Florida is 6/1 to win the BCS despite the loss of QB Tim Tebow.
Relatively speaking, the Florida Gators had a disappointing 2009 campaign. Their one loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC title game cost them a shot at the National Championship. Instead, a trip to the Sugar Bowl and a thumping of the Cincinnati Bearcats was the sendoff for QB Tim Tebow.
Little did we know that it might have been a sendoff for coach Urban Meyer as well. Just before the Sugar Bowl, Meyer decided that the time was right to step down from his coaching position following the bowl game. He cited health reasons for his sudden departure from the sidelines.
Meyer later retracted the resignation and instead took a leave of absence.
He returned to the team for spring practices and should be on the sidelines on September 4 when the Miami Redhawks come to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to start the college football betting campaign.
After a 13-1 SU and 7-6 ATS season, the Florida Gators are going to have a lot of work to do to rebuild a program that lost a ton of seniors and several other underclassmen. The first order of business is replacing Tebow under center.
Quarterback John Brantley looked sharp over the past two seasons in limited roles for Florida. He has completed 54-of-76 passes in his career for 645 yards and 10 TDs against just one pick. The Trinity Catholic product has yet to start a game in his career, but Meyer has confidence that he will be able to lead the offense in a similar manner to which Tebow has over the past three years.
The dynamics of that offense are inevitably changing, though. Brantley isn't nearly as fleet of foot as Tebow is, so the duel threat will be gone. That will add a lot of pressure to backs Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps. Those two combined to rush for 1,320 yards on just 188 carries last season, an average of just over seven yards per carry.
On the other side of the ball, the Gators are coming off of a year in which they held foes to just 253.2 YPG and 12.4 PPG. However, DB Joe Haden, DE Carlos Dunlap, DE Jermaine Cunningham, FS Major Wright and LB Brandon Spikes were all drafted this year in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. Needless to say, there are plenty of holes to fill.
As usual, the non-conference schedule for the blue and orange is chock full of cupcakes. The Gators are only going to go on the road four times all season long (the neutral site game versus Georgia notwithstanding), with the visit to Tallahassee against Florida State the only away tilt out of conference.
The Gators have a history of wiping the floor with their non-conference foes. Last season, they outscored their four non-SEC rivals by the combined score of 217-22 in the regular season, going 4-0 SU and 3-0 ATS. In fact, you have to go back to the 2006 season to find the last time Florida didn't win a non-conference regular season game by less than 21 points.
The most recent time that a non-Florida State foe from outside the SEC stuck within 17 points of the Gators was when the Miami Hurricanes knocked them off 38-33 in Coral Gables. A non-BCS conference school hasn't been within 17 of Florida since Southern Mississippi in 1997.
To make the NCAA Football 2010 season a success, the Gators are going to have to hold serve in the Swamp, something that has come naturally over the years. Florida went 7-0 SU and 3-3 ATS there in 2009.
That limited road schedule could be a nightmare for UF. It is bad enough the team hasn't covered a road spread since October 10, 2009, but trips to Tennessee, Alabama and Florida State could be devastating.
However, despite the schedule having several potential hazards and so many new players being plugged in, the Gators are still the team to beat in the SEC East. Expect another minimum of 9-10 wins in a season that ends in a trip to the SEC title game.
Florida is an even money favorite to win the SEC East and plus 600 to win the National Championship.