2007 Florida Gators

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Florida Gators Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Florida Gators

Recap: Florida learned in 2007 that even defending national champions need to regroup every once in a while.  Despite sporting Heisman winner Tim Tebow and one of the most prolific offenses in the country, the Gators struggled to fill the gaps on a defense that was gutted by graduations and early defections to the NFL a year ago.  The result was a solid, if unspectacular, nine-win season and Capital One Bowl loss to Michigan, in which underclassmen played enormous roles on every corner of the depth chart.             

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Tim Tebow

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Brandon Spikes        

Biggest Surprise: Tebow.  Hey, everyone knew he could play, but there was still plenty of skepticism about his ability to be a complete quarterback, rather than a glorified fullback.  Not any longer.  Without a lot of help from anyone other than WR Percy Harvin, Tebow became the first player in NCAA history to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season, and the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.      

Biggest Disappointment: The Gators had No. 1 LSU on the ropes on Oct. 6, but allowed the Tigers to wriggle out with a 28-24 victory.  Falling victim to Les Miles' gambles on fourth down, Florida squandered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, yielding the game-winning score with just 1:09 left on the clock.    

Looking Ahead: After catching their breath in 2007, the Gators are poised to make another run toward an SEC championship and national title.  The defense took its lumps last fall, but will return in 2008 a little bigger, a lot wiser, and far better prepared to slow down SEC offenses.         

- 2007 Florida Preview
2006 Florida Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 9-

Sept. 1 Western Kent. W 49-3
Sept. 8 Troy W 59-31
Sept. 15 Tennessee W 59-20
Sept. 22 at Ole Miss W 30-24
Sept. 29 Auburn L 20-17
Oct. 6 at LSU L 28-24
Oct. 20 at Kentucky W 45-37
Oct. 27
vs. Georgia  L 42-30
Nov. 3 Vanderbilt W 49-22
Nov. 10 at So. Carolina W 51-31
Nov. 17
Florida Atlantic W 59-20
Nov. 24 Florida State W 45-12
Capital One Bowl
Jan. 1 Michigan L 41-35

Jan. 1
2008 Capital One Bowl
Michigan 41 ... Florida 35

Michigan rolled up 524 yards of total offense, but it needed to come back late and hold on to seal the stunning win. Florida stayed alive on four Wolverine turnovers, including two fumbles from Mike Hart, as Tim Tebow threw three touchdown passes and Percy Harvin scored twice on the way to a 35-31 fourth quarter lead. The Wolverines rallied late with an 18-yard touchdown catch from Adrian Arrington with 4:12 to play to take the lead, and a 41-yard K.C. Lopata field goal made it a six-point margin with just over two minutes to play. But Tebow would get one more shot with the ball on his own 23. Four misfires later, including an errant fourth down pass under pressure, and the Wolverines sent head coach Lloyd Carr out a winner. Chad Henne threw three touchdown passes and Hart ran for two short scores, but Florida was able to crank out yards in chunks thanks to Harvin, who amassed 242 yards of total offense.
Offensive Player of the Game: Florida WR Percy Harvin ran 13 times for 165 yards and a touchdown and led the team with nine catches for 77 yards and a score
Defensive Player of the Game: Michigan SS Jamar Adams made nine tackles, a sack, and had a quarterback hurry
Stat Leaders: Michigan- Passing: Chad Henne, 25-39, 373 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Mike Hart, 32-129, 2 TD. Receiving: Adrian Arrington, 9-153, 2 TD
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 17-33, 154 yds, 3 TD
Percy Harvin, 13-165, 1 TD. Receiving: Percy Harvin, 9-77, 1 TD

Thoughts & Notes ... 5 Thoughts on the Capital One Bowl ... Michigan took things to a level it hasn't been at in years. It was flying around on defense, dominant on offense, and with Chad Henne and Mike Hart healthy, the attack was unstoppable by everything but turnovers. Sure, wanting to send head coach Lloyd Carr out with a bang was a motivation, but for Henne, Hart and Jake Long, is was about ending their careers with a real, live big win. ... Third down conversions: Michigan 10 of 15, Florida 2 of 11. ... The Florida secondary might be young, but it has to be a whole heck of a lot better going into next year. It gave up too many big plays and had a nightmare of a time against the big Wolverine receivers. ... If Mike Hart had been 100% all season long, would he have won the Heisman? As he showed against the Gators, he's a special player when he gets to control a game.

