Making the case for Florida to win SEC East
I’ll be picking Florida to finish third behind Tennessee and Georgia in 2016, but predictions are made to be mocked.
Here are four reasons the Gators can make me eat my words and win the SEC East in 2016.
1. Luke Del Rio can be this year’s Will Grier
Grier exceeded everybody’s expectations, including his head coach, who named Treon Harris the starter days before the 2015 opener.
That prompted the classic, brief and since-deleted tweet from Grier’s father: “Wow.”
Grier still played in the opener (rather spectacularly, actually). He quickly took the reins and Florida’s offense took off. The signature performance was the 38-10 thrashing of Ole Miss, when Grier threw for 271 yards and four touchdowns.
In Del Rio, who hasn’t officially been named the starter but all but earned the job this spring, the Gators have another capable, accurate passer. That’s something they lacked after Grier’s suspension.
With or without Antonio Callaway, who remains suspended, the Gators’ passing game should be better than it was during the second half of 2015.
Try to stay positive when things aren't going as good as they should be🖖🏽
— Richard Boy (@Ripbobby_G) April 13, 2016
2. Improved running attack
The Gators lost a 1,000-yard rusher in Kelvin Taylor, but they replaced him with a bruising JUCO standout in Mark Thompson and will lean more on the young duo of Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite.
— Gator Recruiting (@_Gators_) April 8, 2016
Mark Thompson is a beast if he can hold on to the ball. Good young receivers and TE Lewis looked great. Love the 1st team defense#Gators
— Rich Thibault (@karatelawyerguy) April 9, 2016
They’ll also be running behind a more experienced and improved offensive line.
3. Three points plus three points plus three points …
Last season, far too many drives ended in frustration and covered eyes after yet another blocked or missed field goal.
Has there been a more hyped kicker to enter the SEC than Eddy Pineiro?
Part of it is his doing; he’s a social media star and enjoys documenting his 70-yard field goals. He’s confident enough to wear No. 15, made famous, of course, by Florida’s most recent Heisman winner and national champion, Tim Tebow.
But part of it is he’s also the perfect fit. A strong, reliable leg on a team that sorely needed to kickstart its kicking game.
4. The schedule
The SEC’s unbalanced schedule typically comes into play, impacting some teams and some seasons more than others.
This season, it gives the Gators a chance.
The Gators are at Tennessee, but get LSU at home and travel to Arkansas. Florida likely needs to beat Tennessee or LSU to win the East, but maybe not both.
Tennessee’s crossover slate is more difficult. It’s also part of the league’s most difficult four-game stretch: a home date with Florida, followed by road trips to Georgia and Texas A&M, then a visit from Alabama. As good as Tennessee appears to be, finishing that stretch 2-2 is not unthinkable.
That’s what the Gators will need to have a chance to hold off the Volunteers and repeat in the East.