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From the Outback Bowl: Gators' growing list of problems could bite them

December 29, 2010 - Cory Giger
TAMPA, Fla. -- It's been one distraction after another for the Florida football team recently, and the convoluted mess makes it virtually impossible for anyone to say they have a good idea what to expect from the Gators on Saturday.

The laundry list of issues facing the team includes:

* Head coach Urban Meyer is resigning, and new coach Will Muschamp is hanging around practices getting the lay of the land. If this huge story wasn't enough ...

* Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who has been heavily criticized all season, already has another job waiting for him as Temple's head coach. There's no way he's concentrating 100 percent on a relatively meaningless bowl game.

* Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was hospitalized Tuesday with a stomach issue called gastritis, then released. He was not at practice yesterday, and his status for the game is unclear. Furthermore, Austin is a candidate for the defensive coordinator job at Texas, so you have to wonder if his mind is fully on the game given that and his health.

* Starting quarterback John Brantley is considering transferring and still hasn't made up his mind. How bizarre is that scenario -- that a starter at any position, let alone quarterback, would be in this kind of predicament going into a bowl game?

* Last but certainly not least, the Gators will be without four injured starters, including standout cornerback Janoris Jenkins and right tackle Maurice Hurt. If nothing else was going on, losing four key players alone would be a major blow for any team.

We're talking about a bunch of 18- to 22-year-old kids here, and kids don't always respond well to any level of adversity. Pile on as much adversity and uncertainty as the Gators have, and it would mean disaster for a lot of teams.

I speculated several weeks ago that Meyer's resignation could be the kind of thing that brings the Florida players together and gives them motivation to send their coach out on a winning note. But given everything else that's happened to the team since then, that theory can be tossed out the window.

I'd be lying if I said I have a good feeling for what to expect now from Florida. Given all their problems and distractions, the Gators are the ultimate wild card.

As Iowa proved in Tuesday night's 27-24 win over Missouri, even a team that appears to be in complete disarray can still find a way to prevail on any given day.

So while the Gators undoubtedly are vulnerable, that doesn't mean they won't be capable of putting together a good game.

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