Nov. 24
Florida 45 ... Florida State 12
Florida rolled up 541 yards of total offense with Tim Tebow running for scores from 23 and five yards out and throwing for three scores with two to Louis Murphy. Percy Harvin ran for 157 yards with a 24-yard touchdown dash putting a cap on the scoring. Florida State only managed four Gary Cismesia field goals, but he nailed a 60-yard bomb at the end fo the first half.
Player of the game: Florida RB Tim Tebow completed 19 of 28 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and ran 13 times for 89 yards and two scores
Stat Leaders: Florida State - Passing: Drew Weatherford, 20-37, 188 yds
Rushing: Preston Parker, 12-48. Receiving: Preston Parker, 6-55
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 19-28, 262 yds, 3 TD
Percy Harvin, 16-157, 1 TD. Receiving: Cornelius Ingram, 5-75

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What else does Tim Tebow have to do to win the Heisman? His consistent greatness should be enough to get the honor, but apparently coming up with one of the greatest seasons in college football history might not get it done. He toyed with Florida State doing whatever he wanted to get the offense rolling, and now he'll have to sit back and see if the voters give him his due. The key part about senior day?  There weren't that many of them. This is a loaded team coming back for next year, and it's just hitting its stride going into the bowl season.

Nov. 17
Florida 59 ... Florida Atlantic 20
Florida got up to a quick 21-0 lead  on a Kestahn Moore nine-yard run, a blocked punt for a score, and a four-yard catch from Cornelius Ingram, but Florida Atlantic made things extremely interesting with a 20-point third quarter helped by a Rusty Smith 20-yard touchdown pass to Cortez Gent and a one-yard Smith run. A Tim Tebow 26-yard scoring pass to Ingram with nine seconds to play in the first half started a run of 31 unanswered points. With a five-yard touchdown run, Tebow set the record for SEC rushing touchdowns with 20.
Player of the game: Florida RB Tim Tebow completed 25 of 34 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns, and ran 11 times for 31 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Florida Atlantic - Passing: Rusty Smith, 18-33, 290 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Charles Pierre, 9-33. Receiving: Cortez Gent, 6-118, 1 TD
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 25-34, 338 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Cameron Newton, 6-46, 1 TD. Receiving: Andre Caldwell,
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... In a throwaway game against Florida Atlantic, the offense was able to open things up a little bit while the defense was able to overcome a rough second quarter. Tim Tebow once again showed why he needs to be the favorite for the Heisman, or at least in the top two, by setting the SEC record for rushing touchdowns in a year with 20, while throwing tremendously well once again. Andre Caldwell continues to blow up with a fantastic 13 catch performance. The team's only real knock was a penalty problem, committing 12 for 75 yards.

Nov. 10
Florida 51 ... South Carolina 31
Tim Tebow ran for a school-record five touchdowns and threw for two more as Florida won in a rout. South Carolina held a 13-7 lead in the first quarter on a two-yard Cory Boyd run, and then Tebow took over with three short scores for a 34-14 Gator lead. Andre Caldwell had a huge day for the Gators with 11 catches for 148 yards and a 21-yard touchdown catch late to seal the win. Boyd ran for three scores for the Gamecocks, but it wasn't nearly enough. Florida outgained USC 537 yards to 384.
Player of the game: Florida RB Tim Tebow completed 22 of 32 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and ran 26 times for 120 yards and five scores
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 26-42, 316 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 17-44, 3 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 7-95
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 22-32, 304 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Tim Tebow, 26-120, 5 TD. Receiving: Andre Caldwell, 11-148, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's time to put Tim Tebow at the front of the line in the Heisman race. He's not only throwing more efficiently than anyone in America, but he's on the verge of breaking the all-time mark for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season. With 14 coming into the South Carolina game, he's now at 19 and needing four more to break the record. He's getting a boost in the passing game with Andre Caldwell exploding, and now he needs his defense to provide a little more help.

