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July 4, 2014
Unpredictable: The 2014 Florida Gators
Congratulations, you've made it to July. It's the home stretch of life without college football, and yet college football seldom feels further away than ever. So you anxiously await a festival of rehearsed words at Southeastern Conference Media Days. You count down the days until practice. … Practice!
You go to your local convenience store and you can't help but pick up a 2014 season preview magazine. You can't help but read season previews on the Internet. You can't help but notice no one thinks too highly of your Gators right now.
Almost everyone has Florida pegged for a mediocre season, a fairly distant third in the SEC East race. Outside of a few players, there's nothing special about these Gators, they say. Look at where these same folks rank Florida in terms of talent by position group and it's almost amazing they even expect it to be a mediocre year.
Those who disagree are more making a hipster pick than an evidence-laden argument. They're the same kind of people who pick a last-place team to win the next year's Super Bowl every summer. It's more wacky conversation starter than belief.
And it's difficult to fault any of this.
Florida is coming off a 4-8 season. But more importantly, two of its last three seasons have been horrendous and its one sandwiched bright spot happened while signs were being launched like fireworks of troubles to come.
There is zero proof the Gators will be good enough in 2014 to prove any of their critics wrong. But that's part of the beauty of this all.
You see, there's also zero proof Florida is destined to fall on its face. What we are left with less than one month from fall camp is a lengthy series of unknowns that will determine the success - or lack thereof - of the most important UF football season in years.
The Gators are loaded with talent at wide receiver but low on players with proven track records. The same can be said at defensive back, at running back, past the obvious names in the defensive line rotation, at linebacker, at quarterback. There's an offense that we've seen glimpses of but have yet to see against an actual opponent or under the tense in-game requests of Will Muschamp.
Don't confuse this with negativity. This surplus of questions in no way means 2014 Florida is doomed. Some of the most exciting eras in college football have sprouted out of mysterious moments just like this.
When the Gators traveled to Texas A&M in 2012, they didn't know they were facing off against an offense or a quarterback that would launch the Aggies to the top of their state. Auburn was left for dead before its remarkable 2013 run.
This may not be the best time to read national publications in search of their thoughts on your favorite team. It's a great time to be patient and gear up for a ride that will - for better or worse - shape the future of Florida football.