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Five Reasons Florida Will Win the East

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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With last year's disaster behind them, the Florida Gators are ready to return to prominence in 2014.

A year removed from a season which can only be described as an embarrassment, the Florida Gators are poised to bounce back strong in 2014.

Here is a look at five reasons why the Gators will win the SEC East this fall.

1. Kurt Roper – The Charlie Weis and Brent Pease eras in Gainesville both proved to be “programmatic non-fits”. Historically speaking, Florida has usually been at its best when it has employed offenses predicated on its overall speed and athleticism. After spending time as a power running offense, the Gators will focus more on spreading the ball around the field in an attempt to put their athletes in favorable one-on-one matchups. Roper experienced tremendous success in helping to turn around Duke’s offense, and there is certainly plenty of reason to believe that he can have a similar positive impact at Florida.

2. Jeff Driskel – Though Driskel has yet to live up to the lofty expectations with which he entered college, he is still an athletic signal caller with tons of potential. The schematic changes on offense will benefit no individual player more than Driskel, who appears to be an ideal fit for Roper’s style of play-calling. Lining up in the shotgun and having more opportunities to use his legs as a weapon, Driskel should be able to increase his production of explosive plays exponentially. Bouncing back from a season-injury leg suffered in just the third game of the 2013 season, Driskel will be helped along by his clean bill of health, in addition to the fact that this is fourth season at the collegiate level.

3. Team Health – While injuries were a major issue for numerous SEC teams last fall, there is no question that the Gators were bit worst by the injury bug. According to Phil Steele, Florida lost by far the most starts due to injury in the conference in 2013 (51). That equates to nearly 20 percent of the Gators’ starts being lost due to health problems, the third-highest percentage in the country. The overall lack of depth and experience made life difficult for the Gators in 2013, but the team has the vast majority of its players at 100 percent health heading into fall camp. The likelihood of Florida experiencing a rash of injuries similar to last season is exceptionally rare, meaning that it should expect to take serious strides forward in 2014.

4. Motivation – By the end of the 2013 season, the Gators had quit on the campaign. Injuries and inconsistent play had left the program out of SEC East contention relatively early into the fall. Just a year removed from a berth in a BCS bowl game, the team did not respond particularly well to its sudden change in fortunes. A new season brings renewed optimism, however, and the Gators are eager to prove to the college football world that last season was little more than a fluke. Florida will also have the added motivation of playing for head coach Will Muschamp, who is squarely on the hot seat with the administration heading into his fourth season.

5. The Competition – Much to the chagrin of Gator Nation, no team in the SEC East is without significant concerns heading into the start of the regular season. Georgia should be very strong on offense, but the defense will continue to be a problem area, especially after the permanent losses of four players during the offseason. South Carolina has built a relatively stable program, but the Gamecocks will have a tough time replacing the losses of Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, amongst others. Despite winning the East in 2013, Missouri returns fewer starters than any other team in the division. The competition to make it to Atlanta is wide open, and the conference has a past history of producing surprise divisional winners.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.