Florida Football: Potential 'Land Mine' Games for the 2010 Gators

Charlie MillsonCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2010

Five Potential "Land Mine" Games for the 2010 Gators

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    Every championship season has its moments when a team's fortunes could have gone another way—a mistake here, a dropped pass on that play, a blown coverage there—and the season is lost. 

    Fortunately, the 2009 season for the University of Florida had few of those moments, and, in almost each one, the ball bounced the Gator's way due to preparation, skill, coaching, and athleticism.

    But what about 2010?

    There are some games on each team's schedule that might be called "land mine" games; these are those games where your team might easily look like the better team on paper, but, due to other factors, those games surprise and "blow up" in your faces and hang an "L" on the schedule. 

    This list is not intended to be a doomsday, oh-woe-is-we prediction, but it serves us to know the realistic chances of the possibility that Florida's regular season win streak may be snapped this year. 

    Let's take a look at five games in which the Gators might face an opponent and find things not going the way they did in 2009 or the way we expect them to go.

Game No. 3: Tennessee

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    We'll be the first to admit that Tennessee is probably not going to be 'Tennessee' this year.  The Volunteers simply have too many changes, too many losses of key personnel, too many untested players in important positions.

    But consider this:  If Tennessee somehow manages to defeat Oregon the week before (or, perhaps, even play the highly ranked and uber-talented Ducks closely), the Vols may go in to the Florida game on an early season 'high' that could carry them to victory.

    And an old expression in the SEC parallels the one from the NFL, that "on any given Saturday" in this conference, especially in rivalry games, emotions can make the difference.  

    And this season, with the game being played in Knoxville before 100,000+ rabid Rocky Top fans, it just might.

    Likelihood of Upset:  Medium

Game No. 10: South Carolina

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    It's a conundrum.  Pundits call 2010 the best chance coach Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks have had to break through and become a real contender in the SEC East.

    Yet, many of those same pundits call for the 'Cocks to finish near the bottom of the conference.

    Perhaps that is because of the recent past that has witnessed several Spurrier teams who have failed to live up to potential.  

    Perhaps this year is different.

    The Old Ball Coach returns talent on both sides of the ball.  What he lacks (and has lacked since coaching for the Gators) is a consistent running attack that will open up the passing game.

    Spurrier hopes to have that facet of his offense in place this time. He also returns all of a talented and experienced secondary and his leading tackler from last season.

    If he can conjure only a little more magic, he could find himself with a victory over his former team.  

    Likelihood of Upset:  Medium

Game No. 2: South Florida

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    Laugh if you will, but the Bulls still play in a BCS conference and are coming off a season where they defeated both Florida State and West Virginia.

    They boast one of the deepest offensive and defensive lines in the Big East.  And, they have added Skip Holtz as their head coach.  Besides the pedigree, coach Holtz has a proven track record of his own, leading ECU to success in C-USA.

    At USF, he'll certainly draw better talent.  For now, he has a decent QB in sophomore B.J. Daniels who is a dual threat to run or pass. Sound like a familiar package to anyone?

    With this game coming so early in the season, could it be that the Gators have yet to gel in certain areas that could be exploited by USF?  Perhaps.  And with the SEC schedule looming the following week, it's a game Florida might be tempted to but can't afford to take lightly.

    So, don't overlook the Bulls simply because they're the new kid on the block.

    Likelihood of Upset:  Below Average

Game No. 7: Mississippi State

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    This season, the Bulldogs hope to pull off a miracle and make it to a bowl game.  For former Gator assistant Dan Mullen, beating his old team (and his long-time old boss) at their place would be better than that, probably.

    The bowl game may be the longer shot.  Boasting about having the sixth toughest schedule in the nation does a team no good if the team loses every game.

    Yet, Mullen's team will be dogged (pun intended) on defense.  This is a team that lost to LSU last year by only four and to the Gators by ten.  They fought 'Bama closely until the Tide pulled away late.  

    They also closed out the season by crushing inner-state rival Ole Miss by two touchdowns and look to capitalize on that winning momentum for 2010.

    Bringing some of his own recruited talent (ranked #25 recruiting class last year), Mullen and the 'Dogs could catch Florida off guard a week before the Georgia game and pull the upset. 

    Likelihood of Upset:  Below Average

Game No. 4: Kentucky

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    Let's say that the Gators beat Tennessee handily.  After the heady win in Knoxville, Florida's collective mind will turn, automatically, to the rematch with Alabama two weeks later.

    In between, however, lies the Kentucky Wildcats.

    Does it not seem that Randall Cobb has been at Kentucky for ten years?  This guys is phenomenal.  If new head coach Joker Phillips can find a way to get the ball in the talented hands of the multidimensional Cobb bunches and bunches of times in Gainesville, the 'Cats could catch the Gators looking ahead to the Tide and slip out of town with a 'W'.

    Also, did you realize that UK has gone bowling four years in a row? Sure, for Gator fans, this creates a sizable yawn, but Rich Brooks and now Phillips have created a new, winning atmosphere in Lexington. Kentucky now feels it can compete in the SEC, and a win against Florida would only confirm the new feeling.