Know Your Rival: Florida Season Preview

We conclude our season preview series with the Florida Gators, fresh off a 4–8 season that included a home loss to FCS Georgia Southern.

We conclude our season preview series with the Florida Gators. It was a year to remember forget for the Gators last season as they went 4-8 with a home loss to FCS Georgia Southern. That’s worth repeating: Last year, the Gators went 4-8 with a home loss to FCS Georgia Southern. Injuries and a complete lack of offense doomed them to miss a bowl game for the first time since 1990. Last year, the Gators went 4-8 with a home loss to FCS Georgia Southern. With a home loss to FCS Georgia Southern.

Florida State got off to a slow start in last year’s game before Kelvin Benjamin took over and led the Seminoles to a 30 point victory. Jameis Winston threw for 327 yards against the vaunted Florida secondary, 212 of those to Benjamin, including all three of his touchdowns. It was the largest margin of victory for Florida State over Florida since 1988.



Win Shares

Aug. 30: Idaho


Sept. 6: Eastern Michigan


Sept. 13: Kentucky


Sept. 20: at Alabama


Oct. 4: at Tennessee


Oct. 11: LSU


Oct. 18: Missouri


Nov. 1: Georgia


Nov. 8: at Vanderbilt


Nov. 15: South Carolina


Nov. 22: Eastern Kentucky


Nov. 29: at Florida State




Florida has one of the nation’s toughest schedules in 2014, but, aside from Florida State and Alabama, all their toughest games are at home. They do start the season off with three easy victories before the trip to Alabama in week 4, giving them a chance to get into a rhythm before the meat of the schedule.

The Simplified Football formula has Florida winning just over eight games despite playing six teams ranked in the preseason. Florida will be improved this season, but how much improvement can be expected? Will Muschamp is definitely on the hot seat this year; if the season starts going badly will the team continue to play hard for him knowing that he will likely not be there next year?

[Jason: I know Wayne disagrees here, but I think UF will contend for the SEC East this year. I think 8–4 (5-3) is about right, though they're going to be in just about every game all year. I just don't see them turning it over like they did last year, and I think they'll move it well enough to give their defense breathing room. And that defense is salty—good enough to keep them in the game against nearly everyone. But they'll be on the margin enough this year that they're bound to lose a few, and I expect them to fall short of a division title.


Projected Starters


Jeff Driskell

Running back

Kelvin Taylor

Wide Receiver

Quinton Dunbar

Wide Receiver

Ahmad Fulwood

Wide Receiver

Latroy Pittman

Tight End

Jake McGee

Left Tackle

D.J. Humphries

Left Guard

Tyler Moore


Max Garcia

Right Guard

Trenton Brown

Right Tackle

Chaz Green

Key Players

QB Jeff Driskell: Driskell missed most of last season after breaking his leg. He is set up to succeed in new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s new offense, which will make use of his athleticism and provide a wide variety of rushing schemes out of the spread. If Driskell stays healthy, he immediately improves the Florida offense from where they ended last season. (Reminder: at the end of last season, UF lost to FCS Georgia Southern. At home.)

WR Quinton Dunbar: Dunbar was Florida’s second leading receiver last year and will be the top target for Driskell this season. Dunbar has excellent hands and runs solid routes but is not a difference-maker.

Question Marks

The Offensive Line: The Florida offensive line was in shambles last season, allowing 7.17 TFLs per game, 110th in the country. This was a M*A*S*H unit last year, and with the lack of depth up front, the Gators simply can’t afford another rash of injuries on the line. Tyler Moore and Trenton Brown will also need to improve over last year if the Gators want to to run the ball effectively.

Overall Playmakers: In much the same way it’s odd to see Miami with such average athleticism on defense, the lack of offensive playmakers on the UF roster is baffling. Roper actually had more offensive skill talent to work with at Duke last year, which is remarkable.

