College Football 2011: Previewing Florida Gators' October Parade of Champions
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It's tough enough to see national powerhouses like Alabama, Louisiana State, Auburn and Georgia on your schedule.
Now, imagine you have to play each of those teams in the same month.
This is the task in front of Will Muschamp's Florida Gators in his first October on the job.
Here's the rundown: 'Bama visits The Swamp on Oct. 1. UF travels to LSU on Oct. 8 and defending BCS National Champion, Auburn, the next Saturday. Following a much-deserved week off, the Gators will have their annual clash with the 'Dawgs in Jacksonville on Oct. 29. Look for both Alabama and LSU to be in the Top Five of most preseason polls, with Auburn in the Top 15 and Georgia most likely in the Top 25.
Each of those teams, except for the Bulldogs, has won a BCS national title since 2007 (the Gators took the other one). Also during that stretch, LSU ( with quarterback JaMarcus Russell in 2007) and Georgia ( with quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2009) have produced No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft. Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and former Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus are both likely candidates to be selected first in this year's draft.
And what makes this gauntlet of games even more interesting are the ties Muschamp has with each school.
Nick Saban hired Muschamp when Saban was LSU's head coach. Once a safety for Georgia during the early 1990s, Muschamp was the linebackers coach for LSU in 2001. A year later, Muschamp was promoted to defensive coordinator, a role he kept until he left LSU with Saban for the Miami Dolphins in 2005.
Which of these October games will be the Gators' toughest?
In 2006, Muschamp was hired as Auburn's defensive coordinator, a position he held until taking the same job at Texas in 2008.
As the coach of the team he cheered for, while spending nine years growing up in Gainesville, Fla., he has to face programs he once helped build.
That being said, Auburn will be without departed Heisman Trophy-winner, Cam Newton, and Lombardi Award-winner Nick Fairley. LSU will play sans Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Patrick Peterson; Georgia will have to make due without All-American wide receiver A.J. Green, and the Tide no longer have Dareus or standout wideout Julio Jones.
All six of those players are expected to be among the first 10 players selected in Thursday's draft, and of the group, it's likely only Jones could fall out of the top 12.
But don't expect anyone to feel sorry for any of those teams, especially the Gators, who have to play them all in one brutal month of football.
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