The Gators and the Hurricanes had already decided to renew their rivalry at a neutral site in Orlando the first weekend of the college football season. Now, it appears they want to get started even sooner.
This, after reports surfaced Thursday morning that the Florida-Miami game may very well be moving to Saturday night August 24th, a full week earlier than most other programs will be starting:
Pending approval by NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee, Florida-Miami opener in Orlando will be moved from Aug. 31 to Aug. 24 w/a primetime kickoff, sources told @Stadium. 1st reported by Orlando Sentinel. Only other FBS game that day is Arizona at Hawaii
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) February 28, 2019
The motivation behind this is because, the game has enough significance as a “standalone” that Saturday night of what’s now been dubbed “Weekend Zero, ” that it will likely create great interest for ESPN to televise it.
Florida and Miami signed on to meet each other at Camping World Stadium in the opening game of 2019 a few years ago, and thereby, renew their rivalry which spans all the way back to the first meeting in Gainesville in 1938.
The two teams last played in September of 2013 at what is now Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens with the Canes winning 21 – 16.
Although the two schools used to play regularly throughout the 50s through the 1980s, the rivalry went on ice after 1987 with the rise of the Miami program. Also, at that same time Gators decided to take a scheduling philosophy of wanting to play two easy September opponents at home to start every season before their tougher SEC schedule.
The Rivalry revived in the 2001 Sugar Bowl, which was won by the Hurricanes. Then, it did so again in a two-game series in 2002 in Gainesville and the return game in 2003 in Miami. Both of those were also won by the Hurricanes convincingly.
Miami leads the overall series 29-26, and in addition to playing in bowl games, the two played in a memorable 1984 neutral field classic in Tampa, where Miami won that one on a TD pass from Bernie Kosar to Eddie Brown in the final seconds. The game featured more than 30 players total that went on to play in the NFL.
And, this game will mark the first in the rivalry for second-year Florida Coach Dan Mullen and obviously, for first-year new Miami boss, Manny Diaz.
The Gators finished 10-3 ranked #6 in the final CFP rankings with their Peach Bowl win over Michign on New Year’s Day.
Gators coach Mullen likely to use two QBs against Tennessee
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.
Mullen sat down with Emory Jones and Kyle Trask this morning and told them they're ready for this moment because of all the reps they've gotten in practice.
— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) September 16, 2019
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.
Gators dramatic comeback Saturday at Kentucky was “mixed bag”
Life is complicated. College football is part of life. A very complicated reality greets the Florida Gators, as they head home to Gainesville.
They won a game. They lost their starting quarterback.
They showed they could fight when everything was going against them. They did not show that they are anywhere close to the Georgia Bulldogs, or that they are ready to be a nasty, imposing, overwhelmingly strong team which can go 11-1 in a regular season and feel it left something on the table.
There is a lot to like, and a lot to hate, about the Gators’ situation.
Let’s start with the quarterback situation. Feleipe Franks suffered an ugly leg injury on Saturday night. I won’t play a doctor on Twitter or here in print, so instead of making a guess about his situation, I will simply tell you to stay tuned to Florida Football Insiders for more on his situation as fresh information becomes available.
Franks was supposed to be the guy who led Florida to a higher plateau in 2019, but if he is out, the Gators have to start fresh.
The really good news is that Kyle Trask came off the bench in the fourth quarter and directed two terrific drives as the Gators’ backup quarterback. Trask could not have handled his situation any better.
Backups are told to be ready. Trask was supremely ready. He seized his opportunity. He immediately won over the locker room and his teammates. The offense flowed rhythmically when Trask was in the game. Dan Mullen found plays Trask could execute.
Trask will obviously need to develop if he is to meet the challenges which face him in the weeks ahead. That said, if he could perform under pressure against Kentucky – on the road, at night, trailing in the fourth quarter – it becomes possible to envision a world in which he handles other high-stress situations with poise and composure.
Is Trask ready for the entirely different challenge of being the starter for the rest of the season? Is he talented enough to handle 60-minute wars against Auburn and Georgia and others? We will have to wait to find out, and yes, skepticism is merited before improving the Gators’ odds of challenging Georgia for the SEC East title
I wouldn’t count on Trask being the answer to Florida’s problems – most Gator fans can acknowledge that. Yet, there’s a difference between an unlikely scenario and an absurd one. Trask flourishing for the rest of the season is unlikely… but against Kentucky, he refuted the notion that such a scenario would be absurd. Florida might have gained more than it honestly expected from Trask.
Beyond the quarterback situation, Florida’s mixed bag against Kentucky was manifested in the fact that the Gators continued to make a lot of inexcusable mistakes… and yet won an SEC road game.
The secondary remains inconsistent. The defense did not impose its will on the opposition, on a night when Kentucky played a backup quarterback, Sawyer Smith. Too many untimely penalties are still part of this team’s identity.
This is frustrating… but it also shows that if the Gators can eve clean up their act, their ceiling could be higher than it currently is. No, this does not look like a team which will ever be dominant, but with a 3-0 record in a weak SEC East, the Gators are still in very good position for a New Year’s Six bowl. They might not blow people out, but they could win a bunch of hard-fought slugfests akin to this one.
Fans rightly want Florida to challenge Georgia. That’s where this season seems likely to fall short of its highest aspirations. Yet, the Gators’ win over Kentucky gives them reason to think that they can return to a high-profile bowl game.
This program is not ready to take the next step up the ladder, to the Georgia-LSU tier just below Alabama in the SEC. It also does not appear ready to stumble and lose ground relative to 2018.
Florida could be in a much better situation right now. It could also be in a far worse situation.
That is what a mixed bag looks like.
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