Ranking the games away from Gainesville

We'll throw the Georgia game in Jacksonville into this group, and it's a difficult slate for Florida in games they play away from The Swamp.

5. Vanderbilt (November 8): Florida's 22-game winning streak over the Commodores ended last season. It was also Vanderbilt's first win in Gainesville since 1945. The program now has to deal with the departure of James Franklin to Penn State, but first-year head coach Derek Mason takes over the program trying to keep its momentum going.

Quarterback Patton Robinette, who beat Florida in The Swamp last season, returns but will have to hold off freshman Johnny McCrary and LSU transfer Stephen Rivers to keep the job. The loss of receiver Jordan Matthews to the NFL will hurt the passing game, and Vanderbilt will likely lean on keeping the football on the ground. The duo of Jerron Seymour and Brian Kimbrow will anchor the ground game.

The Commodores will move to a 3-4 defense under Mason, who was previously the defensive coordinator at Stanford. The 6-2, 310-pound Vince Taylor will be in the middle of the defense as the nose guard. They also lose four starters from last season's secondary.

4. Tennessee (October 4): The Volunteers haven't beaten Florida since Ron Zook's final year in 2004. This year, they'll have to do it in a season where they will be replacing both lines of scrimmage. The game will also take place on the same day as LSU-Auburn, meaning Florida will likely travel into Neyland Stadium for a night game.

Tennessee lost all five starters on the offensive line from last season and has to patch the unit together. The Volunteers have to find a quarterback also. Joshua Dobbs and Justin Worley will battle it out for the job, but whoever wins, will have a talented group of receivers to throw to. Senior Marlin Lane will likely be the starter, but freshman Jalen Hurd has the star potential Tennessee wants.

The defensive line suffered many losses, too, and has to be ready to stop the run game against SEC offenses. The Volunteers need linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt to be healthy and anchor the middle of the defense. If that doesn't happen, it could be another long year for the Tennessee defense.

3. Georgia (November 1): While it's only the third toughest game for Florida away from Gainesville this year, it very well could be the most important game on the entire schedule. Will Muschamp needs a win over Georgia. He hasn't been on the winning side of the rivalry in his four years as a Bulldog safety and three years as a Florida coach.

The loss of quarterback Aaron Murray to the NFL may make it look like a rebuilding year of the Georgia offense, but that isn't the case. Hutson Mason was able to start the final two games of last season to get experience and should step in as the starting quarterback. Todd Gurley will lead the rushing attack with Keith Marshall back to provide a healthy alternative. Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Conley give Mason a deep group of receivers.

The Georgia defense made a home run hire by stealing Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The Bulldogs were young on defense last season and don't lose much. They should take a step forward this season.

2. Florida State (November 29): It's strange to put the defending national champions as the second hardest road game, but the Gators have had success in Tallahassee, winning four of their last five trips.

The offensive challenges are obvious. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is back, and he needs playmakers to step up around Rashad Greene at the receiver position. Tight end Nick O'Leary's return should also help. Center Bryan Stork needs to be replaced, but the Seminoles also return the other four starting offensive linemen.

Florida State loses six of its seven leading tacklers from last season, but there's still plenty of talent returning. Mario Edwards broke out last season and is expected to have a monster junior year. While there might be some questions about the production replacing proven players in the front seven from last year, the secondary is stacked.

1. Alabama (September 20): The most difficult challenge away from Gainesville on the Florida schedule comes in the Gators' first road game. The order of difficulty between the Alabama and Florida State games can be argued, but I put the Alabama game at the top since it will be the first road challenge for Florida's new offense.

The Crimson Tide have to find a new starting quarterback. Florida State transfer Jacob Coker makes the most sense, but he wasn't able to work out in the spring and will have only the fall to learn the offense. However, having running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry to lean on will make the new quarterback's job much easier, plus one of the top receivers in the country in Amari Cooper.

On defense, Alabama has stars at almost every position. Sophomore defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson led the team with 5.5 sacks last season when he was a freshman. Linebacker Trey Depriest will be leaned on as a leader and inexperienced but talented players like Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster will join him. The only returning starter in the secondary is star safety Landon Collins.


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