2011 Florida Gators Football: Third Place? Why the Media Got It Right

John PattonContributor IJuly 26, 2011

Can John Brantley lead the Gators to better than third place in the SEC East?
Can John Brantley lead the Gators to better than third place in the SEC East?Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

In recent days I've heard from a lot of Gator fans decrying the fact that the Southeastern Conference media contingent predicted Florida to finish third in the East.

My answer?

The pick makes a ton of sense.

Let me open with saying I think UF has the second-most talent of any team in the East, behind South Carolina. But there is a very logical reason to believe Georgia—even if it (as has most often been the case in recent seasons) loses to Florida—will finish ahead of the Gators in the East.

That reason?

The schedules of the two teams.

Knowing that both squads play each other in supposedly "neutral" Jacksonville and each faces everyone else in the East (with the Dawgs getting the Gamecocks at home and UF having to travel to Columbia), let's look at who Georgia and Florida have to take on from the powerhouse West.

Mark Richt's team will travel to Mississippi (the media's pick for sixth place in the West) on Sept. 24, will host Mississippi State (fourth) on Oct. 1 and will host Auburn (fifth) on Nov. 12.

Conversely, Will Muschamp gets these doozies in his first year on the job: hosting Alabama (first in the West, first overall) on Oct. 1; at LSU (second in the West, second overall) on Oct. 8 and at Auburn on Oct. 15. Those three games will feature each of the last five BCS-national-championship-winning schools.

It is fair to say the Bulldogs have the East's easiest schedule of teams from the West, while Florida's degree of difficulty is bested only by Tennessee (who hosts LSU on Oct. 15, at Alabama on Oct. 22, at No. 3 West and overall pick Arkansas on Nov. 12).

So, Gator fans, at least be happy you aren't rooting for the Vols (who also have to travel to Gainesville).

The lopsided look of the two schedules may not look all that fair, but they weren't designed to favor one team or another. It just worked out that way.

Until it goes out and proves otherwise, Florida is ranked exactly where it belongs in the East.

Now, as for the two media members who gave first-place votes in the West to Mississippi and the one who gave Kentucky a first-place vote in the East... Well, those are worth scratching your heads over.

NOTE: Last week Muschamp gave the indication he was very hopeful, but not 100 percent sure tailback Jeff Demps, also a major track sprinting star, would play for UF this fall. However, minutes ago Demps announced on his Facebook page he would be a Gator in the fall.