Nov. 3
Florida 49 ... Vanderbilt 22
Florida jumped out to an early lead on the first of two one-yard Tim Tebow touchdown runs, and an 18-yard Percy Harvin dash for a score. Vandy pulled within seven on the first of two one-yard Mackenzi Adams scoring runs, and then the Gators ended it with a 21-point second quarter run on three Tebow touchdown passes with two to Andre Caldwell. Harvin later added a 13-yard touchdown run to make it a route. Florida cranked out 498 yards of total offense, while Tebow set the SEC record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season with 14.
Player of the game: Florida WR Percy Harvin ran 11 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and caught nine passes for 110 yards.
Stat Leaders: Vanderbilt - Passing: Mackenzi Adams, 16-32, 159 yds
Rushing: Jeff Jennings, 6-37. Receiving: Earl Bennett, 5-31
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 22-27, 281 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Percy Harvin, 11-113, 2 TD. Receiving: Percy Harvin, 9-110

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Florida bounced back nicely from the Georgia loss in a dominant performance over Vanderbilt. The defense came up with one of its better performances, while the running game got a nice balance of Percy Harvin and Kestahn Moore to keep Tim Tebow from having to run too often with a banged up shoulder. Getting all the weapons involved will be vital against South Carolina next week, since job one for Steve Spurrier will be to get to Tebow. Brandon Spikes had an All-SEC caliber performance stuffing the Commodore running game.

Oct. 27
Georgia 42 ... Florida 30
Georgia showed off its attitude early on, as the entire team came out to celebrate a one-yard Knowshon Moreno touchdown run to establish the tenor of the game. Florida responded with a 40-yard Louis Murphy touchdown catch, but Georgia answered right back with an 84-yard Mo Massaquoi touchdown catch. The Bulldogs overcame an interception returned for a score by Wondy Pierre-Louis to get relative control of the game for the final 35 minutes, with Moreno running for a 10-yard score at the end of the first half, and sealing the game with a three-yard scoring run after Florida got Tim Tebow's second touchdown run of the game. Stafford threw three touchdown passes highlighted by a great throw to Mikey Henderson, who made a tough catch, for a 53-yard touchdown.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Knowshown Moreno ran 33 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 11-18, 217 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno, 33-188, 3 TD. Receiving: Sean Bailey, 3-44
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 14-22, 236 yds, 1 TD
Percy Harvin, 10-97. Receiving:
Andre Caldwell, 4-56
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tim Tebow is hurt. The Gators might have put up 30 points on Georgia, but seven came from the defense, and the offense wasn't the same with Tebow getting 13 carries late. Percy Harvin was used more as a runner, but the big problem was Kestahn Moore's fumbling. Urban Meyer stopped using him, and then the overall options became severely limited. Once again, the secondary struggled, and it's going to be tested the rest of the year until it proves it can consistently stop the deep ball.

