We are now into the top 5 teams in the nation and these are the best of the best likely BCS contendors. Here is team #4 and the 2010 Florida Gators Football Preview. All part of our 31 teams in 31 days college football season preview from Maddux Sports college football game picks handicappers
No. 4 Florida Gators
2009 record: 13-1
2009 Bowl Game: 51-24 win over Cincinnati in Sugar Bowl
2009 ATS: 7-6
Returning starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)
The Gators return only six starters on offense, and their biggest lost is unquestionably Tim Tebow. While it remains to be seen how he will fare in the NFL, he is one of the best college quarterbacks to ever play the game.
In comes John Brantley, the junior quarterback who has the tough task to follow in Tebow’s footsteps. Brantley has a strong arm and is among the best passers in the nation. He had 48 pass attempts last season, of which he completed 36 for a great 75.0 completion percentage. He also threw for seven touchdowns and wasn’t intercepted.
Brantley will be backed by a strong running game led by junior Jeff Demps. The running back was second in rushing in 2009 behind only Tebow. He averaged 7.5 yards per carry on 99 attempts and scored seven times. Chris Rainey, Emmanuel Moody, and Mike Gillislee all got playing time last season and complete a ridiculously loaded backfield.
With that many options at running back available, Rainey could also be used as a slot receiver, where he has worked out in the spring. The Gators lose top ball catchers Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez, but field an explosive receiving corps.
Deonte Thompson will most likely lead the way as Brantley’s primary target. He caught 24 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns in 2009. The senior has 12 starts under his belt and averaged 14.3 yards per reception last year.
The running backs will hope for another strong season from the offensive line that paved the way for 222 yards of rushing per game in 2009. Center Maurkice Pouncey went to the Steelers with the 18th overall pick, but his twin brother Mike will take over for him. He has plenty of starting experience at guard.
The Gators’ defense loses six starters, but the coaches are hopeful that the incoming talent can step right in. The biggest question marks surround the defensive line. Florida loses both defensive ends, First Team SEC selections Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham.
Senior Justin Trattou and junior William Green will fill the void. Trattou has 14 career starts and looks ready to step in. He had two sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss last season. He also intercepted one pass. Green has one career start and recorded three tackles for a loss last year.
The Gators also lose First Team All American linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was picked by the New England Patriots in the second round. He had 68 tackles and three sacks last year and also grabbed two interceptions.
AJ Jones and Brandon Hicks will lead the way with 38 combined starts. Hicks backed up Jones last season, but moved to the weak side. Jones has 29 career starts, Hicks has nine.
The secondary loses star corner Joe Haden, who was picked up by the Cleveland Browns as the seventh overall draft pick, and safety Major Wright. Will Hill steps in at safety, and freshman Joshua Shaw will get a chance to prove himself at corner. Janoris Jenkins returns and will be the top corner on the team.
Kicker Caleb Sturgis went 66-for-77 on kicks last season. He missed three of his 47 extra point attempts and went connected on 22 of 30 field goals. He has shown off his leg by kicking a 56-yarder and has Urban Meyer’s trust. He went 2-for-5 from 50+ yards.
Punter Chas Henry averaged 43.4 yards per attempt last season and forced 12 fair catches. He pinned the opposing offense within its own 20-yard line 15 times in 2009.
The team loses dangerous return man Brandon James, who scored a touchdown on a kick return and averaged 7.4 yards on punt returns. Chris Rainey will most likely take over all return duties.
Against the spread
The Gators went 7-6 against the ncaa football betting lines in 2009 after a ridiculous 12-1 record ATS in 2008. They went 3-3 as the home favorite last year and 2-2 as the road favorite. They went 2-1 in neutral situations.
The Gators didn’t do well ATS when playing other SEC teams. They went 3-6 in conference games, but dominated ATS in non-conference matchups (4-0). Florida is 37-24-2 ATS under sixth-year head coach Meyer. They are 70-53-2 in the last ten years.
You can bet on it
Bet on the Gators at Vanderbilt on November 6. Florida has won the last 19 meetings between the two teams. Last year, the Gators outgained the Commodores by 176 yards and won 27-3. With the game at Vanderbilt and Tebow not on the Gators’ team anymore, the spread shouldn’t be as high as in the last two years.
Favor the fade
Fade the Gators at Alabama on October 2. The Gators were down 12-10 late in the second quarter last year and then got outscore 20-3 the rest of the way. The Crimson Tide go into the season as the top team in the nation, and Florida will have a tough time against them.