Golden Gators in 2008? Vegas Thinks So

As college football fans slog through the offseason, they get by on little doses of their favorite sport. Recruiting and spring practice get you through until May, and then preseason magazines can carry you for a few more weeks.

Now, in the window between the last magazine releases and the conference preseason media gatherings, Las Vegas has delivered fresh information for football fans to chew on. The Golden Nugget casino's sports book has posted its odds on the biggest games of the season, and their lines indicate Florida is extremely popular with what Lee Corso refers to as "the experts in the desert".

The Golden Nugget posted lines on seven of Florida's 12 games, an indication of how many high interest matchups populate the Gator schedule this season. Florida is favored in all seven, but the margins on some are the real stunners. Here's a game by game look at the Golden Nugget's Gator odds:

September 6 - Miami at Florida - UF favored by 20

That is not a typo. The Gators are favored over the Hurricanes by 20 points. It's a shockingly high number at first glance, particularly given the success Miami has had against Florida this decade. The Canes have won all four meetings, including one in Gainesville. Once you really consider the two teams current state, it starts to make a little more sense. Those winning Hurricane teams weren't starting a quarterback who'll be taking his first ever snap against a Division 1-A opponent at The Swamp. Those teams didn't miss a bowl game the year before, or get humiliated by 48 at home against Virginia. Given Urban Meyer's desire to continue UF's growth as a recruiting factor in south Florida, it's reasonable to assume he'll look to pound Miami if he can. If Florida's offense is firing on all cylinders early in the season, it's hard to imagine a Miami offense that would like to run the ball being able to keep up.

September 20 - Florida at Tennessee - UF favored by 6.5

This is about where you'd expect this line to be. Heading into the season Florida is considered the better team than Tennessee, and Urban Meyer is 3-0 against Phillip Fulmer. The Gators have two weeks to prepare, while the Volunteers face UAB the Saturday before this game. Everyone will be extremely interested to see how UT's new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson's attack does in their opener with UCLA on the road Labor Day night. If he has new starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton looking sharp, more people may begin to take Tennessee seriously.

October 4 - Florida at Arkansas - UF favored by 17

Florida has not lost to Arkansas since the Razorbacks joined the SEC, but this year's model will be unlike any the conference has seen in Fayetteville before. New coach Bobby Petrino is a wizard in the passing game, but takes over an offense accustomed to playing caveman style power football under Houston Nutt. If Petrino can retool this team's scheme into an effective air attack in just one spring practice, he's a better coach than anyone realizes. It's more likely that the learning curve in Arkansas will be steep, and it's doubtful they'll be able to score enough to stay with Florida.

October 11 - LSU at Florida - UF favored by 10

Like Arkansas, it's hard to know what to think of LSU's offense just yet. Without Ryan Perrilloux, the Tigers will have to turn to Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch or redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee as their quarterback. Lee appears to be the likely starter, but it's anyone's guess how he handles the responsibility of leading the reigning BCS champs. 2007 defensive coordinator Bo Pelini is now Nebraska's head coach, replaced by co-coordinators. As a result there may be some questions on that side of the ball as well even though LSU has plenty of experience and ability returning. Ten points seems like an awful lot for Florida to be favored by, even at home, against a team with this much talent.

November 1 - Georgia versus Florida in Jacksonville - UF favored by 2.5

This is the most surprising line, considering the amount of preseason hype Georgia has been getting and the fact they beat Florida last season. Why are the Gators the slight favorite this year? The likely answer is who the teams face the week before. Florida has a home game with Kentucky, while Georgia travels to Baton Rouge for what should be a hard hitting game against LSU. Couple that with the revenge factor from last season and the Gators domination of the recent series and it adds up to UF as a small favorite. Realistically, this spread is so small there's not much difference from a "pick 'em" game. That's what this feels like it should be right now.

November 15 - South Carolina at Florida - UF favored by 14

The Gamecocks got 51 points hung on them by Florida last season, yet defense is considered their strongest suit. Star linebacker Jasper Brinkley comes back from an injury and has a lot of experience joining him. Steve Spurrier hopes he has a viable quarterback in redshirt junior Tommy Beecher as he tries to put this team back on track after a five game losing streak to close out 2007. If Beecher can give Spurrier consistently solid play, the Gamecock defense should be strong enough to win some games in the second half of the season. Fourteen seems pretty high, particularly aginst Spurrier.

November 29 - Florida at FSU - UF favored by 10

Florida has been dominating this series in recent years, and there's little evidence to suspect it will not continue in 2008. Ten points is a lot to be favored by on the road against an archrival, but the Seminoles could not compete with Florida at all last season on either side of the ball. Playing in Doak Campbell will help Florida State somewhat, but it's hard to see any other area where they appear better at the moment.


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