The Florida Gators enter the 2013 season coming off a disappointing loss at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals in last year's Sugar Bowl.
The Gators entered the Sugar Bowl one of the hottest teams in the nation with hopes of playing for a national title. The Gators were in line to possibly play Alabama in the national title game if Notre Dame would have loss to USC on the final week of the regular season.
The Irish prevailed and ended up facing Alabama which left the Gators bound for New Orleans to face the Cardinals of Louisville.
The Gators went into the matchup with the Cardinals a 14-point favorite, but were handed one of their worst beat downs of the 2012 season.
Louisville went on to beat the heavily-favored Gators 33-23 in one of the surprises of last year's college football season. This has left this year's Gators team determined to redeem themselves and show that game was not the real Florida.
As Florida comes into this 2013 season the hopes of playing in the national championship for the first time since 2008 will depend on the health and productivity of junior quarterback Jeff Driskel. Driskel has been a quarterback on the rise the last couple of seasons and this year could be the year he finally breaks out and shows his full potential.
As he has gained more experience and confidence under head coach Will Muschamp, Driskel has improved his overall game as a passer, runner and has became the leader of this team. This is officially Driskel's team and the Gators will rely on him to lead them as far as they can go behind a stout defense.
The strength of the 2012 Gators was the defense. The Gators' defense towards the 2nd half of the season last year was one of the top defenses in the nation and was the catalyst for the Gators making it to the Sugar Bowl.
This year's Gators' defense only returns four starters and will have to grow up fast playing in the rough and defensive minded SEC. The Gators have had a track record dating back to the days of former head coach Urban Meyer of being a spread attack type of team, but under Muschamp it has been a more defensive approach to winning games.
Muschamp, the former defensive coordinator at Texas, has brought the passion and fire that was needed after the departure of Urban Meyer and has got Florida believing that they can once again win a national title.
The 2013 Florida schedule has some tough road games that will determine just how successful they are this season. The 2nd week of the season the Gators play the Miami Hurricanes in Miami. This matchup seems to favor the Gators, but against a rival on the road anything can happen that early in the season.
The Gators also have road games against LSU and South Carolina. Last season Florida defeated LSU 14-6 in a SEC slugfest style of game with defense and more defense. This victory over then ranked number four LSU jump started the Gators' great 2nd half run in 2012.
This year the Gators will have to face the Tigers in Death Valley which will be a whole different challenge for Florida. The Gators also play South Carolina in Columbia this year and as always one of the headlines is the Ol' Ball Coach going up against his former team Florida.
As these two teams have played more and more the storyline isn't quit as big, but still you know the passion for Steve Spurrier wanting to beat his former team where he played and coaches at still burns inside him. The matchup of defensive star Jadeveon Clowney against the Florida offensive line will be the key to this game for Florida if they have hopes of protecting Driskel and beating South Carolina in Columbia. This game could be one of the best of the 2013 season if both teams live up to preseason hype.
The 2013 season will be a measuring stick type one for Driskel of Florida and Muschamp in continuing the transformation from the Urban Meyer era. I believe the Gators will not be quite as good as they were last season when they reached number three in the polls.
I do feel this could be a top 10 team if they win some of the key road games I spoke of and get a breakout season from Driskel. The defense will have to stay dominant under Muschamp and with a more experienced quarterback, this season could be a pretty nice one for Gator Nation.
I feel Florida goes 9-3 or 10-2 with a potential shot at another BCS Bowl bid in 2013.