SEC Championship talk: The case for Florida

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SDS will be taking a look at the six main contenders in the SEC for 2013. Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina headline the conference. Finishing it up: Florida.

Championship Talk

Florida Gators

Will Muschamp totally changed Florida’s identity of softness into toughness last season. The Gators’ 11-win season very easily could have been an eight-win season. The margin of error was razor thin, but the Gators’ stingy defense, fourth-quarter scoring (+95) and turnover margin (+15) were the lifeblood of the transformation. What will Muschamp and Florida do for an encore? They have the roster and talent to win a championship, but they may have more questions than answers.

Why they will

1. Defense: Florida’s defense could top the SEC in 2013, and anytime any team has a top three defense, they’re in the championship picture. The defensive line depth and pass rush will be better than last season. Dante Fowler and Ronald Powell are two who could flourish this season. The secondary play will be determined by the safeties. Corners Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson will be solid, but how will Cody Riggs and Marcus Maye play at safety? Maye is expected to replace Matt Elam.

2. Offensive line: The big uglies will be a bigger strength on offense. Transfers Tyler Moore and Max Garcia combine with returning starters Jonotthan Harrison and Jon Halapio, but sophomore DJ Humphries may be better than all of them. Florida’s O-line in 2012 was Jekyll and Hyde, but they should have better overall balance between the running game and pass protection. Florida’s O-line should be the offense’s biggest asset in 2013.

3. Jeff Driskel: Let’s face it – Driskel will have to become an impact vertical passer for the Gators to win the SEC Championship. The Gators averaged only 146 passing yards per game and still won 11 games. So, if Driskel can make a jump to even the middle-of-the-pack in the SEC in passing, it will jolt Florida’s offense. He’ll have a better O-line, a good running game and receivers who can create separation. Now, if his progression as a quarterback can improve, Florida will be cooking with gas.

Why they won’t

1. Slim margin of error: Every team has a slim margin of error, but Florida’s may be the slimmest. The Gators lived off turnovers and fourth quarter domination in 2012. It was ugly, but a good ugly. Florida learned how to win ugly. But once again, the margin of error – creating turnovers, costly penalties, etc. – will be razor thin. The Gators aren’t good enough to walk into stadiums and beat everyone. Florida’s 11-win season could have been an eight-win season, but credit the Gators for making it happen and Muschamp for changing the identity. Can we expect more of the same in 2013? Florida is one of the most interesting teams in the country.

2. Schedule: Many are scratching their head at Florida’s 2014 schedule, but this year’s schedule is as tough, if not tougher. The three biggest games of the year are all away from The Swamp. Road trips to LSU and South Carolina are brutal. The three game stretch of Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina will be the stretch run whether Florida will or will not win the East.

Photo Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

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