I never really thought I would find myself saying this, but I'm having trouble trusting Florida at all this year, and it's entirely because of their offense. I'm sure that Brent Pease can get things turned around in the long-term, but I'm not sure if it's reasonable to expect him to right the ship of two bad years of offense in a single offseason. So I find myself picking Florida to lose three games in the Swamp, and I'm wondering if I've lost my senses completely.
Which brings us to the problems with both of these teams. Within the last four years, we've seen both of them claim national titles. We've also seen Florida come up one game short another year. But both feel like they're a little bit short of that magic -- like there's a piece missing here or there that has almost never been missing for Florida and was rarely missing at Auburn, and generally only in one of Tommy Tuberville's lull years.
Auburn is sort of a mixed bag. i think they'll be better on defense -- they would almost have to try to be worse than the Ted Roof Era teams -- but the question of how much better is the key. And there are still some shaky aspects of the offense, not the least of which is the departure of Gus Malzahn and Auburn's leading rusher from last season along with him. But Gene Chizik has so far proven to be a lot more competent coach than many of us thought when he first took over on the Plains, so maybe he can squeeze a little bit more out of this team.
Under that kind of a scenario, Auburn's first game could be crucial. If the Tigers can come out of the box strong and beat an expected conference championship contender in Clemson, it could set the tone for a nice year and a trip to Atlanta -- though likely in late December instead of earlier in the month. If things go south against Clemson and that carries over to a week later at Mississippi State -- look out below.
And for Florida, I just don't know. I see what Phil Steele and other Florida-boosters are saying. The turnover margin, for example, was ridiculously high -- but part of that is because Florida didn't have a clear-cut quarterback last year ... and the Gators don't have a clear-cut quarterback this year. While there weren't really any big playmakers last year, the most dynamic offensive performers are gone. Even in the SEC, there's only so far defense can take you -- and I'm just worried that it can't take Florida very far.
Place: 4th in the SEC West
Record: 8-4, 4-4 SEC
Could be: 5-7 to 10-2
Best chance for an upset: ARKANSAS
9.1.11 | vs. CLEMSON (Atlanta) | POSSIBLE WIN
9.8.11 | at MISSISSIPPI STATE | POSSIBLE WIN
9.15.11 | LOUISIANA-MONROE | WIN
9.22.11 | LSU | PROBABLE LOSS
10.6.11 | ARKANSAS | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.13.11 | at OLE MISS | POSSIBLE WIN
10.20.11 | at VANDERBILT | POSSIBLE WIN
10.27.11 | TEXAS A&M | POSSIBLE WIN
11.3.11 | NEW MEXICO STATE | WIN
11.10.11 | GEORGIA | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.17.11 | ALABAMA A&M | WIN
11.24.11 | at ALABAMA | PROBABLE LOSS
Place: 4th in the SEC East
Record: 6-6, 3-5 SEC
Could be: 5-7 to 9-3
Best chance for an upset: SOUTH CAROLINA
9.1.11 | BOWLING GREEN | LIKELY WIN
9.8.11 | at TEXAS A&M | POSSIBLE LOSS
9.15.11 | at TENNESSEE | POSSIBLE WIN
9.22.11 | KENTUCKY | LIKELY WIN
10.6.11 | LSU | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.13.11 | at VANDERBILT | POSSIBLE WIN
10.20.11 | SOUTH CAROLINA | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.27.11 | vs. GEORGIA (Jacksonville) | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.3.11 | MISSOURI | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.10.11 | LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE | WIN
11.17.11 | JACKSONVILLE STATE | WIN
11.24.11 | at FLORIDA STATE | POSSIBLE LOSS
Key (from least likely to win to most): Loss, Likely Loss, Probable Loss, Possible Loss, Possible Win, Probable Win, Likely Win, Win