Florida's Five Toughest Games

Florida's schedule is loaded every year with their SEC opponents, and this year is no different. 2010 has five key games that stick out if the Gators want to enjoy a successful season.

5. South Carolina (November 13)- This season has the most expectations for Steve Spurrier's team since he took over as head coach. Many predictions have the Gamecocks as a potential threat to win the Eastern Division.

Stephen Garcia returns as the quarterback, and while he isn't an elite throwing quarterback, the redshirt junior is now comfortable in the offense with playmakers around him. Sophomore wide receivers Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffery provide Garcia with two possession receivers with the ability to make the jaw-dropping catch. Tight end Wesley Saunders has a chance to be the best at his position in the SEC.

Kenny Miles and Brian Maddox return at running back, but this position could go to freshman Marcus Lattimore.

The South Carolina defense lost pass-rushing linebacker Eric Norwood, and they will need the pass rush to come from senior defensive end Cliff Matthews. Sophomore cornerback Stephon Gilmore should be one of the best in the SEC.

The only reason this game doesn't rank as a more difficult game is that it will take place in The Swamp.

4. Georgia (October 30)- Florida has won 17 of the last 20 matchups between the two teams, and no matter how much Georgia promotes that to their players in the offseason, the Bulldogs haven't been able to find a way to reverse the trend.

This season, they will try with a redshirt freshman quarterback in Aaron Murray. The Tampa Plant graduate learned from the sidelines last season as senior Joe Cox had a dismal season. Murray will have A.J. Green, Tavarres King and Marlon Brown to throw to, as well as tight end and former high school teammate Orson Charles.

The key questions for Georgia will come on defense. They fired defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and hired former Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham. With Grantham comes a switch to the 3-4 defense. The only issue with the switch is a lack of a true nose tackle to make the defense work.

3. Florida State (November 27)- This is the Seminoles' best shot to beat Florida in quite some time. The game will take place at Doak Campbell Stadium, which will be fired up to attempt to end Florida's six-game winning streak over Florida State. Of course, the stadium had the same energy two years ago when Florida waltzed to a 45-15 victory.

The Seminoles return most of their offensive that ranked 4th in the ACC last season. Quarterback Christian Ponder can beat teams with his arm or legs, and the redshirt senior will be trying to record a win over Florida for the first time in his career.

As for Georgia, Florida State's key to this game will come on defense. Legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews retired after the 2009 season, allowing Mark Stoops to leave his post as Arizona's defensive coordinator and come to Tallahassee.

Florida's success in these matchups over the last six seasons has come because of their advantage in the trenches. The Gators return four offensive linemen and their defensive tackle, so the advantage should continue in 2010 again.

2. LSU (October 9)- This game may not be this high on the list if it weren't for the timing. One week after the Gators go on the road to take on Alabama, they come home to take on the Tigers.

LSU's offensive identity still doesn't seem to exist. In 2009, they could always use running back Charles Scott when the offense struggled, but he is now in the NFL. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw for 2,166 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, however he didn't lock down the position. His long throwing motion often hurt his timing with wide receivers and made the offense one-dimensional.

Terrance Toliver and Rueben Randle will make up one of the best receiving duos in the SEC, but if Jefferson hasn't improved from last season, it won't matter who they have at receiver.

The Tigers' defense returns only one of their top five tacklers last season, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who led the team with 110 tackles. However, the most important returner for the LSU defense comes with lockdown cornerback Patrick Peterson.

1.Alabama (October 2)- This is not only the most difficult game on Florida's schedule this season, but it's one of the biggest games on the college football schedule for the year. It has already been picked as a night game on CBS.

On the defensive side of the ball, the two teams are similar. Florida had five defensive players drafted in the top three rounds, while Alabama must replace almost their entire defense.

Both teams have recruited well enough on defense to make up for the losses, but this game could be decided by which team's new starters mature the fastest.

Alabama returns almost all of their offensive playmakers, including two-headed running back monster Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. After the Crimson Tide rushed for 272 yards against Florida in the SEC Championship Game, the Gators will come in to this game challenged to shut the Alabama run game down. Easier said than done.


Fightin Gators Top Stories