Gator fans should definitely be a little bit nervous, and DE Carlos Dunlap will certainly be missed. But, damn; their biggest emotion should be excitement. Excitement at facing a team like Alabama, with such a good squad, that really fights, and is battle-tested.
There will probably be flashier players to come at each of their positions than S Ahmad Black, CB Joe Haden, LB Brandon Spikes, QB Tim Tebow, the Pouncey twins at OL, and TE Aaron Hernandez. But, those are athletes who are all physically and mentally tough players who relish contact.
I'd even include Brandon James and Riley Cooper in there because of James' toughness on special teams and Cooper's blocking nastiness. Cooper is one of the toughest blocking wide receivers I've ever seen, right up there with Hines Ward, formerly a hated Georgia Bulldog and now a Pittsburgh Steeler.
In the end, I think Gators fans will take their smart, tough defense, with great corners, and an offense led by a silver-backed senior gorilla at quarterback (that is among the most potent rushing teams that UF has ever put on the field), and take their chances against anybody in the country.
Are the Gators invincible? Of course not. But they have the quarterback most coaches would absolutely pick first every day of the week and twice on Saturdays leading them in his senior year.
They also have a defense full of guys who know this may be their last time playing for a defensive coach they absolutely LOVE and who they want to get the respect and head coaching job that they know he has deserved for years. And yes, it is in part a black thing, because his players know that he could make history and will be a standard-bearer for the embarrassingly-underrepresented amount of minorities in college football.
And, you know what maybe the only positive of losing Dunlap is? The Gators can now circle the wagons and privately play the "everyone and everything is against us" card. It's been amazing to me how many times an upperclassmen-led team that has been ranked NUMBER ONE all year like UF, has been able to not only say that, but actually BELIEVE it this year!
Against Tennessee they were disrespected by Kiffin.
After Kentucky, against LSU they dealt with negative talk about Tebow's
After Arkansas, they were doubted after only winning by three.
After Mississippi State, the offense was doubted after giving up two interceptions
After Georgia, they were able to feel the victim after the overkill of
Brandon Spikes' transgression.
Now, imagine those situations and the Dunlap kerfuffle in the hands of a guy with a Psychology degree like Urban—as if they needed any more motivation.
Here's what I KNOW. The Gators are going to play hard. The Gators are going to play tough. The Gators are going to play well. And, if Alabama beats them, it will be because they played their BEHINDS off to do it.
So bring it, Gator fans should say.
I know that I'll be watching, and enjoying the gladiatorial carnage.