Week 1 Overreactions: Assessing the Gators Schedule

Photo Credit: Alex Shepherd

The first full week of college football is in the books which means it’s time to completely overreact to everything that happened and jump to some (possibly bizarre/possibly spot on) conclusions.

The Florida Gators dropped from No. 8 to No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and to No. 11 in the A.P. Poll after their 24-20 Week 0 over the Miami Hurricanes (also receiving votes). It’s safe to assume Dan Mullen’s squad dropped due to lack of style points from their nail biter of a season opener. As head coach Dan Mullen said on Wednesday, his team has to ignore the overreactions though, as focus on the overriding fact: "I mean we won the game against an excellent team."

Oregon is the only team in the A.P. Top 25 who lost their opening game; a 21-20 loss against then No. 16—now No. 10 Auburn.

So with that business out of the way, let’s look at the rest of Florida’s schedule and make wildly outlandish assumptions based on one week of play from each team.

Week 2—UT-Martin

The Skyhawks are the home opener for Mullen and the Gators. After going 2-9 in 2018, UT-Martin opened the current season with a 42-20 win over Northwestern State. The win came despite UTM being out-gained 483-338 in total yardage. Florida is coming off what should have been a statement win that instead has been questioned by an entire country of voices and will be back at home for the first time this season. Expect them to make a statement.

Outcome: Florida wins, big.

Week 3—Kentucky

This is where the rubber starts to meet the road as the Gators kick off the SEC schedule. Last season this was the game that shocked an entire program when the Wildcats defeated UF for the first time in 31 years. Florida will be looking for revenge but the game is at night in Lexington adding a layer of difficulty. However Mark Stoops is without running back Benny Snell and defensive end Josh Allen, both who left for the NFL. In a 38-24 week 1 win over Toledo, it seemed as if middle linebacker Kash Daniels was trying to take care of everything on defense, which would make sense seeing as he didn’t have much help. The Rockets were able to game plan around him and attack the middle of the field behind him. On offense, Terry Wilson looked to still be finding a groove in a system that didn’t include Snell. The game was tied at 14 going into halftime before the Cats shook off Week 1 rush and pulled away in the 4th quarter. The Week 3 game will be a chance for both teams to prove to the rest of the country they’re legit. I think Florida has more pieces here and revenge on their side which outweighs home field advantage.

Outcome: Florida wins but it’s close through the 3rd quarter

Week 4—Tennessee

Did any team have a more embarrassing opener than the Tennessee Volunteers? Oh yea, another team on the Gators schedule, but we’ll get to them later. In Knoxville, things looked grim from the get-go when a “Vol Navy” boat caught on fire on the Tennessee River outside the stadium. Luckily no one was injured but the black smoke filling the sky was ominous. Jeremy Pruitt’s team then went out and not only lost, but were completely shown up by Georgia State, 38-30 in a game that was honestly not as close as the score indicates. GSU was within three at halftime and even with Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano throwing for 300+ yards, his team could never find a rhythm to put away the Group of 5 team. The Vols are a tricky team though because this loss could have just as easily come last season, a season in which they also defeated Auburn in Auburn and knocked off a ranked Kentucky. Luckily for the Gators, they get the Vols at home and early in the season before UT plays loose with nothing to lose.

Outcome: Florida wins, probably close to the same 47-21 score as last season

Week 5—Towson

There’s no chance Florida losses this game. Let’s move on.

Week 6—Auburn

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that how Florida does in this game will determine the course of the season. The Homecoming match against the Tigers kicks off a 4-game gauntlet that will make or break the record and the momentum—or lack thereof—from this result will determine how those games go. Auburn is infamous for being a “lucky” team and this is just the sort of game they’d pull out from the jaws of defeat at the last second. Exhibit A: their week 1 game against (then) No. 11 Oregon in Dallas. Gus Malzahn’s team only lead for 0:09 seconds of the game, but it was the last nine seconds and that’s what counted. That victory came when true freshman legacy quarterback Bo Nix led a game winning drive to win 21-20. Malzahn is back to calling plays and was somewhat lost the first half. He’s still one of the best though and he’ll undoubtedly have his groove back by this time next month. Dan Mullen can go toe-to-toe with him in that area though, and is arguably better. The part that should be concerning from that game for Gators fans is the way Auburn’s defensive front seven shored up like a brick wall against a, typically, fast moving Oregon offense. Nix being calm, cool and collected will also ensure this game goes down to the line, a lá LSU last season.