Overall: Offense

The lack of talent on the offensive side of the football for the Gators is astonishing and illustrates just how big a mistake it was for Muschamp to change Florida from a spread offense to a smash-mouth power offense. Now he has made the switch back, but three years of average recruiting at the offensive skill positions will make it difficult for the Gators to work back into the national elite on this side of the ball anytime soon.

Florida finished 99th in offensive F/+ last season. We do expect Roper to improve that significantly, as his offense will simplify the passing game and create seams in the running game. Regardless, running back Kelvin Taylor and QB Driskell will have to stay healthy and productive if the offense is to improve. Jason: I expect UF to work its way back around the 40s or 50s in the F/+ offensive efficiency metric, which would be a good leap forward. There’s enough talent to be reasonably efficient, just not enough to be explosive.


Projected Starters


Donte Fowler Jr.

Defensive Tackle

Leon Orr

Defensive Tackle

Darious Cummings

Defensive End

Jonathan Bullard

Outside Linebacker

Daniel McMillan

Middle Linebacker

Adam Morrison

Outside Linebacker

Michael Taylor


Vernon Hargreaves III

Strong Safety

Marcus Maye

Free Safety

Jabari Gorman


Jalen Tabor

Key Players

DE Dante Fowler Jr.: Fowler is one of the top defensive players in the country and will be an early draft pick in the next NFL draft. Florida State fans will remember him as the long time Seminole commit that flipped to Florida on National Signing Day.

CB Vernon Hargreaves III: The sophomore is already one of the top corners in all of college football. Possesses decent but not elite size at 5’11 but is one of the best athletes in college football and is better technically than most NFL corners at this point.

DT Darious Cummings: Cummings has had an interesting road to being a starter at Florida. After starting his career at Florida State in 2010, but transferred to a JUCO in 2012 due to being buried on the depth chart. He then signed with Florida in 2013 and is now expected to start for the Gators.

Overall: Defense

Last season Florida finished 17th in defensive F/+ despite a rash of injuries. The defensive line remains stout with Orr and Fowler. Linebackers Antonio Morrison and Daniel McMillan are both elite, and in the secondary the Gators have another five-star corner expected to start opposite Hargreaves in freshman Jalen Tabor. There aren’t many holes on this Gator defense, but they do lack depth at the corner position outside of the two mentioned. Muschamp may not be a great head coach, but he remains one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. This defense should be elite, likely in the top 10 in the country, surely good enough to prevent UF from going 4-8 again, but just how much they can improve will depend on the other side of the football?

Special Teams

Projected Starters


Austin Harden


Kyle Christy

Punt Returner

Andre Debose

Kick Returner

Andre Debose

Key Player

KR Andre Debose: Debose was an elite recruit coming out of high school but has been plagued with injuries his entire career at Florida. He has fantastic speed and when healthy is one of the best returners in the nation. He has four kickoff return touchdowns in his career.

How They Match Up With FSU

The Florida State offense against the Florida defense is easily the most interesting battle of the year. Both units are elite, and FSU’s biggest matchup edge from 2013 (Benjamin) is now in the NFL. Rashad Greene struggled to get separation against UF’s physical corners last year, and the defensive front was able to pressure Winston until they eventually ran out of gas.

We do expect Florida State to have an advantage at the third and fourth receiver positions, as UF lacks elite depth at corner. FSU’s improved running game should also help as Florida will be able to pressure Winston more than any other team on the schedule.

But as with most of FSU’s schedule, if a team can compete on one side of the ball, it’s the other side where FSU has a major advantage. Florida State had the top-rated defense last year and suffocated a Duke offense that should look remarkably similar to Florida’s offense from 2014. Florida lacks the receivers to threaten FSU’s secondary, and the FSU defensive line should have the edge up front. It’s tough to project anything this far out, but at this point we expect the Florida defense to keep it close early, with Florida State eventually pulling away just like last season.

Wayne’s Prediction: 41-6 (Win Probability: 80%)

Jason’s Prediction: 34–16 (Win Probability: 80%)

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