Gators Pregame: Western Kentucky

August 31, 2007

For each game this year, I am going to do my pre-game previews by running down the songs that make up the Gator band’s pre-game show.

Pregame Jaws

Florida has not lost the first game of the season since 1989, when the Gators, who would finish 7-5, lost to Ole Miss, who would finish 8-4, by a score of 24-19.

Urban Meyer Fanfare

Urban Meyer has never lost the first game of the year as a head coach. At Bowling Green, he beat Missouri 20-13 in 2001 and Tennessee Tech 41-7 in 2002. At Utah, he defeated Utah State 40-20 in 2003 and Texas A&M 41-21 in 2004. At Florida, he defeated Wyoming 32-14 in 2005 and Southern Miss 34-7 in 2006.

Orange and Blue

You’ll be hearing this song a lot on Saturday. If Florida doesn’t score on a drive for any other reason than a quarterback missing open receivers, it will be a huge upset.

Men of Florida

In this game, it’s actually not going to be a feature of the Men of Florida, but the boys. Most of the veterans should be out by various times in the second half, so all of the young players will see playing time. This game will go very similarly to the UCF and Western Carolina games of last year.

Chimes/Alma Mater

Get ready for another year of the UF marketing droids playing up The Gator Nation to try to drum up interest and donations for the ol’ Alma Mater. I hate that phrase, The _____ Nation. Don’t ask we why, I just don’t like it.

We are the Boys March

Florida’s offense should have no problems marching up and down the field. Florida’s players are better athletes than most I-A teams, so the difference between Florida and Western Kentucky, which is technically in its first I-A year in 2007, is huge. If you saw the Murray State – Louisville game last night, the Cardinals players looked like giants next to the Racers players. That’s what it’ll look like in the Swamp tomorrow.

Gators Spell Out

G: Ginormous

I hate this fake word, but it’s about the only one that can accurately describe the level of the beat down that’s coming tomorrow.

A: Auditions

A lot of young players are going to be getting plenty of audition time Saturday one the starters are done with the half or so that they’ll play.

T: Tim Tebow

Yes, national media, Tim Tebow can throw, and we’ll see him do some of that today. It won’t prove much, but it should be enough to shut a few people up.

O: One Team

There are almost no Zook players left, and those that are left, like Andre Caldwell, have fully bought into the Urban Meyer system of both on and off the field life. In Meyer’s first year, he had a lot of issues with people resisting his methods, and some of that even carried over to the beginning of 2006. No more. They’re all his team now.

R: Receivers

Florida has a ton of them, and they’re all good. It starts with Percy Harvin, but even the 7th best player in the stable could start on most teams in the country. These guys will lead the offense and put up some huge numbers this year.

S: Schedule

Florida’s schedule is nowhere near as tough as it was last year. There’s another tough stretch in the middle with Auburn, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina all in a row, but Tennessee, Auburn, Vandy, and FSU are all home games this year and Alabama rotates off the schedule for Coach O and the Ole Miss Rebels.

Suwannee

The points will be flowing for the Gators like the brackish water of the river that lends its name to the final song in the preseason sequence. Enjoy it Florida fans, but for all practical purposes, Florida will still be 0-0 after this weekend since WKU is basically a I-AA team and the stats for this game should be thrown out when considering this season.

Gator football has returned. Go Gators!


Some Predictions

August 30, 2007

Here’s some off-the-cuff predictions for the season while we’re all waiting for LSU to thump Mississippi State to kick off the season…

ACC Atlantic: Boston College

ACC Coastal: Virginia Tech

ACC Champ: VT

Big 12 North: Nebraska

Big 12 South: Oklahoma

Big 12 Champ: Oklahoma

Big East Champ: West Virginia

Big Ten Champ: Michigan

Pac 10 Champ: USC

SEC East: Florida

SEC West: LSU

SEC Champ: Florida

BCS At-Larges: LSU, Wisconsin, Louisville, Hawai’i

Heisman Winner: John David Booty

Should be the Heisman Winner: Darren McFadden

Overrated: Texas

Underrated: Oklahoma State

BCS Title Game: USC and Oklahoma

National Champion: Oklahoma

Two days to go ’til Florida football. Go Gators!


Managing Expectations

August 28, 2007

Something I tried to do all of last year was manage expectations. The goal I set for the Gators last year was to win the SEC East, and that’s what I kept up with for the whole season. Towards the end, I did get caught up in a lot of the national title hopes, but I still stand by that goal based on what I saw at the beginning of last year.

The most realistic expectation for this year is, incidentally, the same – win the SEC East. Don’t get me wrong, my hopes for the year go as high as they can go. I cannot wait to see the offense play this year because it will be something to behold. Still, as much as I trust the Gators’ defensive coaches, I can’t help but be concerned about all of the inexperience on defense. It’s an unknown, and it’s natural to be concerned about uncertainty. I know there will probably be a game or two this year when the offense is not clicking on all cylinders, and the defense will need to carry the team. That’s a legitimate issue. If Percy Harvin misses significant time again, it will be exacerbated.

