Recently, I've heard several commentators downplay the Florida Gators' early season success by pointing out that Florida has faced two teams with first-time starters at quarterback. While it is true that both Miami and Hawaii started green quarterbacks, that is no reason to think that the Gators' success will not continue.
The Gators defense is now grown up after a brutal 2007 SEC season when it featured nine (9) new starters. What's more is the 2008 Gators have the luxury of facing an incredibly inexperienced and unproven group of quarterbacks.
In 2007, Chad Henne and Matt Stafford, among other veteran quarterbacks, picked Florida's young secondary apart. The defensive line did not help the cause with young defensive tackles failing to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. The young defense, consisting of mostly freshmen and sophomores, was almost always facing a more experienced passer.
In 2008, the Gators stand on the other side of the experience equation. The now-experienced defense has shown great improvement in its first two games and the Florida schedule is filled with first-year quarterbacks.
An overview of the Gators' schedule reveals that the only veteran quarterbacks that Florida will face are Matt Stafford (Georgia), Chris Nickson (Vanderbilt), and Casey Dick (Arkansas). Because Dick has been a mediocre (at best) quarterback and Nickson has a lot to prove as a passer, Stafford is the only proven threat to the Gators' secondary.
Hawaii had a new quarterback who didn't score (his backup did manage 10 points against the second- and third-team defense). Miami played two new quarterbacks and tallied three points.
Tennessee has a new quarterback. Ole Miss has new passer in Jevon Snead, who has looked impressive, but will still give up the experience advantage to Florida's defense.
Arkansas has the experienced by the unimpressive Dick. LSU will feature a rookie quarterback no matter which one starts. Kentucky is another team with a new passer.
Seeing a trend here? Until Florida plays Georgia, the defense clearly outmatches the opposing quarterbacks.
After Georgia, it's Vanderbilt with the althletic, but undaunting-through-the-air Chris Nickson. If Florida's defense can stop Stafford, then Nickson will struggle mightily in the passing game.
South Carolina will have either a rookie quarterback who is good for several interceptions or a more experienced one who is also good for several interceptions.
The Citadel barely merits comment, but I've read a scouting report that says they have a passer who started a couple of games in 2007. The Gators defense will have the experience (and every other) advantage in this one.
Last is FSU and their new passer, Christian Ponder (Drew Weatherford is now third on the depth chart).
With so many new quarterbacks on the schedule, Florida's defense will have the experience edge in every game except for the contests against against Georgia, Vandy, and Arkansas.
Even with experienced quarterbacks, Vandy and Arkansas will not have the talent to beat Florida if the Gators play well. That leaves Georgia as the only real threat to the Gators pass defense, which is appropriate considering Stafford's breakout game came against Florida.
If the Gators can build on the confidence that they'll likely gain from beating up on inexperienced quarterbacks, then Stafford will be facing a completely different animal than he saw in 2007.
In any event, the schedule stacks up nicely for the Florida Gators to further improve on their weaknesses from 2007 before their potentially epic matchup with the Bulldogs in Jacksonville.