Oct. 20
Florida 45 ... Kentucky 37
Tim Tebow threw four touchdown passes, highlighted by a 66-yard play to Louis Murphy and a one-yard jump-pass to Aaron Hernandez for a score and a 21-10 lead late in the first half. An eight-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell to open up the second half appeared to put the Gators on their way to a blowout, but Andre Woodson and the Wildcats bombed their way back. Dicky Lyons finished with three touchdown catches with a 50-yarder and a seven-yarder to pull within seven late in the fourth, but the Gators put it away with a two-yard Tebow touchdown run. Kentucky outgained the Gators 512 yards to 427.
Player of the game: Florida QB Tim Tebow completed 18 of 26 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns, and he ran 20 times for 78 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 18-26, 256 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Tim Tebow, 20-78, 1 TD. Receiving: Andre Caldwell, 6-73, 1 TD
Kentucky - Passing: Andre Woodson, 35-50, 415 yds, 5 TD
Derrick Locke, 14-76. Receiving: Steve Johnson, 8-128

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense is still banking too much on Tim Tebow game-in-and-game-out to produce, but he's producing. At some point, the running backs have to get more involved. Kestahn Moore only got six carries, while Tebow got 20. Getting the ball in Percy Harvin's hands is never a bad thing. He got six carries and two catches, and while he got bottled up for the most part, he sprung two big plays to break UK's back. Finally getting Andre Caldwell back in the mix is a very, very good thing, allowing the passing game to open up even more.

Oct. 6
LSU 28 ... Florida 24
In one of the year's most thrilling games, LSU chose to go for it on fourth down deep in Florida territory, rather than kick the field goal that would've tied it, got it, and finished off the drive with a two-yard Jacob Hester touchdown run with just over a minute to play. Tim Tebow's last gasp Hail Mary was batted down in the end zone. Florida jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal and a two-yard touchdown catch from Kestahn Moore, and took a 17-7 lead into halftime on a one-yard Tebow run. LSU dominated the second half, controlling things on the ground, with Keiland Williams scoring from four yards out and Demetrius Byrd catching a four-yard scoring pass, but a 37-yard Cornelius Ingram scoring play helped Florida stay ahead until the final moments.
Player of the game: LSU S Craig Steltz made 16 tackles, and Florida DE/LB Jermaine Cunninghman made 17 tackles and broke up two passes
Stat Leaders: LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 14-27, 144 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jacob Hester, 23-106, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon LaFell, 6-73
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 12-26, 158 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kestahn Moore, 12-79. Receiving: Percy Harvin, 4-58

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
What happened to the Florida run defense? In the second half, the Gators couldn't get LSU off the field, but were still in the game until the end. It took LSU converting all five first down chances, and it took several gut-check calls to pull it off. Florida played well in the first half, found ways to get points on the board, played tough defense early, and did a great job in a hostile setting, but this was a game about the defensive line. It did its best, but couldn't get the one big stop despite having several chances.

Sept. 29
Auburn 20 ... Florida 17
Wes Byrum appeared to hit the game-winning 43-yard field goal for Auburn, but Florida head coach Urban Meyer had called time out just before the kick. No big deal. Byrum calmly nailed it again, as the Tigers stunned the Gators. Auburn took a 17-3 lead going into the fourth quarter, thanks to a 30-yard Byrum field goal, and scoring runs from six yards out by Kodi Burns and three yards out from Ben Tate. The Gators roared back in the fourth with Tim Tebow connecting with Cornelius Ingram for a six-yard touchdown pass, and barreling in from two yards out to tie it up. Florida had one final drive, went three and out, and Auburn went on its march to win the game.
Player of the game: Auburn QB Brandon Cox completed 17 of 26 passes for 227 yards
Stat Leaders: Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 20-27, 201 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tim Tebow, 19-75, 1 TD. Receiving: Percy Harvin, 7-119
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 17-26, 227 yds
Ben Tate, 20-65, 1 TD. Receiving: Rod Smith, 9-102

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... If the Gators weren't going to lose this week to Auburn, they were going to lose in the near future, and more than once, because of the lack of a running back threat. Auburn's defense might be good, but the Gators didn't even pretend to get anyone other than Tim Tebow involved in the running game. Tebow might have been great, but the Florida offense was rolling early on, the running backs were getting the ball. Basically, the offense has become way too predictable. It's either going to be Tebow running the ball, or Percy Harvin getting involved in some way. That's good enough to beat just about anyone in America, but Florida can't win consistently, or be as dominant as it should, until all the parts are working on a regular basis.

