1. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs: The clear No. 1 on this list, Dobbs took over the starting job during the second half of the 2014 season and gives the Volunteers a stable quarterback under center for the first time in years. Dobbs was voted Third Team All-SEC by the media last week behind Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson, neither of which are on Florida’s schedule.
Last season, Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards while completing 63.3 percent of his passes, adding nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also dangerous on the ground, ending the year with 469 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. The dual-threat quarterback is the focal point of a Tennessee offense growing with young talent.
The Gators didn’t see Dobbs last season. Justin Worley was still the starter for the Volunteers when the two teams met. Both struggled offensively during the game, and Florida left Knoxville with a 10-9 win. Tennessee doesn’t look like an offense that will struggle when it comes to Gainesville on September 26.
2. Florida State quarterback Everett Golson: Former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is gone, leaving an opening at quarterback with talented playmakers at skill positions. It’s hard to imagine Golson would transfer into Florida State for his final season of eligibility and not be named the starter. Golson has been turnover prone at times during his career at Notre Dame, but the Seminoles have enough playmakers where he won’t have to do too much with the ball.
It’ll also be the last game of the regular season when Florida faces Golson. The Gators should be strong defensively this year, especially late in the season when some of the young players have been able to settle into their role. Golson will face a test at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to close out the regular season in a game that will be important in the first year under Jim McElwain.
3. LSU quarterback Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings: After the top two on this list, the picking gets tough. I went with whoever eventually wins the LSU starting quarterback position simply because of the talent around the quarterback position in Baton Rouge. With receivers like Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre returning, it’ll make life much easier on the starter. Add in a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Leonard Fournette, and the starting quarterback simply has to play smart.
Harris or Jennings will have the benefit of facing Florida in Baton Rouge. While Florida and LSU players have spent the offseason battling on Twitter about which program is “DBU,” both defenses will have an extra level of excitement for this one. It’s also not out of the question that LSU plays both quarterbacks throughout the season, similar to how coach Les Miles handled it last season.
4. Georgia quarterback Faton Bauta, Greyson Lambert or Brice Ramsey: This quarterback battle might be the most uncertain one of the teams on Florida’s schedule. After Hutson Mason proved to be little more than a game manager last season, there’s more uncertainty under center this year. The Bulldogs will lean on a strong running game anchored by Nick Chubb, which should make life easier on whoever wins the job.
Georgia will also want revenge for Florida’s blowout win in Jacksonville last season. To do that, the Bulldogs will have to find a competent passing game that was missing last season.
5. Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk: The statistics aren’t overly impressive for Mauk, but he has quarterbacked the Tigers to two straight SEC East titles. Last season, Mauk threw for 2,648 yards, 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 53.4 percent of his passes last year. He’s athletic and can move outside the pocket, but he only went 6-18 for 20 yards last season in a road win over Florida.
Mauk will face the Gators in Columbia this year, where he had his original breakout game against Florida in 2014. The Gators’ strong secondary should make life tough on Mauk, but that didn’t matter much during the last two seasons when Florida lost both games to Missouri.