GAINESVILLE -- Gator Clause has officially returned from its Self Imposed Surfing Sabbatical. We're not going to lie. It was tough to stay away from the blog, but we did.
Southeastern Conference Media Days begin on Wednesday from a crowded conference room in a hotel attached to a mall in suburban Birmingham, Ala. For many around the Southeast, SEC Media Days will be the unofficial start of the college football season. For the people of Alabama, it will be a chance to touch The Great Nick Saban or at least see the man and generally enjoy his presence. And those people are just the reporters who cover Alabama and Paul Finebaum. Fans of the Crimson Tide and its coach will pack a hotel lobby, attached to a mall in suburban Birmingham, Ala., and weep in Saban's presence.
Yes, I'm preparing myself for a freak show on Wednesday morning, when, fresh off a national championship, Saban and Co. kick off SEC Media Days with all the energy of a Star Trek convention at the Kennedy Space Center. Thank the stars the SEC had the good sense to schedule Alabama first. Leonard Nimoy and his Trekkies will be long gone by the time Florida coach Urban Meyer begins his media obligations.
What to expect from Meyer this season? What to expect from Florida? Win or lose it, will be a fascinating season. OK, let's begin the coverage of this season the right way. I'm going to go out on a limb right from the beginning and make a few bold predictions. Why not, right?
1. Florida will win the SEC.
2. Florida will lose to Florida State.
3. Florida will play in the Sugar Bowl.
4. Florida will finish the season 12-2.
5. Florida will finish the season ranked in the top 5.
OK, those are the predictions. Now for five reasons why UF can win the national championship this year.
1. Tim Tebow is gone. Call me crazy, but I think the hype surrounding Tebow took away from the team last season. Now, before you begin sending me death threats, understand that I'm not saying Tebow himself took away from the team. I'm simply saying that, by no fault his own, Tebow's media-driven circus took away from the team. With Tebow gone, the team will actually have a better chance of, you know, being a unified team, instead of being Tim Tebow and the Heartbreakers. I think Tebowmania took away from the team last season both from a strategic, X's-and-O's standpoint and from a team-chemistry standpoint. Those distractions have moved to Denver.
2. Urban Meyer is refocused. Meyer lost it last season and nearly worried himself to death. Totally understandable, I might add. The effects of Tebowmania were enough to make the most levelheaded person go crazy. Last season was so bizarre. Meyer was like the main character in a reality TV show called, "Breaking Urban Meyer." The stress 2009 put on Florida's coach was tough to watch and I felt bad for the guy, but Meyer is now better for it. A stronger and wiser Urban Meyer will emerge this season.
3. Personnel. Florida lost some talented players after last season but there is more than enough talent on the 2010 roster to win a national championship. Guys like Mike Pouncey, Will Hill, Brandon Hicks, A.J. Jones, John Brantley and Justin Trattou are ready to be positive team leaders. Guys like Ahmad Black and Marcus Gilbert are now seasoned veterans. Guys like Ronald Powell, Matt Elam and Andre Debose are ready to add instant energy. Guys like William Green, Carl Moore, Emmanuel Moody, Omarius Hines, Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins are ready to prove themselves. Guys like Jeff Demps, Omar Hunter and Carl Johnson are ready to dominate. It's a good mix.
4. Motivation. Motivation is the most important aspect of college football right after personnel. The Gators have the personnel and they are motivated. Alabama 32, Florida 13. 'Nuff said.
5. Humility. There isn't a single player on the Gators' football team who can be considered a superstar. But for a few, all the starters are relatively unproven. No one has achieved greatness. Everyone has failed. For the first time in three years, there are no returning first-team All-Americans. There is no Percy. There is no Spikes. There is no Tebow. There is no Brandon James. Even the players being hyped as "preseason whatevers" have proven little. Center Mike Pouncey is starting at a new position. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was ... um, how to put this ... not his best when it mattered most last season.
Take away difficult road test at Alabama (Oct.2) and Florida State (Nov.27) and Florida's schedule sets up nicely. A national title run is not out of the question. Florida can lose to Alabama on Oct. 2 and still win the national title with strong finish.