Sept. 22
Florida 30 ... Ole Miss 24
Florida got up 27-9 on two Tim Tebow touchdown runs and a 19-yard pass play to Percy Harvin, but had to hang on as Ole Miss rallied late in the third quarter on a Seth Adams 19-yard touchdown pass to Shay Hodge, and a 77-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace. The Gators were able to get up by six late on a 25-yard Joey Ijjas field goal, and then the defense held as Ole Miss couldn't get a first down on its final drive. The two teams combined to commit 24 penalties for 197 yards.
Player of the game: Florida QB Tim Tebow completed 20 of 34 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 27 carries for 166 yards and two scores
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 18-31, 302 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 11-37. Receiving: Shay Hodge, 7-81, 1 TD
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 20-34, 261 yds, 2 TD
Tim Tebow, 27-166, 2 TD. Receiving: Percy Harvin,
11-121, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... For the first time, there appears to be a chink in the armor with the running game, outside of Tim Tebow, struggling against Ole Miss, and the pass defense had a few breakdowns. This is Ole Miss that threw for 302 yards, and while 77 of them came on one play, it still might have been just enough to keep Florida on the outside looking in when it comes to the current discussion of the national title contenders. Of course, with wins over Auburn and at LSU over the next two weeks, that would change right back. First, everyone has to get healthy, and second, the penalties have to stop. Committing 14 for 127 yards is ridiculous.

Sept. 15
Florida 59 ... Tennessee 20
Florida showed off all its speed and talent scoring in all phases. Brandon James started off the scoring with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown and Tim Tebow threw for two scores and ran for another, but Tennessee hung tough thanks to a 15-yard Chris Brown touchdown catch and a 96-yard interception return for a score from Eric Berry. But the Gators responded with a defensive touchdown of its own on a fumble return for a score from Dustin Doe, and then Percy Harvin put it away with an electrifying 19-yard touchdown run as past of a 31-point run to close out the game.
Player of the game: Florida QB Tim Tebow finished 14-of-19 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while running 18 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 26-41, 249 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Arian Foster, 11-26. Receiving: Josh Briscoe, 8-76
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 14-19, 299 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Percy Harvin, 9-75, 1 TD. Receiving: Percy Harvin, 4-120

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Is it now time for America to jump on the Florida bandwagon? Let out of the national title discussion by most, the Gators showed just how fast, talented, and loaded they are even after needing to replace a slew of top players. This was supposed to be Tim Tebow's coming out party, and while it sort of was, this was more of a showcase for the entire team. It's going to take a whale of an effort for anyone to touch this team in Gainesville, and it might take a slew of Gator mistakes for anyone other than LSU to have a shot at pulling off an upset.

Sept. 8
Florida 59 ... Troy 31
Florida cranked out 49 first half points as Tim Tebow threw three touchdown passes and ran for a three-yard score. Troy didn't exactly make it interesting after going into the lockerroom down by 42, but it didn't give up as Omar Haugabook ran for a touchdown and threw two touchdown passes. Tebow added a 16-yard touchdown run late in the fourth after playing the entire game. Florida outgained the Trojans 500 yards to 336 and 264 yards to 53 on the ground.
Player of the game: Florida QB Tim Tebow went 18-of-25 for 236 yards and three touchdown passes, and had 93 yards and two more scores on the ground.
Stat Leaders: Troy
- Passing: Omar Haugabook, 29-52, 283 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: DuJuan Harris, 6-18. Receiving: Austin Silvoy, 5-72, 2 TDs
- Passing: Tim Tebow, 18-25, 236 yds, 3 TDs
Rushing: Tim Tebow, 17-93, 2 TDs. Receiving: Cornelius Ingram, 7-105, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Call the win over Troy the perfect scenario for the Gator coaching staff. The outcome was never in doubt after a huge first half, but a sloppy second half, two fumbles, and 11 penalties for 104 yards will let Urban Meyer yell at his guys about focusing for a full sixty minutes before the showdown with Tennessee. Tim Tebow has been terrific so far, and Kestahn Moore had a good game running the ball. Percy Harvin has had a nice start to the season and has to be the number two concern for defensive coordinators behind Tebow. He's proving to be too dangerous to not always know where he is, even if he only got the ball in his hands seven times.

