The Florida Gators started off the 2021 campaign with a 35-14 win over the FAU Owls in what many feel was a bit of an underwhelming performance at times. But they’ll look to turn that around and earn another win on the road this week when they take on a subpar USF Bulls team in Raymond James Stadium.
Even though this is technically considered a road game, I expect it to be a Florida heavy crowd. The two teams have only met once in their history squaring off back in 2010, with the Gators coming out on top 38-14 in Gainesville. The Bulls opened their season in Raleigh, NC to take on the NC State Wolfpack, losing 45-0 in a game that wasn't close from the beginning. Sophomore North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin started at quarterback, but true freshman Timmy McClain also saw action against the Wolfpack. They had a night they'd like to forget, going a combined 14-33 for 167 yards with 3 interceptions. USF gave up 293 yards rushing on the night, which plays right into the hands of what Florida wants to do.
Dan Mullen remained firm that Emory Jones is the starting quarterback for the Gators after a game that didn't go as well as fans had hoped for the talented signal-caller. He was 17-27, for 113 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 74 yards on 10 carries. I understand that a lot of fans were a little concerned with his accuracy and rightfully so. However, it was his first career start and I think he’s only going to get better as he gets more in-game reps as the season goes on.
I also understand the excitement for backup quarterback Anthony Richardson and the playmaking ability he brings to the table. He’s a weapon that is just too talented to keep off the field and someone I expect Coach Mullen to utilize this season in a variety of roles. The 6-foot-4 240 pound redshirt freshman dazzled the crowd with his ability to run the football, especially during his 73 yard touchdown run and the highlight hurdle of an FAU defender. His numbers as a passer weren't great but there were a couple of drops and a couple of attempts to force the ball to Kahleil Jackson to get him a touchdown with his grandfather in attendance as one of the honorary Mr. 2 Bits.
I expect Florida to continue to try and stay balanced on the offensive end, but they also need to get the passing game going to build Emory Jones’ confidence heading into a big matchup next week. USF isn’t a good football team, so Florida should be able to dominate the game and win handily. Jones and Richardson should have good games and the offensive line will be able to get a push up front allowing the running backs to build on their impressive opening week.
I expect the defense to dominate the line of scrimmage and be able to get pressure on the Bulls quarterback all game long. The secondary should look improved and able to lock down the Bulls’ receivers as well. Avery Helm got beat on a couple of plays last week, but I expect him to put that behind him and improve on that. I think you see Jason Marshall and Elijah Blades get a lot of playing time as the Gators continue to try and figure out who will man that CB2 spot opposite of Kaiir Elam. I expect Florida to be able to rest their starters most of the second half in what should be a dominant performance leading to an easy victory before the SEC opener next week.