1. Florida – The 2006 national champions slipped a notch last season, but return a fast and athletic team led by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. As the pre-season polls indicate, expectations are as high as ever for the Gators.
Tebow is the obvious catalyst offensively. In a season where he scored 55 total touchdowns, as a sophomore in the SEC mind you, Tebow became the first underclassmen in history to win the Heisman Trophy. His cause will be aided by the influx of USC transfer Emmanuel Moody and redshirt freshman Chris Rainey at running back, who will join Kestahn Moore and occasionally Percy Harvin in the offensive backfield. Harvin, who scored ten total touchdowns, will more frequently line up at receiver, where he is one of the nation's best. Senior Louis Murphy is another talented option. The team will miss All-SEC tight end Cornelius Ingram, who will miss the season due to injury. The offensive line should be strong with three returning starters and another, Phil Trautwein, coming back from injury. The Gators finished third in the nation in 2007 in scoring offense and could be even better this fall.
Rising experience defensively should lead to considerable improvement. A unit that was one of the youngest in the SEC last year is now loaded with returning starters. End Jermaine Cunningham may be the next star edge rusher in the league. Behind him roams the conference's top linebacker, Brandon Spikes. He recorded 131 tackles last season. The secondary has talented young corners, led by Joe Haden and an emerging star at free safety in Major Wright. Depth at strong safety has become a concern, however, after projected starter Dorian Monroe went down with a season-ending injury.
A true freshman, Caleb Sturgis, takes over the kicking duties. Chas Henry returns at punter. Brandon James could contend for All-American honors as a return man. Florida has been one of the premier teams in the nation the last few years at blocking kicks and punts.
Offensive MVP – Tim Tebow, QB
Defensive MVP – Brandon Spikes, LB
Rising Star – Major Wright, FS
Key Game – vs Georgia (in Jacksonville), November 1st
2. Georgia – The Bulldogs have been named the pre-season number one team in the nation by the AP and the coaches. Georgia has the talent to earn such high-praise. Question is, can they overcome the toughest schedule in all of college football?
Tailback Knowshon Moreno played so well as a freshman that he invoked memories of you know who in Athens. He accumulated 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns despite only starting just six games. He is one of the premier tailbacks in the nation. Quarterback Matt Stafford is worthy of similar attention. After throwing 19 touchdowns and just ten interceptions, he too is an All-American candidate. The receiver rotation is yet to be defined. Senior Mohamed Massaquoi is the leader of the unit and is talented. After him, there is a lot of potential but not a lot of returning production. Look out for true freshman receiver A.J. Green. A year older and wiser, an offensive line that performed admirably as youngsters in 2007 should only be better.
The Georgia defense used the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii to showcase their supreme speed and athleticism. Much of that unit is back for another run. Tackles Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens provide the foundation up front and disruptive interior forces. There is solid depth at defensive end. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is the first-team All-SEC material and a tackling machine. The secondary has the potential to be very good. Three starters return and hopes are very high for sophomore safety Reshad Jones. Asher Allen, Prince Miller, Ramarcus Brown and Bryan Evans form a very strong and deep cornerback rotation.
True freshman Blair Walsh is the new kicker. Senior Brian Mimbs return at punter.