Sept. 1
Florida 49 ... Western Kentucky 3
Florida did whatever it wanted to against WKU as Tim Tebow started off the scoring with a one-yard run and then connected with Riley Cooper for a 59-yard touchdown and Percy Harvin for a 19-yard score for a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. Western Kentucky didn't get on the board until the end of the half on a 26-yard Chris James field goal for its only highlight of the game. Tebow and Cooper connected again in the third quarter for a 42-yard score. Kestahn Moore ran for two short scores.
Player of the game ... Florida QB Tim Tebow was 13-of-17 for 300 yards and three touchdowns and ran eight times for 38 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Western Kentucky - Passing: K.J. Black, 10-13, 102 yds
Rushing: Tyrell Hayden, 11-32  Receiving: Jake Gaebler, 4-43
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 13-17, 300 yds, 3 TDs
Kestahn Moore, 16-91, 2TDs  Receiving: Riley Cooper, 4-122, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Don't dismiss how important it was for Tim Tebow to get off to a hot start, even if it was against Western Kentucky. Anything less than a fantastic game would've raised a few eyebrows, but he was in command, made good decisions, and put the ball in places where his receivers could make plays. Predictably, the defense was simply too much for WKU as Derrick Harvey cranked out two sacks and Brandon Spikes was allover the field making 11 tackles. This was a defending national champion performance.

Sept. 1 – Western Kentucky

Sept. 8 - Troy
Offense: Spread it out with four wide receivers, let Sun Belt Player of the Year Omar Haugabook throw to the open guy, hope it all works. This isn't an explosive attack, and it won't be for a while with a mixed bag of talents on the front line trying to fit the puzzle. The running backs are fine with the return of Sean Dawkins helping out Kenny Cattouse, and Gary Banks and Mykeal Terry lead an inexperienced receiving corps that'll be fine. But it's all up to Haugabook. He's the difference between a second straight Sun Belt title and a losing season.
Troy won the Sun Belt title despite a mediocre year from the defense. Now the D will be positively dominant with the best secondary and a defensive line that's either the best, or a close second behind Middle Tennessee's. Generating pressure won't be a problem with phenomenal pass rushers from every spot, while the secondary will use five and six defensive backs at times just to get all its talent on the field. The linebacking corps is the weakness of the defense by default considering how good the line and secondary will be, but it'll still be fantastic with Boris Lee and Marcus Richardson each deserving all-star consideration.

Sept. 15 - Tennessee
Offense: The return of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator made a night-and-day difference in the passing game. Now he needs to get the running game to do more, and there needs to be even more from QB Erik Ainge after a nice bounceback year. The receiving corps loses the top three targets and the line loses the two best players, so it'll be up to the trio of Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to carry the running game and the offense. Ainge has to make everyone around him better until new producers at receiver emerge.
Defense: Is there a defense in America that's produced less with so much promise and potential? The Vols have a who's who of top high school prospects that haven't quite panned out, and now that has to change to have any hope of winning the SEC East. Jerod Mayo will move from the outside to the middle and Jonathan Hefney returns at free safety to give the Vols two All-America caliber defenders to build around. Now there needs to be more of a pass rush after coming up with an inexcusable 17 sacks, and the new starting tackles have to quickly emerge. The secondary has to replace three starters, but should be fine in time, while the linebacking corps, if healthy, will be among the SEC's best.

