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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Here it is. It all starts today.

Yes, spring practice is important - Urban Meyer loves to claim that it is where starting jobs are won and lost.

Yes, offseason workouts can tell the strength staff a lot about the chemistry of a team.

But the games are played on Saturdays in the fall, and this is where the fall truly begins.

And if you're a UF fan, you know that this is one of the most anticipated seasons in Gators history.

You've probably been salivating since the time you got back from celebrating on South Beach.

Now it's finally here. The next 154 days (through the Jan. 7 BCS Championship Game in Pasadena, Calif.) will be one of the most riveting stretches in college football, I guarantee this.

I don't promise a specific outcome, but make sure you pay attention.

Get up and go to the 6 a.m. practices today and tomorrow if you want an up-close-and-personal look at the once-in-a-generation Tim Tebow or a defense that will strike fear in every opponent.

Opportunities like this just don't come around every day.

The last time a team was this hyped heading into fall was 2005. USC came off an undefeated 2004 campaign, and the Trojans' 13-0 record allowed them to hold the top spot in the AP poll from preseason to postseason, a distinction only one other team can claim (1999 Florida State). Matt Leinart won the 2004 Heisman Trophy, and USC won by an average of 25.2 points per game, including a 55-19 shellacking of Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game at Dolphin Stadium.

Hm - a stacked team coming off a win over Oklahoma in the BCS title game in Miami. Sound familiar?

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For the record, UF's 2008 comes off as even more impressive based on victory margin. The Gators' 13 wins were by an average of 33.2 points. But what about the one loss, you say? Factor in the 1-point defeat to Ole Miss, and UF had an average margin of plus-30.7 points in 14 games.

If you don't remember the fate of the 2005 Trojans, let me quickly remind you. They started the season as everyone's pick to win it all and repeat (like the Gators are). USC rolled through its first 12 games, winning by an average of 28.7 points. The Trojans would later have 11 players picked in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Analysts slotted USC into their lists of all-time great teams before the title game was even played.

The problem was a pesky team from Texas. The Longhorns were also undefeated entering the championship game, except no one really paid attention because they were facing the Mighty Trojans.

Texas quarterback Vince Young had something to say about that, as he passed for 267 yards and ran for another 200 and three scores and Texas won 41-38.

It is the best college football game ever played (sorry, Boise State), but yet "one of the best college football teams of all time" didn't even win the national championship.

So don't assume another crystal ball is on its way to Gainesville. Don't build yourself up to the point that a single loss will make 2009 a complete failure.

Enjoy the ride. Tailgate. Get to games early. Keep your ticket stubs. You can bemoan every score the defense allows, but don't let the game become a disappointment because UF wins by two touchdowns and not four.

Because if you only plan to enjoy the destination and not the ride, what happens if the destination never comes?

Cherish Tebow's last season. There might not be another player like him for decades. Hold onto every defensive stop and the sideline celebrations. Enjoy the special teams plays and Urban's refusal to ever give his team a full vote of confidence. He will try to keep his players hungry until the end, but don't let yourself hold off having fun until the end of the road.

On Jan. 8, the morning after the 2010 BCS Championship Game, you might be joyous. You could be bitter.

But you will have been given quite a ride.

Just do yourself a favor.

Make sure you stop and smell the roses, and don't wait until a possible trip to Pasadena to start.

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