SEC Previews: Florida Gators

Entering the 2020 football season, there’s a consensus top two in the SEC East between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs. Whether either of those two teams has the firepower to take down the champion out of the SEC West remains to be seen, but do the Gators have a chance at wrestling the division crown away from the Bulldogs? Let’s see what they have to offer this fall. 

Top Returners: Kyle Trask, Shawn Davis
Trask will definitely be the key to Florida’s success in 2020. After an impressive first year under center for the Gators, his experience will be crucial, especially considering Georgia having landed two former starters in the transfer portal during the offseason. After tossing for nearly 3000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, Trask should be one of the best quarterbacks, both in the SEC and in the country.
Defensively, Shawn Davis is just one of many lethal assets that could be pulled out of Florida’s secondary and listed as a key returner. Davis had three interceptions, which he returned at an average of 37 yards per pick, while coming up with 3 passes defended and 51 tackles on the year. Florida likes to make their DBU claim, and this year, they do seem to boast one of the best secondaries in the nation with Davis leading the way. 

Biggest Concerns: Replacing Lamical Perine
Leading rusher Lamical Perine is off to the NFL, and he led Florida’s ground game with 676 rushing yards. After that, it’s a fairly significant drop off to their top returning back Dameon Pierce, who finished with 305 yards on the ground. Pierce will be counted on to be the workhorse in the Florida backfield, but replacing Perine will be a bigger task than that. Perine also caught 40 passes for 262 yards and 5 touchdowns, so he was a true dual-threat back that will be a very difficult player to replace. Pierce will need to step up and handle a workload he hasn’t had to bear before, and Florida will hope between him and a few other returners, they can at least mitigate the loss of Perine. 

X-Factors: Dameon Pierce, Jeremiah Moon
Offensively, Pierce is the clear-cut choice for Florida’s X-Factor. Although the Gators also lost leading receiver Van Jefferson, last year’s receiving corps was one of the most talented in recent program history, so they’ll have the ability to replace that production. Pierce will most definitely be the make-or-break point for the Florida offense as returning experience at quarterback will only do so much if you can’t run the ball.
Defensively, I’m going with Jeremiah Moon to be the X-Factor for the Gators. He’ll be coming off a season-ending injury, but when he was active he but up very solid numbers for Florida, including 3 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He also chipped in with 31 tackles and 2 passes defended, and if he can stay healthy and be a versatile asset to the Gator’s defense, that will be a huge win for Dan Mullen’s squad. 

SEC Record Prediction:  5-3
This isn’t nearly as good as many people expect for Florida, but I’m not sold on the Gators just yet. That running game is very worrying to me, and their inability to beat Georgia recently has been frustrating. I’m seeing losses to Georgia and LSU, with a road upset suffered at the hands of Lane Kiffin, John Rhys Plumlee, and the young and promising Ole Miss offense. It’ll be a tricky trap game sandwiched between those LSU and Georgia match-ups, and I think Trask and Co. overlooks the Rebels and ultimately ends their hopes at a SEC Championship berth. 

Top 3 BCS Championship Quarterback Performances

Yesterday, we ran our top 5 quarterback performances of the College Football Playoff, which proved to be very popular, so today, we’re going back a little further, to look at the best QB efforts in the history of BCS championship games  – enjoy these throwback great performances! This list will be the Top 3 and cover only the official BCS games from 2006-2014. 

Honorable Mention

Tim Tebow, Florida, 2008-09 vs. Ohio State: 18-30, 231 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 22 carries, 109 yds, 1 TD

#3 – Chris Leake, Florida, 2006-07 vs. Ohio State
In the first of Florida’s two titles in three years, the Gators were led by the quiet leadership of Chris Leake, who punctuated his four years as the starting signal-caller in the Swamp with one of the best BCS Championship performances. Leake went 25-36 for 213 yards and a touchdown, putting forth an efficient and mistake-free effort, which was more than enough for the Gators in their 41-14 victory. His 14-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter eliminated Ohio State’s only lead of the game, and he made a series of beautiful throws to extend possessions and milk an astounding 24:48 to 11:52 advantage in time of possession.

#2 – A.J. McCarron, Alabama, 2011-12 vs. LSU
AJ McCarron may not have found much of success in the NFL, but he put up some amazing postseason performances for the Crimson Tide. Posting a 23-34 effort for 234 yards, McCarron was extremely impressive in a highly defensive contest that saw no touchdowns in the first three quarters. Ultimately, on the strength of five field goals and a fourth quarter touchdown, the Tide rolled 21-0. While Alabama’s defense deservedly gets most of the credit, McCarron led the Tide to 21 first downs (to LSU’s five) and six scoring drives and played turnover-free football, forcing LSU into bad field position in nearly every drive. In a game where every small victory was needed, McCarron delivered for Alabama. Enjoy McCarron (and the rest of Alabama’s) highlights here:

#1 – A.J. McCarron, Alabama, 2012-2013 vs. Notre Dame
As an Irish fan, this one pains me to recall. I was a hopeful Notre Dame fan, ready to watch my beloved Irish take on the mighty Crimson Tide. My innocent optimism lasted for about 20 minutes, as McCarron and Alabama absolutely dismantled a Notre Dame defense that was previously untouchable and led by Heisman finalist Manti Te’o. From his 25-yard dot in the first minute of the game, to his 264 yards and four touchdowns, McCarron was on-point from the get-go, going 20-28 under center. Until the Irish return to glory, McCarron lives in my nightmares for this lethal performance.