Florida Football Preview

The question they're all asking in/around Gainesville is just how far does a championship team fall after losing a major chunk of its title team?

The answer in this particular case is not that far at all.

Okay, so the '07 Gators must re-stock a defense that lost six of its top seven tacklers to the NFL to go along with a Thorpe Award-winning defensive back in Reggie Nelson but there's major-league talent busting out at the seams here and third-year coach Urban Meyer figures to have a great opportunity to do what the school's hoops team did last spring - that's cop back-to-back national championships.

Naturally, all eyes will be on soph QB Tim Tebow who was more a runner than passer as an occasional fill-in and situational player behind graduated Chris Leak (2,942 yards passing with 23 TDs) last year but spring drills proved that the high-energy Tebow has major-league skills.

Folks that closely follow Florida football say Tebow - a 67 percent passer last year as a frosh who threw five TDs and only one INT -- really clicked with his pass-catchers and so look for big things this year from the likes of WR Percy Harvin - maybe the single most dangerous offensive player in the sport today - and spring star WR Louis Murphy who caught eight balls worth 129 yards in the Gators' spring game.

If Meyer "takes the wraps" off Tebow and lets him truly expand his horizons, then Florida football might be better now than ever before - remember that Tebow last year rushed for 469 yards and a 5.3 yards-per-carry average while scoring eight TDs -- but some questions about this Gator defense could hold back the Southeastern Conference crew from making it two consecutive national titles.

SEC Conference championship odds posted at Bodog.com have Florida listed at 3/1 odds to win the 2007 SEC Championship. That means if Florida was able to win the 2007 SEC title, every $100 bet would pay out a respectable $300.

Florida's ever-active defensive end Derrick Harvey headlines the front four and safety Tony Joiner spearheads this always-aggressive Gators' secondary but don't expect this year's defense to make as many big plays as last year's unit -- heck, the never-in-doubt 41-14 BCS Championship Game win against touchdown favorite Ohio State last January might have been the ultimate highlight reel for any defensive coach with all the sacks and stops and negative yardage plays.

Note that Florida gets archrival Tennessee at "The Swamp" on Sept. 15th and that should help Tebow and mates as they navigate the early portion of their schedule but Gator-bashers beware:

If Meyer's crew is unbeaten through September and feeling good about itself, watch out! The toughest road stops are at LSU on Oct. 6th and at South Carolina on Nov. 10th along with that annual neutral-field game against Georgia on Oct. 27th.

From a pointspread standpoint, the Gators - in fact - have not been great in recent seasons despite 45 straightup wins the past five years as Florida is 26-33-3 ATS since the start of the 2002 campaign and the Gainesville gang might just be an overpriced item on the Las Vegas big board in '07. No question that there will be a slew of SEC teams looking for the proverbial "upset in the making" when they collide this fall with the chomp-chomp guys.

Florida doesn't seem like a longshot to go all the way in 2007 but the odds say otherwise. Oddsmakers at Bodog.com have made the Florida Gators 11/1 odds of winning the 2007 BCS Bowl Championship Series National Title. With that high reward to bettors, you know the guys who set the lines think the Gators have no little to no chance of repeating last years results.

Did You Know? ... Florida is 28-12 straightup in SEC games played the past five seasons (a .700 winning rate) and that includes a 16-4 straightup mark in games decided by seven-or-more points.

by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us

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