Now, I think that Urban Meyer has established an all-star coaching staff and together they can certainly lead the Gators to a repeat. A repeat, that is, of the conference title. It’s almost completely unreasonable to expect a repeat of a national title because of how rarely it happens. It’s only happened 4 times since 1960, and that includes USC’s AP title/consensus title this decade that some people still refuse to recognize as a true repeat. And anyway, this year is a transition year between the mostly Zook-recruited teams to a fully Urban Meyer-built program.

Indeed, 2008 is the next best shot for Florida to win the national title. That team will be absolutely loaded and winning the national championship will be a realistic expectation. However, this year it is not.

Now, I haven’t even mentioned Tim Tebow yet. I have purposefully tried to keep my discussion of him to a minimum because I’m attempting to avoid getting swept up in Tebow Mania like most of the rest of Gator fans. I don’t have a problem with that, and to be honest when I think about this year I do get excited at the prospect of Tebow running the offense this year. For the purposes of this site though, I am trying to keep it as even-keel as possible. If he performs like a star once things get going, I will let the irrational exuberance flow, but not yet here in the preseason.

So, let’s go out there and win the division and play for the SEC title. If we can do that it will be a good year, setting up for a monstrous 2008.


LaMarcus Coker Reinstated

August 24, 2007

And just like that, LaMarcus Coker has been reinstated by Tennessee. I remarked that the phrasing left room open for him to return to the team quickly, and though he will miss the Cal game he will be back for all games after that. It shows that Phil Fulmer was serious about the issue that got Coker suspended since Coker won’t be traveling to Berkeley, but hopefully this is a sign that the guy is getting his life back on track.

Incidentally, I still think Tennessee wins at Cal.


Preseason Top 25

August 24, 2007

Well, the Blogpoll is officially out now, and though I am not a voter in it, there’s no reason I can’t put out my own top 25. Just like any other preseason poll, mine is largely based on impressions of the previous year, analysis of current rosters, and guessing. It is fraught with bias, and shows little insight that you can’t find elsewhere. Everyone’s in the same boat on this.

Now, if you remember my ratings machine, I did my own run of it and by chance had 7 teams rated as “Excellent” and 18 teams rated as “Very Good.” If you put on your first grade math hat, that comes out to 25 teams. Therefore, the top 7 teams of my poll make up the excellent category, and the rest are in the very good category. Here goes nothing… 

  1. USC
  2. Michigan
  3. LSU
  4. Oklahoma
  5. West Virginia
  6. Florida
  7. Texas
  8. Virginia Tech
  9. Louisville
  10. Wisconsin
  11. Tennessee
  12. Ohio State
  13. Auburn
  14. Penn State
  15. Boston College
  16. Georgia
  17. California
  18. Nebraska
  19. Hawaii
  20. Rutgers
  21. Arkansas
  22. TCU
  23. Oregon State
  24. South Florida
  25. Boise State

USC is number 1, but not because I think they’re invincible. Rather, it’s a safe pick, and moreover the Trojans have a talent factory and the most proven track record since 2002. Michigan comes in second because at the end of last year I thought that the winner of the Rose Bowl would be #1 and the loser #2. Without much more to go on, I just went with that. As long as Michigan rides Mike Hart as far as he’ll take them, the Wolverines could earn this spot.

LSU has just as much talent to make a case for #1 as USC does, but I don’t trust Les Miles. That’s all. Oklahoma may seem a surprise at 4, but the Sooners return most of their team from last year, and everyone seems to forget that Bob Stoops is still a very good coach. West Virginia comes in a 5 for its impressive arsenal of running weapons. If the Mountaineers throw more than 15 times a game, this year’s team will be a waste.

Florida clocks in at 6. The Gators are that high because of their offense, but not higher because of their defense’s inexperience. The chance for greatness is still there thanks to the strength of the defensive coaches led by Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison. I trust Chuck Heater, I trust Chuck Heater, I trust Chuck Heater…

Texas is 7, but mainly because the I see the Big 12 as weaker this year and the ‘Horns will probably run the table except for Oklahoma. Don’t forget, Mack Brown has been disappointing when his quarterback is not named Vince. Virginia Tech comes in at 8 because of its defensive strength. Plus, generally every conference champion finishes in the top 10 and I see VT winning the ACC. Louisville is 9 because of all the people it has coming back. I don’t know much about Steve Kragthorpe, but apparently he runs an offense similar to Bobby Petrino’s, so some consistency should be enough to keep the Cardinals near the top of the polls again.