Outcome: Right now, I’m overreacting to Week 1 and am going to say Auburn wins but I’ll probably change my mind 19 times between now and then

Week 7—LSU

I’m going to defy my own rules here and not overreact to LSU’s 55-3 Week 1 win over Georgia Southern. I’m not going to crown Joe Burrow a Top SEC quarterback for his five touchdown in one half performance and wax poetic about the Tigers shiny new offense. Why? Because it’s the exact same thing the Gators did in their opening game last season. It’s exactly what Feleipe Franks did, it’s the exact same offense Mullen implemented and it’s almost the exact score Florida beat Charleston Southern by in that 2018 game (53-6). That’s not to say we should discount what the Gators were able to do from that game and all of last season. I’m just not going to act like LSU has reinvented the wheel because they finally caught up with the rest of college football and discovered the RPO. However, this is still a night game in Death Valley against a very good team. The Tigers will be looking to avenge their humbling loss from last season. Florida could very well be coming off a loss. But I also know the importance Mullen puts on rivalry games and believe the Gators learned the lesson from last season to not let a loss take over.

Outcome: Florida wins another nail-biter

Week 8—South Carolina

The Gamecocks season opener couldn’t have gone worse. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Will Muschamp’s team had no offensive groove and floundered late in the game. In the end Mack Brown—Muschamp’s former boss who had just returned to college football coaching—led his North Carolina team to a 24-20 win. And then to add insult to injury, USC lost their starting veteran quarterback Jake Bentley to an alleged foot injury. Now Muschamp must turn to a true freshman. We’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends.

Outcome: Florida wins. It might get Muschamp fired.

Week 9—Georgia

This was already assumed to be the toughest game on Florida’s schedule and after seeing how Jake Fromm and company easily handled Vanderbilt to the tune of 30-6, the assumption is confirmed. Every part of the Dawgs team clicks on all cylinders and they have no foreseeable weak spots. If Florida can build off the Miami win, defeat Auburn and carry momentum and presence of mind into the Cocktail Party, they have what it takes to defeat the nation’s No. 3 team. It’s a lot to ask though and the Gators didn’t show me quite enough in their opening week compared to UGA to lead me to believe it’ll happen.

Outcome: Georgia wins by one touchdown but it’s made to look close by a garbage minute Gators score

Week 10—Vanderbilt

On the other side of the Week 1 Georgia win was Vanderbilt who looks like the same old Vanderbilt. Hard nosed, decent defense and just enough flash on offense to give hope in the offseason. But still looking for that year that gets them over the hump. Based off game one, this isn’t going to be that year.

Outcome: Florida wins by double digits

Week 11—Missouri

The Tigers are Florida’s kryptonite; they motion out a tight end and just run all over the Gators defense, they find Florida’s Achilles heel on offense and turn special team plays into game changers. It’s confounding and baffling honestly. But even with vaulted Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant, Mizzou found themselves at the wrong end of a 37-31 upset from Wyoming. Bryant threw for 423 yards but had a fumble returned for a touchdown and threw an interception in the endzone. The defense gave up 297 rushing yards and missed double digit tackles. Since beginning the series in 2012, when the Gators face Missouri coming off of a win, they’ve won every time. When they face the Tigers coming off a loss, they’ve lost every time. In 2012, UF was coming off of a loss to Georgia and defeated Mizzou. Getting the Vanderbilt game between Georgia and Missouri should work in the Gators favor.

Outcome: Florida wins

Week 12—Florida State

This was perhaps the best part of Gator Nation’s weekend. FSU seemed to have their opening game against Boise State in hand at halftime. Then Boise and their freshman quarterback ran roughshod over the Seminoles. The Bronco’s defeated the Noles in every major statistical category in route to a 36-31 win and the offense kept FSU’s defense on the field foe 108 plays. 108!! That’s insane and the Noles lack of conditioning was exposed. Every bit of talent on the team seemed to be squandered and it doesn’t appear to be an easy fix.

Outcome: Florida picks on FSU all day and wins big

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