Sept. 22 – at Ole Miss
Offense: The offense needed more out of the running game after a woeful 2005, and it got it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming up with a 1,000-yard season as the workhorse for the offense. Now the offense has to figure out how to score after averaging 15.7 points per game (up from a whopping 13.45 per game in 2005). The passing game needs a lot of work, and the hope will be for the young receiving corps to step up and become passable. There will be a quarterback battle into the fall with Brent Schaeffer needing to prove he can move the offense, or he'll be unseated be Seth Adams, who's the more efficient passer. The massive line should be better after years of seasoning.
Defense: This should've been the year when everything started to come together for the Rebel defense, but the loss of all three starting linebackers, along with some major uncertainty in the secondary, will make this an inconsistent year, at least early on. The defensive line will be the strength with end Marcus Tillman on the verge of stardom, and the tackle combination of Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett to be among the best in the league ... if they stay healthy. The secondary lost some of its top safety prospects to the depleted linebacking corps, and the corners have to be far better. Ole Miss only picked off three passes last year. That can't happen again.

Sept. 29 - Auburn
Offense: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem is no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.
Defense: The whole will likely be better than the parts. Auburn's defensive front has the potential to be excellent thanks to the return of star end Quentin Groves for his senior year and with the emergence of Sen'Derrick Marks on the inside. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue, and coming up with sacks had better not be with a secondary that'll be shaky despite getting three starters back. The loss of corner David Irons will hurt. The linebacking corps isn't experienced, but it should be better than last year's group as the season goes on.

Oct. 6 – at LSU
Offense: There's a little bit of nervousness among LSU fans with a major change underway in the offense under new coordinator Gary Crowton. There'll be more option, more quick timing patterns, and quicker reads on the line. Fortunately, the loss of JaMarcus Russell won't hurt as much as it would for almost any other program with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux returning to run the attack. The backfield is loaded with options led by star newcomer Keiland Williams working behind a great line with enough returning experience to dominate. The receiving corps won't be as productive without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet and Brandon LeFall will be a great 1-2 combination.
Defense: The nation's number three defense in each of the last two years might crank things up yet another notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the average to bad teams.

Oct. 20 – at Kentucky
Offense: The Wildcat offense exploded last year thanks to the emergence of Andre Woodson as a superstar quarterback. It'll be bombs away once again, as Woodson chose to come back for his senior year and will have all his weapons at his disposal. Keenan Burton finally stayed healthy, and he became one of the SEC's most lethal receivers. Dicky Lyons, tight end Jacob Tamme, and running back Rafael Little are also back, with Little healthy enough again to be one of the SEC's best all-around offensive weapons. The problem is the line, which is mediocre at best, a liability at worst. It could be what keeps the Wildcats from being special.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is gone, and now former secondary coach Steve Brown will take over in an attempt to revive one of the nation's worst defenses. The run defense won't be any good again with little size up front, but the secondary should be better with excellent speed and good young prospects. It'll take awhile to see any improvement overall, but there's enough overall athleticism to expect things to be a bit better.

Oct. 27 - Georgia
Offense: The offense was a disaster at times throughout an inconsistent season, but that was to be expected with a true freshman at quarterback, at times, injury problems at running back, and the team's best receiver out. Now, sophomore QB Matthew Stafford appears on the verge of being the superstar he's supposed to be, Thomas Brown is expected to be back at some point to help out the running game, after missing the second half of last year with a knee injury, and Sean Bailey should be the number one target now that he's back from his knee injury. The offense, at least early on, will revolve around big Kregg Lumpkin and the running game, but the line needs to produce as well as it did this spring. A mega-concern going into the off-season, now the front five appears to be a strength.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has his work cut out for him. After losing star corner Paul Oliver to academic ineligibility, the defense is woefully short on sure-thing veteran stars with only three returning starters. There's plenty of potential, speed, and athleticism, but several things have to happen for this to be nearly as good as the number eight defense it was last year. The pass rush should be there in time, but it might take the wheels of outside linebackers Darius Dewberry and Dannell Ellerbe to generate some consistent pressure early on. The secondary needs to unearth more big play options, and a number one corner has to quickly emerge. While undersized, the line is tough and should grow into a rock as the year goes on. This will be a far, far better defense after a few games. By then the coaching staff will have the right combination.

