It comes as no surprise that the opening prime time game of the college football season between the Florida Gators and the Miami Hurricanes scored big with television viewers.
Viewership is in: Miami-Florida Draws Massive Audience 🏈🏈 pic.twitter.com/LaNpDsg60F
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) August 26, 2019
And the final half-hour conclusion of the game broadcast that saw Florida hang on for a dramatic 24 – 20 win had 7.4 million viewers.
The network boasted that it was the best viewership for an opening Saturday night game on record and that it was the second most watched ESPN Saturday prime time game of the last three seasons.
Now, a couple of important points:
ESPN knew that there would be a large audience for a standalone game being played the week before the barrage of other college football begins this coming weekend. That’s why they negotiated with Florida and Miami to move the game from it’s original Saturday August 31st night time start.
And, the audience could have potentially been even bigger had there been a more National flare to the match up, as opposed to it being an in-state rivalry game between the Gators and the Canes. Obiviously, teams like USC, Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, etc. have large brand name appeal everywhere.
Then again, Florida and Miami have enjoyed repeated National Championship success and great notoriety for the past 30 years, as well.
In the end, “the Worldwide Leader in Sports Television” got to have a full day of synergy, including during their “College GameDay” pre-game show live from Disney World. And, then more than two hours of build up before kickoff Saturday night.
This Saturday will have plenty of competition for college football eyeballs in primetime.
ESPN will show the Seminoles opening game of 2019, as they play host to Boise State in Jacksonville at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, a half hour later, ABC will show the prime-time national matchup of Pac 12 power Oregon and SEC contender Auburn at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
Add to that, the SEC Network will have third-ranked Georgia traveling to Vanderbilt in an SEC season opener also at 7:30.
Needless to say, the audience will definitely be fragmented among those broadcasts this week.
Former Gators QB Franks transfers to Arkansas
Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks has decided on a new spot for his final year of eligibility and he won’t even leave the SEC. The Gators starting quarterback on and off for the last three years announced on Monday night that he will be transferring to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Franks help lead the Gators resurgence two years ago under first-year coach Dan Mullen, including a Peach Bowl New Year’s Six game victory over the Michigan Wolverines. Florida finished 10-3 with momentum headed into this season.
However, with sky high expectations for Franks, Mullen and the Gators this past season (they were a preseason top 10 team) Franks played inconsistently for a lot of the early part of the season. Then, things ended horrifically as Franks suffered a nasty fractured leg at Kentucky ending his season.
The 6’6 Franks finished his Gator career with 28 starts 4,500+ yards passing and 28 TDs. However, his at times poor play, including crucial interceptions enraged Gator fans. Next, he announced December 1st that he would be transferring for one more season, as a graduate to be eligible immediately.
Arkansas is in desperation to rebuild after having fired coach Chad Morris after two horrible seasons. They hired Georgia former offensive line coach Sam Pittman at their head coach and Franks will be playing for new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who spent last season with FSU.
Arkansas is in desperate need of a quality proven quarterback, as they had just three scholarship signal caller options in senior Jack Lindsey, redshirt-sophomore John Stephen Jones and redshirt-freshman K.J. Jefferson. Jones, who is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is considered the most experienced of the group. But to show how bad it is, he’s thrown for just 106 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in six career games.
So, clearly Franks, if/when fully healed from the ankle fracture will be heavily counted on for 2020.
Gators face annual challenge of who’s leaving?
The Gators end to the season was just as predicted, and now, so too is the leaving of significant players for the NFL, etc.
Florida ended up getting the Virginia Cavaliers in the Orange Bowl and the second-best team in the weakest conference in Power 5 football was no match for the strong talented Gators.
Just before the conference championship games, it was predicted almost everywehre that Virginia would get trounced by the Clemson Tigers, but still be the most likely candidate to face the Gators in a “New Year’s Six Bowl”.
Once the game was confirmed and the lines came out, the Gators were listed as massive 16 point favorites at the best Sportsbooks around the nation.
And, when it came time to tee it up? Florida delivered a win.
— Orange Bowl (@OrangeBowl) January 9, 2020
The final score was 36-28, as Virginia hung tough by scoring 14 in the 4th quarter and got the backdoor cover on the point spread. Still, the Gators finished sandwiched between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Oregon Ducks at No.6 in the AP Top 25. But, will the Gators still be as good next season?
Will they be better? And who might they be missing?
That brings us to a few key players that have declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s start by taking a look at them.
It seems that as receivers get bigger, corners have been getting smaller. So, C.J. Henderson (above) at 6’1” and 191 pounds is almost an oddity nowadays. He is long, athletic and extremely fast. In short, he was one of the best corners in college football. He’s declared for the 2020 draft and could go in the first round.
But with so much talent at QB, we could see Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagavoilva all go in the Top-10. Then, when you factor in team needs and a few other great corners from Alabama, LSU, and Clemson in Treveon Diggs, Kristian Fulton, and A.J. Terrell, Henderson could fall into the second round. And, it could end up being a steal for some lucky team if that happened.
That said, the Broncos, Seahawks, Vikings, 49ers, and Dolphins all need help at corner. And the Seahawks would be a great landing spot, as they may favor him over some of the other top contenders for his excellent ability in man coverage. That is, if they don’t fill another position need such as DE or OLB – which would make sense as well since they had the leagues lowest number of sacks during the regular season.
Seniors who will go on are Van Jefferson, Josh Grimes, Freddie Swain, and Tyrie Cleveland. And the Gators will lose some talent in their TE depth with Lucas Krull hitting the bricks. He was usurped by Kyle Pitts but still caught nine balls for nearly 110 yards.
It isn’t a huge loss, as Pitts is one of the best TE in the SEC. But not having that extra option with experience at TE will hurt a bit. A handful of QBs will also be leaving. For starters Nick Sproles, a walk-on back-up out of Winter Park has been sitting behind both Franks and Trask. So, he elected to hit the transfer portal and take off.
QB Feleipe Franks will also step through the transfer portal to another school. His horrible ankle injury opened the door for Kyle Trask to take over. Now, we very well could see Franks move over to Kansas, as he had originally committed to former LSU coach, Les Miles, who’s now there.
Although Trask is on the rise, this does hurt the depth chart. Emory Jones is reliable, but he’s no Franks … at least not yet.
On top of this, Chris Bleich and Umstead Sanders both hit the transfer list. But, the Gators actually are not hurt by this, as they picked up Brenton Cox at OLB which is probably a big part of why Umstead elected to transfer.
Cox has solid experience at Georgia and will likely earn a starting spot with the Gators. He tallied 20 tackles, a sack, a pair for loss, and six tackles in the Sugar Bowl alone! Then, he also racked up three pass deflections on top of all that.
The Gators lost a lot of depth at receiver, but they pick up one with Jordan Pouncy. He’s big at 6’2” and 205 and has decent speed.
All in all, the Gators won’t be too much worse for the wear. And, with the shift in emphasis to the SEC West, they have great shot at winning the East and to play for the SEC title next season.
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