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Gators-Hurricanes opener scored big audience for ESPN

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

ESPN released preliminary numbers Monday afternoon that showed the game average around 6 million viewers Saturday night:

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.

Florida Gators

Vols Coach Pruitt- “Yes I hate Florida”

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee series with Florida has not been too kind to them as of late, but even as a heavy underdogs at the Swamp Saturday, they believe that they could change that. Oh, and then there’s your second year head coach wanting to make it clear he definitely dislikes the Gators.

Jeremy Pruitt, whose team suffered a humiliating opening-week loss at home to Georgia State and then followed that with another loss in heartbreaking fashion to BYU in overtime in week two, took to the radio airwaves Wednesday to answer questions from Volunteers fans. And, one wanted to make sure how much he despised Florida:

The caller asked a question about whether the Vols might be able to pull a shocker, like they did over Auburn in Pruitt’s inaugural season of 2018, but also very plainly put it to the former Alabama and Florida State defensive coordinator,  “do you hate Florida?”

Pruitt answered the question about the mentality going into Gainesville, as a 14-point underdog in their SEC opener. Then threw in the line,

“And yes, I hate Florida.”

And, while Gators fans might take that insult, as perfect “bulletin board material” to motivate their team, the dislike has been there from both sides for 25 years or more.

Encouraging for the Vols, and even though it was under previous coach Butch Jones, Tennessee should have a mentality should be that they can hang with Florida. As each of the last two meetings in Gainesville under Jones, Tennessee had the lead in the final minute of the game, only to let Florida dramatically score the game-winning touchdown on a huge pass play.

A year ago in Knoxville, the Gators used six turnovers and two defensive touchdowns to wipe out Tennessee 47-21 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final.

Meanwhile, instead of the “level of hatred, or not” Gators coach Dan Mullen has bigger concerns about using dual quarterbacks in Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. And, he must deal with the expectations that the Gators should, once again, wipe out “The Big Orange.”

Then, let the media and fans talk about insults, afterwards.

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Florida Gators

Gators coach Mullen likely to use two QBs against Tennessee

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After losing starting QB Feleipe Franks to an ankle injury on Saturday night against SEC rival Kentucky, the Gators have now found themselves with an unexpected decision as to who will be starting QB?

Franks was replaced by redshirt junior Kyle Trask, who was seeing his first significant action of his Florida career, especially trailing by double figures in a hostile SEC road environment. However, it’s likely that RS Freshman Emory Jones will also take some snaps at quarterback this season.

Mullens decision to potentially go with both QBs could be not only to determine which guy will be his offensive leader for the rest of the season, but to also give their next opponent, Tennessee, more to prepare for as the head into their next conference rivalry game.

The Gators second year coach announced on Monday that Franks is officially done for the season.

On a fourth-and-one scramble with 3:21 remaining, Franks was sandwiched between multiple Wildcat defenders and bent backwards. Even though replays weren’t shown, it was clear he had suffered a dislocated right ankle injury.

So bad was the injury, that trainers who came to assist Franks on the turf at Commonwealth Stadium immediately put an air cast on his right leg. Then he was eventually carted off to the locker room after nearly the entire Gator team had surrounded him and wished him well.

Frank’s has been a “lightning rod of criticism” throughout his Florida career, but did silence a lot of those critics with his play down the stretch last season. That included a late season comeback win over South Carolina, playing well in the rivalry victory over Florida State, and then, following that up with a good performance in the easy victory in the Peach Bowl over Michigan.

However, Franks and the offense struggled much of the first three quarters of Saturday night’s SEC opener at Kentucky. At the time he left with an injury he was an efficient 12-17 for 174 yards with a TD pass and 1 INT. Still, they had only put one touchdown on the board while trailing 21 – 10.

Trask went in for Franks and went on to pull out a come from behind win for the Gators, completing 9 for 13 passes, with 126 passing yards. He’ll be competing for playing time with Jones, the No. 85 overall prospect in the Class of 2018 and four-star dual-threat quarterback.

Jones saw limited action last season to maintain redshirt status, but completed 12-16 passes for 125 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the four games he play in. Jones is also more of a dual threat to run and that will give Mullen and staff more options on play calls, if/when he’s on the field.

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