Last year, the Florida Gators were expected to run the table and win their second consecutive National Championship.
You knew exactly what you were getting with the team, a strong defense that returned all 11 starters and an offense led by Heisman winner Tim Tebow.
The Gators did not dominate many opponents last season, at least from a scoreboard perspective. But the formula worked to perfection, as they ran the table in the regular season before meeting up with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
The Gators' lack of domination seemed to be a byproduct of the continuous mounting pressure that built with each and every week.
If you couldn't see it in Urban Meyer's eyes when he briefly stepped down from the head coaching position, then you wouldn't know the ungodly weight that bore down on this team from all the expectations.
You all know the rest of the story. But let's fast forward to today and this year's squad, which is a much more exciting group because they are the opposite of last year's team in almost every way.
First off, you have no idea what to expect from these guys. It's a complete 180 from last year's team.
The offense has lost a lot of the nationally known names, but the “unknowns” may end up being better than those guys. You have John Brantley taking over the helm. Will Hill and Janoris Jenkins are taking over Joe Haden's secondary. Jon Bostic is taking over Brandon Spikes' linebacking corps, and so on.
You have an idea of what these guys are going to do, but you're not really sure exactly how it is going to happen.
And that's a good thing. This year is going to be much more exciting. Most importantly, teams that knew exactly what the Gators were going to bring to the table the past few seasons are not going to know what hit them.
Secondly, these guys are now assuming the role of underdogs, also a complete-180 from last year's super-duper favorites.
With Tebow at the helm, it was hard to ever say the Gators were too assuming of their status in college football because he kept them motivated and didn't take things for granted. But you kinda got the feeling that some guys let all the hype get to their heads and never played up to their potential last season (see Exhibit A, the SEC Championship).
Well, guess what? Now, you don't have to worry about that.
This squad won't take anything for granted, and they shouldn't because they haven't won anything yet.
Needless to say, as all coaches would be, Meyer appears pretty pumped for this fresh new group of guys taking over the reigns this year. A group that he can mold fresh from the start into a new breed of winners.
"It’s maybe not a team of superstars,” Meyer said last week in a radio interview. “But it’s a team with some very, very good players that I can feel has a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, which is great to coach a team that has a chip as opposed to being the targeted one all the time."
Everybody loves a winner, but it says here that it is more fun cheering for an unpredictable underdog.
Sure, there will be growing pains with the 2010 squad. I have said before that I feel that this team is very good, but 2010 is simply a year to gain the experience necessary to mount a serious title run in 2011. It's not to say this team can't win it all this year, but they are built to win it all next year.
With that being said, I think the unpredictability and underdog status will make this one of the most dangerous teams in the country this year (oh yeah, the talent might have something to do with that too).
You can never really call a team with this much talent and expected to make another run to Atlanta for the SEC Championship an underdog, but they kind of are with everyone paying attention to Alabama in the SEC, and rightfully so.
Let's look back one more time before we get even more excited for the college football season.
In 2009, you had juggernaut Alabama get usurped by a Gators team that felt it didn't get the respect it deserved.
In 2010, you had just the opposite, when Alabama turned the tables and got revenge and the respect they deserved.
This year, Florida has that revenge factor on its side. But maybe more importantly, they have a completely different core, an unpredictable one that may be the wild card in many battles this season.
It may not be enough to win it all, but it will be enough to scare the bejeezus out of everyone the Gators face this season. And sometimes, that is just enough of an edge to win.
You might not know exactly what to expect this season, but that's a good thing. Just sit back and enjoy the show. You will be pleasantly surprised. You may even see a more dangerous team than the one that took the field last year.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!