Gators Ignore Lowered National Expectations

The expectations have been present for the Gators in recent seasons but not like they this year. As the Gators start fall camp on Saturday, the expectations aren't existent. The team has goals, but the outside expectations of a national championship aren't present like they were in the past three years.

That could benefit for the Gators in a new way. It's a new feeling for even seniors on the team. The expectations of the Florida program in recent years have been to win a national championship. This isn't a situation the Florida players want to be in or that they plan on being in for long.

They'd rather have those expectations of playing in a BCS game every year, but this new feeling in the preseason camp could be a benefit. The "disrespect" card gets played a little too often by coaches and players, and using that for this year's Florida team would be a little much. Even after a five-loss season in 2010, a new coaching staff and schematic changes on both sides of the ball, the Gators still came in at No. 23 in the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll that was released Thursday morning.

It's a different set of expectations around the team this season.

"I've got high expectations for what we need to accomplish, what we need to do," Will Muschamp said at SEC Media Days. "We talk to our team all the time about winning championships on and off the field."

Preseason rankings are usually worthless. The Gators ranked No. 3 in preseason polls that came out last season, only to sneak into an Outback Bowl berth. Even this year, Auburn came in at No. 19 in the Preseason Coaches Poll after losing 16 of their 22 starters from last season's national championship team.

After the Gators put zero players on the Preseason First-Team All-SEC voted on by the coaches and the media, Florida being ranked at No. 23 seems like another instance of a team going under the radar. The talent is there, despite it not being recognized or proven.

"It's surprising to me because I think we have some of the best athletes in the country," quarterback John Brantley said. "It's (the media and coaches) choices, but that definitely gives us a chip on our shoulder."

Feeling like their team is overlooked can motivate players. It sounds like that is happening to Florida players this offseason. Coming in at No. 23 in the Coaches Poll will makes it way through the locker room before the team heads into training camp on Saturday. It's hard to expect a much different ranking with the AP Poll comes out in about two weeks.

"I don't know because I don't look," wide receiver Deonte Thompson said of preseason rankings. "We worry about ourselves. We're in control. Our strength coach (Mickey Marotti) sometimes mentions (the rankings), and that just makes us go harder."

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