To help bridge the gap between the long, hot summer and the start of two-a-days in August, we offer this glimpse at Florida’s 2009 football schedule:
* The sure thing: The Gators will score 60-plus points in their opener against a really bad, really out-manned Charleston Southern team. Quarterback Tim Tebow and most of the starters might be resting on the bench before halftime. UF will send a steady parade of fresh young athletes against a team that will be hopelessly overmatched. Boy, the stats are going to look really good after game one.
* Toughest game: This one’s easy – at LSU on Oct. 10. The Gators dismantled the Tigers in a big way last year in The Swamp and LSU will be out for revenge in what will be a tough nighttime environment for UF in Baton Rouge. Meyer is 0-2 at Tiger Stadium (who could forget Meyer being reduced to tears after the numbing loss in 2005), and Tebow suffered that heartbreaking loss there in 2007. The Tigers have an inexperienced quarterback and some holes to fill at key positions, but this team (as usual) is loaded with talent, thanks the consistent strong recruiting by Les Miles and his staff. One thing in UF’s favor is the fact the Gators have an open date before this game, and Meyer is almost impossible to beat when he has more than a week to prepare for an opponent.
* Upset alert: If there’s an Ole Miss on the schedule this season, it has to be Arkansas. The Rebels kind of came out of nowhere to upset the Gators in The Swamp last season. They were led by a high-profile quarterback transfer by the name of Jevan Snead, who helped the Rebels enjoy a dramatic turnaround in 2008. Former Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallet could have a similar impact on the Hogs in 2009. He has a big-time arm and is capable of making all the throws in Bobby Petrino’s intricate passing offense. This is an Arky team with a lot of talent (and speed on offense). This game comes the week after the huge game in Baton Rouge. So, the Gators will need to be on full upset alert (something they weren’t for Ole Miss a year ago).
* Potential bumps in the road: At Mississippi State on Oct. 24 and at South Carolina on Nov. 14. I know, I know, these two teams don’t have the overall talent or skill to match up with the Gators (wherever the games are played). But Meyer will be facing two head coaches with Florida ties who really want to beat him: Stever Spurrier and Dan Mullen, Meyer’s former offensive coordinator. These will be emotional games for the Bulldogs and Gamecocks – and as we have seen in the past, anything can happen on the road in the SEC. Watch out for these two.
* Keeping the streak alive: With arch-rival Florida State coming to The Swamp on Nov. 28, the Gators likely will be a heavy favorite to win their sixth consecutive game in this heated in-state grudge match. Unless some weird things happen along the way during the season, that streak should live.