From here on out, the guessing takes an ever increasing role as we head down the poll. I have Wisconsin next, but only because it’s still mostly Barry Alvarez’s team. Bret Bielema did a great job last year, but since he has no other track record the Badgers are not any higher. Tennessee is probably a little high at 11, but it’s Erik Ainge’s second year under David Cutcliffe and Phil Fulmer needs to win big to keep off of the hit seat. Ohio State is 12 because the Buckeyes will have to play like the 2002 Luckeyes to win, and this is not as talented of a team.

Auburn comes in at 13, a bit higher than some other folks, but Tommy Tuberville seems to do his best when the expectations are off. Penn State is at 14, but honestly I don’t know if this is too high or too low. Boston College is definitely a surprise at 15, but new head coach Jeff Jagodzinski is a good offensive coach, he knows the zone blocking scheme the Denver Broncos use, and the ACC is pathetic enough that a team like BC could end up with a really nice record. Georgia comes in at 16 because of Matt Stafford, Mark Richt, and a depleted offensive line. I’ll let you determine which two are the liabilities.

Cal is at 17 because the second-best Pac-10 team has to show up somewhere above 20, right? Nebraska’s at 18 thanks to Bill Callahan finally having a good quarterback in Sam Keller. Hawaii is at 19, and you can read about it in J.K. Rowling’s new book Colt Brennan and the PlayStation Offense. Rutgers comes in at 20 since Ray Rice is still around, but it is not higher because like Wisconsin’s Bielema, Greg Schiano has only one really good season to his name. Arkansas is 21 because when all else fails, the Pigs still have Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. If Houston Nutt just does what he did last year with the team, only this time keeping Casey Dick as the starter the whole year, then Arkansas won’t fall off too much.

The perennial most underrated team, TCU, comes in at 22. Every year people talk at length about how no one talks about Gary Patterson and the job he does there. Well, here’s to you, Gary. Oregon State comes in at 23 for two reasons: I like Mike Riley as a college coach, and I still have fond memories of the Beavers destroying Notre Dame in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl. The trendy team South Florida is at 24, but only because I decided last January to put them in my preseason poll and I stuck with it. Boise State rounds out the top 25 since the Broncos lost a lot from last year’s team. Still, with Chris Petersen and Ian Johnson still there, anything can happen.

Now, for some of the notable absences, and by that I refer to teams in the other polls that do not appear in mine. FSU is not there because while the coaches are almost all new, it’s still the same old players. I don’t have Texas A&M because I don’t trust Dennis Franchione. I don’t have South Carolina because while the Gamecocks will be dangerous, Blake Mitchell is showing us once again why he can’t be trusted.

Remember, it’s the preseason. None of this has to make sense yet. Have a  good weekend,  y’all.


Schedule Analysis Part 6

August 24, 2007

Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

November 24: FSU

I’ve already written over 3900 words in the rest of my schedule analysis, and I could probably write 3900 more about FSU alone. For Gator of my father’s generation, Georgia is Florida’s biggest rival. For fans who grew up in the ‘90s like me, FSU is the main rival and it’s not even close. You’ll run into some people (like Orson) who hate Tennessee the most, and that’s perfectly understandable since UT’s a conference rival, but for most, FSU is the big one every year.

This fact probably stems from the fact that Florida-FSU has been a real rivalry since 1990. You had two charismatic head coaches in Bowden and Spurrier, each the polar opposite of the other. Now you have the new school-old school dynamic with Urban Meyer and Bowden. Both teams have nationally significant, aside from the Ron Zook and Jeff Bowden years. Also, with the exception of 2001, you knew that either team had a chance at winning the game. The series spawned many game with names, like the Choke at Doak, 52-20, the Greatest Game Ever Played in the Swamp, and the Ron Zook Field game.

Now, I was going to fill the rest of this with heckling, half truths, and untruths in a general attempt to besmirch the FSU football program, but since Mickey Andrews’ son unfortunately passed away earlier this month I’ll lay off. Don’t worry, it’ll return later this year. In the meantime, I think I’m almost set here in my new apartment and with my new classes, so that’s good. There’s nothing quite like a new set of circumstances to make you run around everywhere doing errands and meeting people and oh yeah, making sure I’m all set to graduate. That was important.


Update: I’m Still Alive

August 14, 2007

Thanks to all for continuing to visit. I’ve been out of town all weekend with little Internet access, and this week I am going to be at Disney today and then in Savannah, GA ’til Friday. I will try to get my FSU analysis up as soon as I can, but it is lengthy as FSU is Florida’s biggest rival in my eyes. Next week, when classes start, I’ll be back to posting more regularly.

In unrelated news, the first game against Western Kentucky has been moved to 12:30 to accommodate Lincoln Financial Sports (the former Jefferson Pilot), which means Western Kentucky is the lead LF Sports game two years in a row (last year, the Hilltoppers played Georgia). Prepare to sweat a gallon or two, those of you attending the game.