The Wait is over Gator Nation! The Florida Gators will kick off their 2021 season this Saturday September 4th against in-state opponent Florida Atlantic University.
The Gators are coming off of a roller coaster albeit somewhat disappointing season in 2020 in which the Gators ranked 9th offensively in total offense (509.8 ypg/ 39.8 ppg). Last seasons offense was explosive led by Heisman candidate QB Kyle Trask, electric 1st round WR Kadarius Toney, and #4 overall pick TE Kyle Pitts who almost assuredly would have been in the Heisman conversation himself if not for missed time due to injury. The defense on the other hand was a different story. The Florida defense ranked 83rd in total defense (428 ypg, 30 ppg), the worst scoring defense since 1917. The team that often refers to themselves as “DBU” allowed 28 passing touchdowns- the most since pre WWII. After a big win against division rival Georgia, the Gators dropped close games against Texas A&M, LSU, and Alabama before losing to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl with many stars opting to sit the bowl game out.
The 2020 season is now a distant memory and the 2021 Florida Gators should be primed for another run at the SEC East Title and an appearance in the SEC Championship Game. Up First: The Florida Atlantic University Owls hailing from Conference USA.
The Gators, ranked 12th in the pre-season AP Top 25, will be led by new starting QB RS-Jr Emory Jones and a cast of young, talented, skill position players. The offense figures to look a little different this season with Jones under center. I fully expect Florida to try to establish the line of scrimmage and run early and often with a bevy of talented backs in order to set up the pass. Florida’s defense will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2020 campaign and I expect them to be vastly improved. The defense will be full of new faces with the addition of Auburn transfers DT Daquan Newkirk and Tyrone Truesdell, Penn St transfer DT Antonio Valentino, fan favorite JUCO transfer Diwun Black, and highly touted freshman DB Jason Marshall, just to name a few.
FAU, led by 2nd year Head Coach and former FSU HC Willie Taggart, finished 5-4 last season, good for 2nd in the CUSA-East. They return 10 starters on each side of the ball and have added several key transfers that figure to make an impact right away. One of those transfers, former Miami QB N’Kosi Perry, has recently been named the starter for the Owls as they head to Gainesville for week 1. He figures to significantly upgrade an offense that last season proved to be mediocre at best. (324.6 ypg, 18.9 ppg). FAU has excellent depth at RB returning their top 2 RB’s from a season ago along with adding USF transfer Johnny Ford. Converted QB Javion Posey and former Clemson transfer TJ Chase are names to look at for at WR. The Owls defense returns 13 of its top 14 tacklers from a season ago in a unit that ranked amongst the best in CUSA in getting after the QB.
With The Swamp expected to be back at full capacity, Florida will be pumped to put on a show for the fans. Dan Mullen’s team should have no issues putting this one away early and shutting things down. I expect to see a heavy dose of the run game to build cohesion amongst the offensive line and am excited to see what Emory Jones will do in his first game as QB1. I expect the game plan to be fairly vanilla on offense as to not give too much away on film with Alabama coming to town in the coming weeks. I am looking to see major improvement from the defense, especially in coverage and tackling. Ultimately I expect the Gators to win this one comfortably and hopefully come out of it healthy.
Kickoff: 7:30 pm EST
Venue: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
Where to Watch: SEC Network
Line: UF -24.5