Gators chasing history in 2009
September, 1, 2009
By Chris Low | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
For all its might and all its mounds of returning talent, Florida is fighting history as much as it is anything this season.
The Gators, the overwhelming No. 1 selection in the preseason polls, are seeking to do something that no SEC team has done since the league was formed in 1933.
Never has a team from this conference started the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and gone on to win the national championship and finish with an unbeaten record.
The last SEC team to start the season ranked No. 1 and then end the season as the national champion was Alabama in 1978, but the Crimson Tide were 11-1 that year. They lost to Southern California in the fourth week of the season.
Only two teams in history -- Southern California in 2004 and Florida State in 1999 -- have ever started the season No. 1 and held onto the top spot for the entire season en route to winning a national title.
It’s a daunting road for sure for the Gators, but they haven’t shied away from their goal of perfection.
They’re well aware of what their place in history would be if they can pull off a wire-to-wire finish.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about every day,” senior linebacker Brandon Spikes said when practice opened back in August.
Now it’s here, and the Gators look as imposing as ever as they chase the first unbeaten season in school history.
“The way we look at it is that we have the talent to do things that haven’t been done in college football in a long time. Why not go ahead and do it?” junior cornerback Joe Haden said. “We’ve worked our way to get to this point.
“Let’s finish it off and make sure they remember us forever.”
Easier said than done.
There’s a reason nobody from the SEC has won back-to-back national championships since Alabama in 1978 and 1979.
In fact, no SEC team has ever won outright national championships in consecutive years. In 1978, Alabama shared the title with Southern California.
There hasn’t even been a repeat SEC champion since Tennessee in 1997 and 1998.
The last team, period, to win outright national titles in back-to-back seasons was Nebraska in 1994 and 1995. That 1995 Nebraska team is widely considered to be the greatest college football team of the modern era.
The Gators hope to have something to say about that come January.
There’s already a mythical feel about this team. They can join Nebraska as the only program since 1950 to claim three national titles in four years. The Cornhuskers won in 1994 and 1995 and then shared the title in 1997.
Quarterback Tim Tebow is one of three players in history to begin his senior season with a Heisman Trophy and two national titles. Southern California’s Matt Leinart and Army’s Doc Blanchard were the other two. No player has ever won two Heismans and three national titles.
In this era of college football, it’s rare that two players the caliber of Tebow and Spikes both return for their senior seasons, especially when they’re already sporting a pair of national championship rings.
Typically, they go for the NFL money.
These Gators are going for history.
“I wanted to come back and re-write history. We’ve got a good chance,” Spikes said.