SEC 2009 // Is 2009 Florida another 2005 Southern Cal?

The defending national champions are going for three with the nation's top quarterback, most electric playmaker and most dynamic wideouts. Who's to stop them? --Sports Illustrated

Obviously, for those who haven't caught on by the title of the post or the slight differences between the quote and what one would say about the Florida Gators, I've altered that excerpt just a little bit. Take out "defending national champions" and put "Trojans" in its place. Then, go back in time four years, to 2005.

Southern Cal was just as favored then as Florida is now. Any problems with the team were pushed aside as the "buts" of naysayers, soon to be overrun by the talent on the field and the coaching prowess on the sidelines.

And, indeed, the Trojans had a whale of a season. They blasted opponent after opponent en route to Pasadena and a showdown with Texas in the Rose Bowl. A game for the national title.

A game the Trojans lost.

Of course, it's not 2005 and Florida is not Southern Cal. But the same presumptuous expectations surround this team. The season is becoming less about the rest of college football or the rest of the SEC and more about a single question: Can anyone stop the Gators?

To an extent, this does a disservice both to Florida and to the other teams in the league. All around us, there are fascinating stories, from Lane Kiffin's first season to the wild card status of Ole Miss to the continuing resurgence of Alabama. Meanwhile, Florida has now been built up so much that anything but a national title will be a disappointment -- which makes the season more about the goal than the journey. The individual games are now almost unimportant; the trophy at the end is all that matters.

There are differences between this team and the 2005 Trojans. Southern Cal suffered far deeper personnel losses on defense, and they were destined to clash with the best player of his generation in the national title game. Florida has the best player of maybe any generation on their side this year.

But there are also similarities: Changes in the offensive coaching staff on a team that is one of the most explosive in the country and a notion that any questions about the team can be answered with, "But look at that talent."

There is nothing inevitable about Florida's championship, nothing that says they have to win it or even that they should win it. Sports is a landscape filled with unlucky bounces, dashed dreams and certainties that never came to be. Florida will have to be as careful navigating those obstacles as it is working through the schedule laid out before it.

Almost everyone will choose Florida as No. 1, of course, and it's a decision I support. After all, I did the same thing. But even if Florida makes it to Pasadena, they still have to win the national title game, maybe even against Texas.

Some things haven't changed much in four years.

--

MONDAY: Florida's Song Remains the Same; The Connnectedness of Florida's Heisman Winners
TUESDAY: The Underdogs Florida Will Face; Don't Miss Tebow's Last Year
WEDNESDAY: Meet the New Gators, Same as the Old Gators; Gator Coaching Staff Changes Should Not Be Overlooked
THURSDAY: Tim Tebow's Wikipedia Entry, c. 2070; Florida Goes for Lucky No. 14; Florida on YouTube
EARLIER TODAY: Chomping Over Things About Florida With Alligator Army; Book Review: Historic Photos of University of Florida Football
LATER TODAY: Your Turn

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