The Florida Gators are one of the more intriguing teams heading into the 2014 season. Will Muschamp’s squad, led by what promises to be one of the best defenses in the country once again, is loaded with talent. But can the Gators utilize that talent to put the dark cloud of a 4-8 season behind the program?
Thanks to a complete overhaul of the team’s offense, Sports Illustrated has tabbed Florida as one of five sleeper teams to make the inaugural College Football Playoff. While not entirely in the same boat as Auburn from 2012 to 2013, the Gators and Tigers bear some very similar resemblances.
No, Florida isn’t 2013 Auburn – the Gators won three more SEC games last year than the Tigers did in 2012 – but Will Muschamp’s squad does bear some similarities. Florida, like Auburn last year, brings plenty of talent to the season with no recruiting class ranked worse than 12th by Rivals.com in the past five years. And while it’s true comparisons between Muschamp and Gus Malzahn are likely to be unfavorable to the Florida coach, Muschamp is turning the offense over to Kurt Roper, whose Duke offense averaged 32.8 points per game last year and who will better play to quarterback Jeff Driskel’s strengths with an up-tempo spread scheme.
A top-to-bottom talented, yet underperforming SEC team shifting from a pro-style to a spread offense? Sounds a lot like Auburn last year, only Florida won’t have to make nearly as steep a climb.
Come Saturday, August 30th, the nation will receive its first look at Florida’s new offense against Idaho. Three weeks later, the team will travel to Tuscaloosa for a game against Alabama – a litmus test for just how far the program has come.
The four other teams Sports Illustrated chose as sleeper picks are: Duke, Iowa, Marshall, and Mississippi State.