Not a typical opener

The Gators were pushed in the 2012 season opener against Bowling Green and didn't pull away until the fourth quarter. The close game sent the fanbase into a panic before Florida righted the ship and won road games at Texas A&M and Tennessee. The opening game this year might not be much different. Florida hosts an explosive Toledo offense with plenty of key returning pieces.

The name on the jersey filtering out of the visitor's locker room on August 31 won't be as well known as some of the other programs that will occupy it through the 2013 season. Toledo has improved in recent years but isn't among the elite programs in the country.

The Rockets are still looking for that big win to put the program on the map -- and they'll be aiming for it in Gainesville.

Toledo finished last season with a 9-4 record, including wins over Bowling Green, Akron and Buffalo. On paper, it's not the most impressive resume, but they hung with teams in their losses. Three of their four losses were by seven points or less, going to overtime at Arizona in the opening week last season before losing back-to-back games to Ball State and Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois. The only blowout loss came in the bowl loss to Utah State.

It's the offense that can keep Toledo in the game on August 31. The numbers were impressive last season, but with a majority of it back, that will be the Rockets' biggest hope. It was a young unit that learned throughout the early portion of the 2012 schedule, but they'll be a veteran group heading into The Swamp next month.

It starts under center with quarterback Terrance Owens. The 6-4, 195-pounder had a strong junior season, throwing for 2,707 yards and 14 touchdowns to go with his completion percentage of 61.4. Owens added 501 positive yards on the ground with five touchdowns.

David Fluellen is the key cog on the ground. He ran 259 times for 1,498 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, averaging 124.8 yards per game. He also caught 32 passes for 246 yards through the air.

Owens has plenty of other targets in the passing game, as the offense returns its top six receivers from last season. Bernard Reedy led the group with 88 catches for 1,113 yards and six touchdowns. Jordan Reed and Quinton Dunbar, the Gators' top two receivers last season, combined to make just three more catches than Reedy had last year.

The weapons continue with Alonzo Russell, who caught 56 passes for 960 yards and five touchdowns, and Justin Olack, who made 19 catches for 260 yards and one touchdown.

The Rockets lost their top five tacklers from last year's roster, but the offense alone will give the Gators a challenge in the opening week, especially when considering what the Florida defense will look like. It's a brand new unit that is replacing multiple star players from last year.

The Florida defense will still likely be the strength of the 2013 team, but it won't come without players stepping up. The Gators are replacing the entire middle of the defense, and opening the season against a running game that produced a 1,498-yard running back last season will put it to the test.

It might not be the pretty opener Florida fans are hoping for, but before the Gators face a high-octane offense at Miami in week two, this explosive offense should be the perfect opening week test for Florida.


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