So let me start out by saying I have not seen any secret practices nor do I have a crystal ball! These are my guesses as to the year that will be Florida Football year 1 under Coach McElwain. I predict that the Gators will go 8-4 on the season and will finish unfortunately third or fourth in the SEC east. Now if things go perfectly and they have a better offensive year than most expect, they could go 11-1. If they turn the ball over and bad things happen in a couple of close games they could end up 5-7. How’s that for covering all the bases. Here’s how they get there.
Opener against New Mexico State
Barring another lightning delay and cancellation, the Gators should win this one easily. I think the coach’s dog could play quarterback in this one and the Gators should still win. If this one is close, there is trouble in the swamp and the fire McElwain site goes up by midnight!
Home against East Carolina
The repeat of the Birmingham bowl should have a similar result. I think this is a good test to see where the new Gator offensive will be going into the season. It’s not a pushover game and the Gators better come fully prepared for a battle. I think they will have enough with the home crowd to overcome a good ECU team and win a closer than some would want game.
The Cats will be looking to end that impressive streak of losses to the Gators and this might be their best chance since last year to do so. I just don’t think they have the talent to do it even though the game is in Lexington. The good part for them is the game is a week earlier than usual so Basketball startup will not be on the calendar for a couple of weeks yet. I think the Gators win this one too but Gator fans will not rest easy at any point during the game.
Home against Tennessee
This one is the make or break game for me. If Florida wins this game I think they have a good shot at 8-4. If they lose this game they have a great shot at 5-7. This will be the first game where the talent is equal or the balance may be in Tennessee’s favor. The Vols have a tough time in Gainesville and it wouldn’t be the first UT team to come into the swamp and throw up on themselves before leaving hot, humid, and unfriendly Florida. This one could go either way but given the track record of the pansy orange in the swamp, I’ll give the nod to the Gators in a close win.
Home against Ole Miss
This is the first swing game that has to go well for the Gators to have the magical 11-1 season or 10-2 season and win the SEC east. I don’t think it will. I’m just not convinced that the Gators have enough playmakers on offense to make a significant dent in the stout landshark defense. The first team to 10 points could win this one. That’s why it could go the Gator’s way. Ole Miss will have a new QB and a gift score from him could turn the tide and give Florida their first upset of the season. I’m saying they have a chance, but I don’t think the Gators will avoid their first loss of the season.
The Gators second road trip to an SEC east opponent will not end well. I think the defense will keep it close this time unless the refs call a flagrant foul on the first deep ball again. Maty Mauk may be the best QB returning in the SEC, so the defense will have to have a standout effort to keep it close. This is another game where a few breaks that go the Gators way could produce an upset in Columbia. How far the offense has progressed will also be a factor in the Gators coming away from the farthest west team in the east with a victory. I don’t see that happening and the Gators are 4-2 on the plane home.
The annual battle with the bayou bengals will live up to the billing. The Gators will play well but come up short in Death Valley once again. Some way, the grass eating Mad Hatter will find a way to pull another victory from the jaws of defeat and the slide will reach three games. All the rhetoric about who has the best defensive backfield won’t matter because the Gator front seven will not be able to stand up and the offensive line will get pushed around against the Tiger defensive front. The tough October continues to cause depression in Gator land and the team comes home on a three game losing skid.
This game is another benchmark game for the Gators. Georgia will be good, but I’m not so sure they are that much better than the Gators. The only problem will be the Gator’s confidence will be pretty low if my predictions are correct. But if the breaks fall the Gator’s way and they were to come into this game at 6-1, I think the old pucker factor for the Dogs would return when they cross the St. John’s River. This game could go either way as most of the games in the rivalry do. In the end, I think the Gators get it done in Jacksonville and Georgia fans drive back north disappointed once again.
Homecoming against Vandy
Vandy will return to Vandy. The Gators should win this one easily.
At South Carolina
The HBC will have some tricks up his sleeve for the NBC. I think this continues the trend of close games that could go either way for the Gators, but I don’t believe the offense will have enough to overcome the Gamecocks on the road. But if the moon is full and the ball bounces right, watch out for the upset. This will be the game that decides the East and anything is possible!
Home against FAU
The offense will look great against the Owls. For the first time in two months the fans in the swamp should be able to breath easy from the kick. This might be the first game in Four years that Gator fans can breath easy about in the swamp. The first game will be full of emotion and this team will have to build some momentum before fans go back to the swagger of the Tebow era days of feeling invincible in the swamp.
Home against FSU
The clowns will be good again. I don’t think they will be great. As much as I dislike Winston as an off the field disaster, he was great on the field. His presence held that team together and his absence will show that the Noles have a few holes in them this year. I think the Gators have a good shot at beating them at home but they will have to play their best game of the year. They could lose this one too especially if they are on the track to finish 5-7 after losing close games to TN, GA, and the other predicted losses to Ole Miss, Mizz, and SCar.
So there you have it. Gator fans will be on the edge of our seats all year long. It will take McElwain some time to get the right kind of players in here to make his offense go. But with a little luck and some guys stepping up this has the potential to be either a horrible or magical season. My gut tells me to split it down the middle and prepare for another season of just being outside the top 25 and a trip to a mid-major bowl.