The Road to Tempe

The road to Tempe will be a tough, long jounrney, especially for the Florida Gators. Along they way, they face the 'Canes, 'Noles, Dawgs, Vols and the rugged SEC schedule. And it truly kicks off Saturday night in the Swamp when the Gators take on Miami.

And now to the main event.

After dismantling a hapless UAB team with a 51-3 season-opening route, the sixth-ranked Gators now get ready for the REAL start of the season, which officially begins this Saturday when the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes come to The Swamp for the first time since 1986.

The long awaited match up signals the start of one of the most brutal schedules in the country. If the Gators are to make their way to Tempe for the Fiesta Bowl, they will have to overcome a schedule that includes road trips to #4 Tennessee and #5 Florida State, as well as this weekend's home game against the top ranked Canes, not to mention the always-grueling SEC schedule.

In other words, the Gators will have to overcome numerous obstacles in their way if they are to fulfill any championship dreams. If history is any indicator, the Gators' chances of running the table and winning it all are about slim and none.

Since the inception of the BCS before the 1998 season, no team has played more than four ranked opponents during the regular season and gone on to win the national championship.

In case you were wondering, the Gators have six ranked teams on the schedule, not to mention four top 10 teams, three of which are in the top five.

Granted, the number of ranked teams the Gators play during the season is liable to change as the season plays out and teams lose games and potentially fall out of the rankings.

South Carolina, now ranked #22, could easily lose a couple games and fall out of the rankings. However, does anybody really believe that Miami, Tennessee, F.S.U. or Georgia  falling out of the rankings anytime in the near future? All four are likely to be at least top 10 teams when Florida plays them.

For the record, no eventual national champion in the BCS era of college football has played four top ten teams in the regular season.  Only one of the four BCS champions have played more than one top 10 team in the regular season, 2000 champion Oklahoma when it played three on its way to a perfect season.

Ironically, the only team that faces a similarly daunting challenge with their schedule is the team the Gators are facing Saturday, Miami. The Canes play against four ranked teams this year, including three top 10 teams. Add to that the fact that they have two of the nastier road trips in college football, going to The Swamp as well as traveling to Knoxville to battle Tennessee.

Speaking of the Vols, they could file their own complaint with the schedule-makers as they face three top 10 teams of their own, although two of those games (Florida and Miami) are at home. Besides, no one is going to feel sympathy for a team with an out of conference schedule that, discounting Miami, consists of Wyoming, Middle Tennessee and those mighty Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.

Never in recent memory have so many elite teams had to face each other during the course of the regular season as will this year. The new 12-game season, and in some teams' case, 13 games, has made that possible. Every team in the top 10 has at least one other team currently ranked in the top ten on their schedule.

 It should make for one heck of an exciting season, and very likely, a season with no undefeated team for the first time in BCS history.

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