Nov. 3 - Vanderbilt
Offense: The offense is loaded with experience with nine starters returning including tackle Brian Stamper, who missed most of last year. The line should be tremendous with five senior starters that know how to pass protect and should be better for the running game. Junior receiver Earl Bennett is one of the nation's most productive playmakers and should finally start to get the attention he deserves. Quarterback Chris Nickson is a dangerous run/pass combination with the potential to grow into a star if he can cut down on his interceptions. The running backs aren't special, but they're experienced.
Defense: Vanderbilt won't have one of the SEC's better defenses, but it'll be far better with seven returning starters and plenty of experience. Most importantly, there are plenty of all-stars to build around. Tackle Theo Horrocks, end Curtis Gatewood, safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton, and linebacker Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs are all capable of making All-SEC teams. The cornerbacks have to shine, a second defensive tackle has to take the heat off Horrocks, and the stars have to be stars for a major overall improvement. Coming up with more turnovers would be nice, but just being better in all areas might be enough to dramatically change the record.

Nov. 10 - at South Carolina
Offense: This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.
Defense: The defense has plenty of returning experience, depth, young options waiting to step up and shine, and good stars to build around. MLB Jasper Brinkley is one of the best in America, and now his twin brother will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to help out (though he might end up back on the line). The secondary is emerging as a potential force if everyone starters to play consistently. There's speed at corner, depth and experience at safety, and an emerging star in SS Emanuel Cook. The defensive line has to be far better against the run, and it should be with the return of Marque Hall from injury and the emergence of freshman Ladi Ajiboye.

Nov. 17 - Florida Atlantic
Offense: Things should be more consistent now that the quarterback situation is settled (at least to start the year) with Rusty Smith the full-time starter and Sean Clayton the backup. The running backs are experienced and quick, and Frantz Simeon leads a decent receiving corps, but it's all up to the line which was decent in pass protection last season but awful in the running game. It's a small front five by design, and that's a major issue for a ground game that averaged just 110 yards per game and an offense that struggled to amass 300 yards and 15 points per outing. 
Defense: The defense should be tremendous is all the starters play as expected. The back seven will be among the best in the Sun Belt with all three starters returning to the linebacking corps, two All-Sun Belt caliber safeties in Kris Bartels and Taheem Acevedo, and a shut-down corner in Corey Small. The defensive front gets three starters back led by top pass rusher Josh Pinnick and star tackle Jervonte Jackson. Even so, the run defense will be average, while the pass defense will be great.

Nov. 24 - Florida State
Offense: After a dreadful two seasons, the offense is under new leadership with new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher coming in to breathe life into the nation's 70th ranked attack. Step one is to find some semblance of a running game, and that starts with talented junior Antone Smith getting more carries. The offensive line, problem one over the last few years, gets a big upgrade with the addition of line coach Rick Trickett from West Virginia. He's immediately pushed everyone to get into better shape and to get a lot tougher. The passing game won't be forgotten about, with Fisher wanting to bomb away down the field to Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg. Now a steady quarterback has to emerge between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee.
Defense: The defense came up with a better year than it got credit for, but it gave up too many points. Now the potential is there for this to be a Florida State defense again with tremendous speed and talent in the secondary and a good enough front seven to come up with a big year. There are question marks. Everette Brown is a good-looking pass rushing end, but he needs help from the other side. The linebacking corps will be special as long as Derek Nicholson and Marcus Ball can quickly return from torn ACLs, otherwise it'll be an undersized group with no depth. As always, there's a slew of NFL talent to work around, highlighted by tackle Andre Fluellen and safety Myron Rolle.



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