I know what you're thinking, and no, this isn't a picture of Tim Tebow trying to give his coach a butterfly kiss. It's an easy mistake to make because it was my first impression as well.
No, this is a picture of Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer celebrating after they won the SEC Championship game. All of us need to get used to this image, because we're very likely to see it again in 2009.
It would be ludicrous for anyone to pick against the Gators to win the SEC.
I understand that anything could happen during a college football season. Preseason favorites/national title contenders can turn into Capital One Bowl participants (I'm looking at you, Georgia), but there isn't a more complete looking team going into 2009 then Florida.
Tebow is the engine that makes his team go, and he will lead an offense that should be one of the best in the country.
He will do anything and everything to help his team win:
If Urban Meyer wants him to hand the ball off or dump it to one of their speedy playmakers—he'll do it.
If Meyer wants him to put the game on his shoulders and carry the team down the field—he'll do that as well.
If the coach asked Tebow to leap four hundred feet in the air and into a burning building to save a damsel in distress—he would do it, and he'd save the damsel's thirteen cats as well.
Butterfly kisses and burning buildings aside, it's not just the offense that makes this team the favorite in the SEC. All 11 starters from last year’s defense return, including all of their backups. Those 22 players, led by Brandon Spikes, will easily be the league’s best defense.
Why won’t Alabama, LSU, or Ole Miss win the SEC this year?
Alabama suffers some serious attrition in the offensive line, and loses key players at the quarterback and running back positions.
We all saw what happened in last year’s Sugar Bowl when Andre Smith wasn’t a part of Alabama’s o-line. The Crimson Tide looked like they were playing in mud without him. Add the fact that they lose John Parker Wilson and Glen Coffee; it might be a tough year for Nick Saban and his team.
LSU has a tough conference schedule with road games at Georgia, at Alabama, and at Ole Miss, but they do catch a break and get Florida in Tiger Stadium. The schedule is the least of Les Miles worries, though.
The Tigers must improve on defense if they want to stay competitive. Last year, they played six division one schools with winning records. In those six games, LSU’s defense gave up an average of just under 35 points.
If the Tigers continue to struggle without Bo Pelini as their defensive coordinator, I’d be surprised if they won their division.
Ole Miss has the least holes of any team in the SEC outside of the Gators. They return 16 starters and a fantastic pro-prospect quarterback, Jevan Snead. On top of that, they couldn’t have asked for a better conference schedule with most of their competition playing in Oxford, and they won’t have to play Florida.
Unless, of course, they meet in the SEC Title Game, which I think will happen. In the end, the Gators will get their revenge against the only team that beat them in 08.
Conference Game of the Year: Florida @ LSU – October 10th
This game will be played under the lights, so Tiger Stadium will be buzzing. The crowd will keep LSU in the game throughout, but in the fourth quarter, it’ll be too much Tebow.
When the Gators are only up by three in the fourth, he’ll lead them on a long touchdown drive that will take the air out of the stadium. Florida goes home with a ten point win.
Other notable conference games:
Alabama @ Ole miss – October 10th
Florida vs. Georgia – October 31st
LSU @ Alabama – November 7th