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ATLANTA, GA— One thing I've learned in life is when everybody knows a future event will happen, sports has a way of guaranteeing a different outcome. That’s why we get excited about playing the game. Everybody believes Florida will dominate football in 2009. Florida is great but I'm predicting they will not go undefeated.
So many things have to line up perfectly to go undefeated. There are too many random events in sports that change games. Even when the talent is stacked in favor of one team like it is at Florida, a miracle can happen that changes the outcome in favor of the opponent.
While I was in Birmingham for Media Days, the overwhelming consensus among journalists who follow SEC Football every day of their waking life was that the Florida Gators would go undefeated and return to the national championship game. It's a gimme.
Florida is well coached, has strong leadership, and loads of talent across the board. The Gators have momentum from 2009, Superman himself, Tim Tebow, and their schedule is easier than in recent years.
Everything is going Florida's way; but the winds always change. The Gators are a near unanimous choice for preseason No. 1 among sports writers and fans alike. When Coach Meyer spoke about his team in Birmingham, he had overwhelming confidence.
There were no problems; the game of college football couldn't be more enjoyable to him. It was in stark contrast to other coaches who appeared to need to get back to campus to lock the gates and keep their football players out of trouble.
At SEC media days, Tim Tebow enjoyed higher status than the other quarterbacks. Tim Tebow spoke from the main podium and answered questions from the entire room of journalists. All the other quarterbacks were given a corner area to be interviewed.
If it were a court room, Tebow was in the Judge's seat and the other quarterbacks were sitting in the defendant's chair. Winning has its advantages.
Going undefeated in the SEC is nearly impossible. Three SEC teams have done it in the last 30 years but they didn't have the preseason No. 1 target on their backs. From top to bottom, every SEC school in 2009 is competitive. It is impossible to get a team up for every game. The SEC has too many good teams, and upsets always happen.
Football is about getting breaks. Last year, the Georgia Bulldogs were the preseason No. 1 team in the country. Similar story. Great coaches, talented and experienced players, manageable schedule.
Injuries and team chemistry breakdowns had the Bulldogs finish at No. 13 and 10-3 with painful losses in big games against Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech. When Florida has won their national championships, they got miraculous breaks during the season.
So how does Florida get defeated? The magnitude of being a consensus preseason No. 1 team is like a curse. It's a lot of extra pressure. The bar has been set very high and people expect huge success which is hard to do week in and week out. The game is tough enough to play with excellence consistently.
More media, more fans, more enemies. The additional pressure will hurt the team.
Florida is a big target. Every team wants to beat Florida and be the team that upsets the champion. LSU and Georgia have the best chance and with the right environment could pull it off.
Looking past Vandy, South Carolina, Arkansas or Florida State could be a big mistake. Nothing will be easy. More television coverage means longer games which can be a factor too.
The rest is fairly predictable. The winds always change. Injuries, turnovers, adversity and big plays always happen at the worst time for an anointed champion. Nothing is guaranteed in sports except unpredictable outcomes. Florida is my pick for the national championship but they will not go undefeated.
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