by Bovada Sports on
The University of Florida became the nation’s premier program when Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow were in Gainesville, but the program has taken a big step back since Tebow left after 2009. Meyer followed him after the 2010 season.
And last season, UF fans hope the team hit bottom when the Gators finished just 7-6 under first-year coach Will Muschamp, winning the Gator Bowl over the team Meyer will coach next year: Ohio State. UF was third in the SEC East and didn’t beat an FBS team all season that finished with a winning record, going 0-5 vs. Top 25 teams.
The Gators showed how far they had fallen behind SEC foes Alabama and LSU by losing to those two clubs 58 points. In addition, Florida lost to Florida State for the second year in a row after winning six straight vs. its state rival under Meyer.
2011 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)
2011 ATS Record: 5-8-0
2011 O/U: 6-6-0
Key Losses: QB John Brantley, RB Chris Rainey, RB Jeff Demps, WR Deonte Thompson, DT Jaye Howard
This was the big problem last year as the Gators ranked just 105th in the country in total offense and averaged only 25.5 points per game. Brantley never lived up to expectations and eventually got hurt, leading the Gators to turn to freshmen QBs Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel. As true freshmen tend to do, both struggled in a big way. They will continue to battle through fall camp for the No. 1 job this season. The Gators also have to replace speedsters Rainey and Demps in the backfield. They accounted for 1,430 of Florida's 1,859 rushing yards a year ago. The receiving group has plenty of former top recruits but needs someone to step up as playmaker, something the Gators have missed at the position for a few years. On the bright side, four of five starters return on the line.
There are 10 starters back from a unit that finished eighth nationally in total defense and second only to national champion Alabama in third-down defense in 2011. There are five-star recruits all over this defense. The coaches are hoping for a quick recovery from spring knee surgery for end Ronald Powell, who led the team with six sacks a year ago. But Powell is expected to miss at least the first few games. Jonathan Bostic and Jelani Jenkins could be the top linebacking duo in the SEC. One thing this experienced group must do is force more turnovers. The Gators had only 14 takeaways last season, the fewest in school history since records were kept. UF finished 113th in the country with a -0.92 turnover margin in 2011.
Three of the Gators’ four non-conference games will be cakewalks. The fourth is the annual end-of-season game with Florida State and the Noles have clearly surpassed UF as the top program in the state. Florida has scored only seven points in each of the past two losses to FSU. Florida avoids two of the best West Division teams in Alabama and Arkansas, but does host LSU and the Tigers could be No. 1 in the nation then. UF also has the challenge of being the first-ever SEC foe to visit new conference member Texas A&M.
Odds to Win National Title: +5000
Odds to Win SEC: +1200
Odds to Win SEC East: +300
Regular-Season Win Total: 8
Florida 2012 Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Bowling Green
Sept. 8 at Texas A&M
Sept. 15 at Tennessee
Sept. 22 vs. Kentucky
Oct. 6 vs. LSU
Oct. 13 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 20 vs. South Carolina
Oct. 27 vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)
Nov. 3 vs. Missouri
Nov. 10 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Nov. 17 vs. Jacksonville State
Nov. 24 at Florida State
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