Ranking the home games

The schedule of teams coming to play in Gainesville this fall isn't as exciting as years past, but there are still two rivalry games that will take place in The Swamp this fall. The break for Florida comes at the opposing quarterback position. Only two of the six teams the Gators will face at home return their starting quarterback, and those two are under center for Toledo and Georgia Southern.

Florida's toughest home games for 2013:

1. Florida State (November 30): The Gators regained bragging rights in the rivalry with a win in Tallahassee last season, but the Seminoles still have plenty of talent this season. The focal point will be first-year starting quarterback Jameis Winston. By the time the two meet in Gainesville, the Gators will have a good idea of what the quarterback is capable of doing from his performance throughout the season.

The defense lost plenty of key pass rushers but still returns an athletic secondary and linebacker Christian Jones. The Florida State coaching staff has recruited well on the defensive line and should have settled on a new group of starters by the time the unit rolls into Gainesville. The Gators are looking to win their second straight after winning seven of the last nine meetings between the two.

2. Tennessee (September 21): The Volunteers will come to Gainesville riding an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry, and this trip will have a tougher than usual set up for Tennessee. The program has a new head coach in Butch Jones, and they'll be playing at highly-ranked Oregon the weekend before while the Gators have a bye week. That sets up bad enough for the Volunteers.

Jones is trying to bring excitement back to Knoxville

They're also breaking in a new quarterback and lost the starting running back and two starting wide receivers last year. The experienced Florida secondary should have a strong day against the young Tennessee receivers. The Volunteers defense returns talented linebackers Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson with nose tackle Daniel McCullers returning in the middle.

3. Vanderbilt (November 9): Jordan Rodgers is no longer under center for the Commodores and Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels could be the new man to take the job. They'll also be replacing one of the best running backs in school history in Zac Stacy. While those positions might have some issues, the Commodores have elite talent at receiver in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd.

Vanderbilt has depth at linebacker that it will lean on but needs to find some new bodies inside at defensive tackle. The secondary played well last season and returns three starters this year. It won't be a typical homecoming blowout for the Gators this season, but Florida should still expect a win over the Commodores.

James Franklin continues to improve Vanderbilt

4. Toledo (August 31): There's an argument to be made for Toledo to be higher on this list because of the experience it brings back on the offensive side of the ball. The Rockets return a 2,700-yard passing quarterback, a 1,500-yard running back and two 900-yard wide receivers. This likely won't be the typical season-opening blowout in The Swamp.

The challenge is especially increased because of the Florida defense. The Gators are replacing both starting defensive tackle, two starting linebackers and both starting safeties, which could present problems up the middle against a team that had plenty of success on the ground last season. With a trip to Miami on the schedule for the following weekend, this matchup with a veteran offense of Toledo could be exactly what the Gators need to start the year.

5. Arkansas (October 5): The Razorbacks watched as their offense was decimated after last season as quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Knile Davis and wide receivers Cobi Hamilton, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs all begin their professional careers this fall. The Razorbacks have five offensive linemen with starting experience to block for Jonathan Williams, who will be the workhorse under first-year head coach Bret Bielema.

Bielema completed his first spring at Arkansas

6. Georgia Southern (November 23): The week before the game against Florida State will send the Gators up against the most unconventional offense they'll see this season. The Eagles run the triple option, trying to find an advantage since they're a newer football program than most.

Georgia Southern returns its starting quarterback and some pieces on the offense, but the difference in talent level won't allow this game to be close. Expect most of the Florida starters to be on the bench for most of the second half while resting up for the Seminoles.


Fightin Gators Top Stories