Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: Florida Gators

Gators The Crimson Tide's SEC home opener on October 2 will be a big one. The Tide will host the Florida gators in a matchup that will bring together the last two SEC Champions and the last two winners of the BCS National Championships. The game itself will not only have conference implications but will most likely end the loser's hopes at winning a national championship.

Much like the Tide, last year the Gators were undefeated through the regular season and had an impressive Sugar Bowl, pounding Cincinnati 51-24. The big question of course is how on earth they will replace possibly the best college football player of all time, Tim Tebow. That job falls to John Brantley, and he definitely has some large shoes to fill at quarterback. Even with the loss of Tebow, Florida is ranked in the top five in most of the preseason polls out there.

Not only do the Florida Gators have to replace the team’s top passer and rusher in Tebow, but they will also have to replace the team’s leading receiver from a year ago in Riley Cooper. Another key departure for the Gators offense was tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was also one of Tebow’s favorite targets. Brantley will have some support from returning players. In total, the Gators will return six starters from last year.

Both running backs Jeffery Demps and Emmanuel Moody will be back, but the most important returning player is center Mike Pouncey. Pouncey will give the Gators much needed protection on the front line, especially with a first year starter behind him. Given the lack of game time experience Brantley has, relying on proven offensive linemen like Pouncey will definitely give him some much needed confidence under pressure. He may not have the stats and will have some growing pains, but Brantley is absolutely poised to put up some impressive numbers with the offense around him.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Gators will have to replace some big names including defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham, linebacker Brandon Spikes, and defensive back Joe Haden. The most significant loss comes with the departures of Dunlap and Cunningham who were the anchors on a stellar defensive line last season. However, we all know do know one thing, that the Gators defense will fill the gaps and still be a hassle for opposing offenses.

There are some very talented guys ready to take up the starting slots, most of them who could start on many other defenses around the league and only were saw less playing time due to the players in front of them. Linebacker Brandon Hicks, defensive back Janoris Jenkins, and safety Ahmad Black will anchor the defense allowing the new guys to fill the missing gaps. Let’s not forget, that the Gators also have some highly talented recruits that will be on campus this fall and challenging for some playing time.

Overall, the largest issues for Florida will be replacing their leader Tebow, but Brantley has spent his time in waiting and showed some of his potential with his highlights this spring running the offense. The game will definitely be an early season battle. We have learned in the last two seasons how much this matchup has played in determining supremacy in the SEC. The Gators will also have the motivation from last season’s loss in the SEC Championship much like the Tide did last year. We also saw what happened last time the Gators made their way into Bryant-Denny, so as it stands now it still may be anyone’s game.

 

Article first published as Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: Florida Gators on Blogcritics.

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