Early Season Outlook
The Florida Gators gave number one Alabama all they could handle in front of a sold-out Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night. The Gators came in as 14.5-point underdogs but fell just short 31-29 after a failed 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter. Though they fell a little short, Florida dominated for three quarters outgaining the Crimson Tide 440 to 331 and holding the Alabama rushing attack to just 91 yards in what was a confidence boosting performance by the Gators defense. Despite dropping to 2-1 on the season, the Florida fanbases confidence is at an all-time high under Dan Mullen as the team hopes for a re-match later this season in the SEC Championship Game.
With arguably the biggest game in the Swamp in nearly a decade now in the rearview mirror, What’s Next? What should Gator Nation’s expectations be as we look forward to the rest of the season? The Good news: Everything Florida wants to accomplish is still in front of them.
Let’s take a look at the remainder of the Gators schedule:
September 25th: vs Tennessee
October 2nd: @ Kentucky
October 9th: vs Vanderbilt
October 16th: @ LSU
October 30th: Georgia
November 6th: @ South Carolina
November 13th: vs Samford
November 20th: @ Missouri
November 27th vs Florida State
Of these remaining games, four stick out to me as crucial if Florida wants to accomplish their goal of making it back to Atlanta. Unfortunately for the Gators all of them are either on the road or at a neutral site.
First, October 2nd at Kentucky. This one will be tricky for the Gators when they travel to Lexington to take on a much-improved Wildcats team that seems to have found a new explosive identity on offense. In what will assuredly be a juiced-up Kroger Field, there’s no doubt that Big Blue Nation will be amped at the chance to beat the Gators for only the second time since 1986.
On October 16th Florida will be looking for revenge after last year’s “Shoe Toss” loss as the Gators travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. The Tigers did not look good in their first game of the season, losing at UCLA but were able to get back on track against McNeese St and Central Michigan respectively. Death Valley is one of the toughest environments in college football for opposing teams and I expect a rowdy, hostile atmosphere.
Saturday October 30th the Gators travel to Jacksonville to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in what is one of the most anticipated games of the entire college football season. This game will certainly have conference and national title implications. Georgia boasts one of the nation’s top defenses, however it remains to be seen whether their offense has taken the next step to make them a legitimate national title contender.
Lastly, Florida’s trip to Columbia, Missouri on November 20th. This game is usually a sleepy noon cold blustery kickoff which could lead to a potential let down. Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz has the Tigers playing well early in the season so they can’t be overlooked.
Florida fans should be encouraged and excited following Saturday night’s performance against Alabama. The defensive line is as advertised, and I believe the young secondary will continue to make strides and get better week to week. Kaiir Elam is truly one of the premiere defensive backs in the country leading that unit. On offense the Gators rushing attack still ranks second in the nation behind a vastly improved offensive line that manhandled the Crimson Tide defense for the majority of the game. I believe the Gators will continue to rely heavily on the ground game and play action pass.
The road to Atlanta and a potential re-match against Alabama is wide open and Florida has the talent to get there. But will they? Only time will tell.