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Who Can Compete With Florida?

With Tim Tebow and the vast majority of Florida Gators returning to Gainesville next year, just who in the SEC can compete with Florida?

Not just next year, but beyond?

All schools take dips.  Texas, Southern Cal, Alabama and more have all had down periods.

But at this point, I can’t picture Florida having anything less than a Nebraska- or Florida State-like run near the top of the polls. 

We’re talking 15 to 20 years of this.  For the most part, they’ve already dominated the league from 1990 until now.

I don’t see that changing.


1)  Urban Meyer is expected to be in Gainesville at least until his children leave high school.  His youngest son is still in elementary school.

2)  Jeremy Foley has proven that he’ll spend money on salaries and on facilities.

3)  Meyer can roll out of bed in the morning, walk to his kitchen, grab a cup of coffee and bump into two or three top recruits on his way.  Florida is that rich in high school talent.

4)  Florida State and Miami have lost some of their luster, which means UF should continue to cherry-pick the best players in the state.

5)  Playing in the SEC will allow the Gators — should they get through the regular season with no more than a loss (or two in a rare occasion) — to get an invite to the national title game each year.  That will mean better recruiting, more wins, and so on and so on.

So who, as things stand now, can honestly be expected to match the Gators in terms of conference titles in the next 10 years?

No one in the SEC East. 

Mark Richt has elevated Georgia past Tennessee, but he can’t hope to leapfrog the Gators on a regular basis.

Lane Kiffin and his Super Staff might jumpstart Vol recruiting, but they’re at a natural disadvantage when it comes to in-state prospects.  Plus, no one knows what kind of a coach Kiffin will actually be.

Sorry, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, but you have to actually reach an SEC Championship Game before you can start thinking about winning them on pace with Florida.

Teams in the East have a built-in disadvantage, too.  They have to play the Gators every year.

So the best bet to compete with UF will have to be a school or schools from the West.

Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas have never won an SEC Championship Game.  Cross them off the list.

Auburn will have a hard time becoming the best program in their own state, much less the conference.

So that leaves two schools that, for now, appear to be the only true contenders with Florida for the title of “King of the Conference.”

Alabama has the recruiting base, the national name and the proven track record of Nick Saban.

LSU has the recruiting base, the improved national name and the… well… they’ve got The Man In The Little Hat coaching them.  So I’ll give Saban and Bama the nod over Les Miles and the Tigers.

Since 1992, there have been 17 SEC Championship Games.  Seven of them have been won by Florida.  LSU has won three.  Alabama has won two.  So have Georgia and Tennessee.  Auburn won the other one.

Looking ahead over the next 10 years (which is a crazy excercise to begin with, but what they hey), I think the SEC’s championships will be earned as follows:

Florida will win four.

Alabama will win three.

LSU will win one.

Georgia will win one.

Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and Ole Miss will be fighting for the other one.

That, of course, is just guesswork.  If things stay the same, that’s how I see things shaking out.  But things seldom stay the same.

Everyone will be gunning for Florida.  Other programs will start spending like Florida.  Perhaps they’ll catch ‘em.

But as it stands today, with Meyer in place and with so many young players in Gainesville, it’s hard to imagine an SEC crown that won’t rest on the head of a big ‘ol gator.


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