FanHouse's 2010 Preseason College Football Poll -- No. 5 Florida
John Brantley's mustache has replaced Tim Tebow's Bible verse eye black as the most iconic fashion feature of a Gator quarterback. Gone too are Tebow's punishing runs and play-action fakes to himself. Now the question is just how good is John Brantley going to be? And can he rally the 13 new starters the Gators will be breaking in on both sides of the ball?
The last time Florida had this much uncertainty, Tebow was a sophomore and Urban Meyer's team struggled to stop anyone on defense. The end result? A 9-4 regular season record and lots of blown defensive coverages. Will the Gator defense, with uncertainty at defensive tackle and linebacker, gel and become a solid unit or will there be early missteps that lead the Gators to return to the pack in the SEC?
What's more, there has been a lot of chatter out of Florida Gator practices. Is this a team that can back up all the talk or will it buckle under the pressure of national attention without the Tebow bulwark to rely upon? It won't take long to find out. The Gators should be 4-0 when they roll into Tuscaloosa on Oct. 2.
THE BASICS: 13-1 last year, lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and then routed Cincinnati in Tim Tebow's finale as a Florida Gator quarterback in the Sugar Bowl. The Tebow era ended with back-to-back 13-1 seasons.
KEY PLAYER YOU PROBABLY DON'T THINK OF AS A KEY PLAYER: For the past four years, Tebow basically became the power running back. Right now the expectation is that Florida will go with a rotating group that includes Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody, Mike Gillislee and heralded recruit Mack Brown. For the past four seasons, when the Gators needed a third- or fourth-down conversion Tebow got the first down. Who will reliably extend drives for the Gators this season? Can anyone?
Basically, Tebow's clutch performance in short yardage and goal line situations has been completely overlooked. With the Gators adopting more of a pro-style look for Brantley, the emergence of a reliable power running back is a must.
FLY IN THE OINTMENT: Do the Gators have a proven downfield threat at receiver? Last year, Florida missed Percy Harvin, but it may have missed Louis Murphy more. Now the top two receivers from last year's team (which lacked explosion all season long), tight end Aaron Hernandez and Tebow's roommate (in case you forgot) Riley Cooper, are gone. Who is the guy this year who can make the Gators dangerous down the field and open up the running game to take the pressure off Brantley?
DON'T MISS: Florida vs. Alabama on Oct. 2. It's likely that this game will repeat in the SEC championship in December, but Florida vs. Alabama has rapidly become can't miss television. In fact, depending on earlier outcomes, this game could be a matchup of 1 vs. 2 in October.
Look for CBS to pull the best regular season ratings of its tenure with this game. Regardless of which team you root for, the entire nation will be watching the latest chapter in Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban.
PREDICTED RECORD: 10-2
FanHouse's Florida team page with schedule