home and they did beat them in Columbia in 2005.
The last game of the season is against Florida State and what a rivalry it has been. The Gators have owned the Seminoles the last few season but Florida State is looking to rebound and return the national spot light. A win against the Gators could announce that they are back once again. Bobby Bowden would love to go out on top against the Gators if 2009 is his last season in Tallahassee.
Gators do not find hospitality from the Magnolia State:
Florida might not think playing SEC teams from Mississippi constitute as big games but maybe they should. Since 2000 the SEC teams of Mississippi and Mississippi State have a combined 5-3 record against the Gators. The Gators have only won once in Mississippi since 2000 at that was at Oxford in 2007.
The Gators could potently play both SEC Mississippi schools this year. First we will look at the guaranteed match up. Florida will travel to Starkville just one week before they play Georgia. They cannot look ahead since the last trip to meet the Bulldogs of State lead to a 38-31 loss. That MSU team finished with a 3-8 record and cost Ron Zook his job at Florida. Making this match up even more interesting is the fact that former Florida Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen will lead the Bulldogs against his former team.
If the Gators can make it to the SEC Title game they could have to play the Rebels of Ole Miss. Mississippi was only team that beat Florida last year on their run to a national championship last year. The game is played at a neutral site but the Rebels have beaten the Gators in Gainesville twice since 2000. So they will not be intimidated by playing the Gators anywhere.
The simplest thing that could stop the Gators chance of a repeat is history. No Florida team has ever finished a season without a loss. Even in their three title years the Gators have went down in defeat once. The best way to make sure they even get a chance to play for the title again the Gators would like to have a spotless record.
If they make it to the title game they would have to change some more history. No team since the BCS has started in 1998 in some form or another has repeated as champion. Three teams have made it back to the title game the following season. Florida State, Miami, and Southern Cal. all lost their return trip back to the title game. If the Gators want to repeat they will have to change history.
Other things could end a repeat title by the Gators most notably is injuries. They could drop a game to a weaker team as well if they are caught looking ahead. Florida could also lose if they do not come ready to play each and every week. Since they are the defending champions they will take every ones best shot week in and week out.