2010 Record: 8-5
2010 Bowl result: Beat Penn St 37-24 in Outback Bowl
2010 Against the spread: 7-6
2010 Over/under: 7-6
Returning Starters: 10 (6 offense, 4 defense)
Throughout August we are releasing pre-season previews for all the major college teams. Our College Football Handicappers are doing plenty of research to make sure we release winners every week during the upcoming season.
Last season Florida had a disappointing 8-5 season under Coach Urban Meyer. They did beat Penn St 37-24 in the Outback Bowl in nearby Tampa. Meyer announced before the bowl game that he was going to resign to spend more time with his family, setting up the irony of the then 46 year old Meyer retiring before the 84 year old Joe Paterno, whom Meyer coached against in the bowl. Although, rumors are flying that Meyer, now working as an ESPN analyst, will sit out a year and take over the troubled Ohio St program.
Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was named the coach of the Gators to replace Meyer. Muschamp takes over a program with 10 returning starters. The Gators are picked to finish third in the SEC East behind South Carolina and Georgia.
Here is a look at Florida’s offense, defense, special teams, and schedule.
To say the offense struggled last year without Tim Tebow is an understatement. The rushing game was decent with 173.7 yards a game. However, quarterback John Brantley didn’t fit into Meyer’s spread offense and the passing game struggled, averaging 184.8 yards a game. Overall, Florida averaged 358 yards a game, which ranked 80th in the country. Florida scored 29.8 points agame, which was #43 in the country. Muschamp brought in former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis to run the offense, and expect much improvement for Brantley as he fits in much better with Weis’s pro style offense. The offense returns 6 starters.
Brantley, now a senior, completed 60.8% of his passes for 2,061 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Even though Brantley knew he didn’t fit into Meyer’s offense, he still went to Florida because his father and brother both went there. He has the size and skills to be an NFL quarterback and should flourish under the new system. He was coached in high school by former UF quarterback Kerwin Bell. He needs to throw more deep balls and work on his decision making skills. If Brantley falters, a pair of freshmen are waiting in the wings to take over. Redshirt Tyler Murphy could have transferred to a smaller school and started but he chose to stay with the Gators. Jeff Driskel is 6-4, 238 pounds, and has a very strong arm. Driskel was recruited by almost every college in the country, and could be starting almost anywhere.
The Gators return their three leading rushers from last year. Senior Jeff Demps had 92 carries, 551 yards, and 3 touchdowns. The speedy Demps also runs track for the Gators. Senior Chris Rainey is a hybrid running back and receiver. He had 51 carries, 366 yards, and 2 touchdowns to go along with his 25 catches, 216 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Junior Trey Burton will get action at fullback, quarterback, running back, and wideout this year. He had 75 carries, 349 yards, and 11 touchdowns to lead the team. Burton also had 32 catches, 210 yards, and a touchdown. He even threw 6 passes as a quarterback last season. Sophomore Mack Brown might be the best running back in the bunch and will get lots of carries as well.
The young receiving corps struggled at times last season, but now 6 of the top 7 receivers return including the running backs. Expect them to be much better as Brantley improves as well. Senior Deonte Thompson led the Gators in receiving last year with 38 receptions, 570 yards, and 1 touchdown. Sophomore Quinton Dunbar didn’t have any catches last year but he was the star of spring practice. He is expected to be the #3 receiver but could even start if his success carries over to fall camp. Junior Frankie Hammond had 22 catches, 276 yards, and 2 scores. Junior Omarius Hines had 20 catches, 281 yards, and 1 touchdown last year. Both Hammond and Hines will compete for the Z receiver job. Junior Andre Dubose hasn’t lived up to expectations in his 2 years at Florida. He has battled injury and only had 10 catches last season. He will get some targets.
Former quarterback Jordan Reed is the tight end but he only had 6 catches and a touchdown last year. He was more valuable in the running game and in spot duty at quarterback. He was 26 for 46 with 252 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception. He had 77 carries, 328 yards, and 5 touchdowns. True freshman A.C. Leonard will also get some targets as the back up tight end.
The offensive line struggled in pass protection last year and sometimes the center struggled to snap the ball in the shotgun, bouncing more than a few. Left Tackle Xavier Nixon is the only returning starter. The rest of the starters are all underclassmen, so the line could struggle again unless the kids grow up real fast.
The Gators had a top ten ranked defense a year ago giving up only 306.9 yards a game. The pass defense gave up only 175.9 yards a game, while the rush defense wasn’t quite as dominant allowing 131 yards per game. Florida gave up 21.3 points a game. The unit returns 4 starters this year.
Last season Florida had a tremendous recruiting class, especially on defense. Now is the time for the baby Gators to grow up with so many veterans graduating or leaving early. Sophomore defensive end Ronald Powell will lead the defensive line. The secondary will be led by sophomore Matt Elam, but lost a lot of talent in Ahmad Black and Janoris Jenkins. The linebackers will be good, but not as good as the line or the secondary led by Jonathan Bostic and Jelani Jenkins. Expect a little drop off from last season, but there is a ton of talent just not much experience.
Junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was one of the top kickers in America in 2009, but a back injury hampered him last year. He only converted 2 of 4 field goals and 19 out of 21 extra points. If he is healthy he has a 50+ yard range.
True freshman Kyle Christy takes over the punting duties. He was the #2 ranked high school punter in the country according to Scout.
Andre Dubose struggled as a wide receiver but he averaged 28 yards a return with 2 scores last year on kickoffs. Rainey averaged 23 yards a kick return and 7.4 yards a punt return will handle punt returns this year.
The Gators open up with two warm-up games at home against Florida Atlantic and UAB before jumping into conference play in the rugged SEC. The Gators open conference play at home against Tennessee, and at Kentucky. Then Florida starts a brutal 4 game stretch that will go a long way to determining how good the young Gators are, home against Alabama, at LSU and Auburn, and the annual showdown against Georgia in Jacksonville. The Gators then get Vanderbilt at home before traveling to South Carolina in a game that could decide the SEC East title, though Georgia will have something to say about that. Florida closes the season with home games against Furman and arch-rival Florida St. The schedule is brutal, but the Gators have the talent to win 8 or 9 games. A split in the 4 game gauntlet I mentioned would be nice, but winning 3 out of 4 would be even better. That is probably asking too much for a team that is installing a new offense and has so many underclassmen starting on defense.
Last season the Gators were 7-6 ATS, including 4-4 at home and 3-2 away. The over/under was 7-6 including the same 4-4 and 3-2 split in home and away games.
Game to play Florida
September 24, Florida travels to Kentucky. While the two schools have a heated rivalry in basketball, with either team capable of beating the other, football is a different story. The Gators have dominated the series winning 43 of the 60 match-ups. The last two were by scores of 41-7 and 48-14. Lay the wood with the Gators against the Wildcats.
Game to bet against Florida
Last season Alabama spanked Florida 31-6 in Tuscaloosa. This season the Crimson Tide rolls into the Swamp for the rematch. I think Alabama who is ranked in the top 5 in the pre-season polls simply has too much for the Gators.
Check out our college football odds page for the best line on every game.