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Florida Gators

Gators-UGA and FSU-Canes rivalries lead our primer

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Week 10 of the college football season will have some exciting games in the state of Florida. We get two rivalries with the Gators and Georgia and the Noles and Canes. Meanwhile, UCF will continue to fight for their AAC lives against Houston and FAU will also be playing for their chances to win the C-USA.

The Gators are set to play their biggest game of the season. The LSU game was big but didn’t decide their SEC East fate like this game can. Georgia has been inconsistent for a few weeks before they just had their bye week. Coming into this game, everyone knows both teams have strong defenses.

The question is: which offense can score to win? Coming into the game, it looks like it’s Florida with a better offense. The Gators have dropped two in a row to the Dawgs and in both games, struggled to score. If Florida and QB Kyle Trask can get points on the board, the Gators should be the team going home happy.

Florida State and Miami will link up today and “oh, how the mighty have fallen.” A game that used to decide how national championships were won is now representing who might not make a bowl game.

The Noles and Hurricanes have both been bad for stretches of 2019. Inconsistency has killed both teams and will be a theme for this game. The winner will be whoever gets the most consistent offense.

Can Cam Akers, off a four TD performance last week, lead the Noles to some scoring drives? Can Alex Hornibrook provide some consistency at quarterback back to back weeks? For Miami with Jarren Willians back, can he supply a couple of scoring drives for the Canes to get downfield? Can they get Brevin Jordan and Jeff Thomas back involved in the offense?

There may be some bad blood on the field in this one, too.

As for UCF, their offense hit stride last week at Temple. All phases of the game were at work as they put up 63 points destroying the Owls. They will now face a Houston team that has given up at least 24 points every game.

Last week Houston got killed on the ground by SMU. UCF just happens to have a stable of backs that can all break off a huge run. After that, they also have the Dillon Gabriel to Gabe Davis connection that has been one of the best in all of college football. Expect for a lot of points to be scored here with an over-under of a whopping 71.

Finally, Florida Atlantic will be playing one of their biggest games in a few seasons. The Owls sit behind Western Kentucky in the east division of the C-USA. They just so happen to be traveling to them this week.

The Hilltoppers have a strong defense ranking in the top 20. Before losing to Marshall last week, they held four opponents in a row under 20 points. The Owls offense will need to be up to the task led by QB Chris Robinson. Lane Kiffin will look to unlock some good offense and lead his team to the upset to set up another big game next week against rival FIU.

Jamil King is a young draft pick working his way up the depth chart on the F.F.I. roster, who enjoys watching and writing about all of Florida’s football teams.

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Florida Gators

Gators down stretch look very familiar

Matt Zemek

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It sounds like an insult, but it’s not: Gators are McElwain 2.0

It does seem like an insult to say that the 2019 Florida Gators, under Dan Mullen, are a better version of Jim McElwain’s SEC East champion Florida teams. McElwain was not a beloved coach. He didn’t enjoy coaching at Florida. He didn’t handle the prominence or the pressure of the job very well.

Dan Mullen enjoys coaching the Gators. He relishes pressure. He has performed well in the SEC for a long time, as a head coach and offensive coordinator. He is so many of the things McElwain wasn’t.

Few men in college football scheme receivers open better than Dan Mullen. He has a gift for play calling, and he squeezed a lot out of his Mississippi State teams. One can very reasonably say that he took the Bulldogs as high as they could fly, as far as they could go.

That is pretty much what Mullen has done with this 2019 team.

He has had a backup quarterback for most of the year, not Feleipe Franks. He has had a below-average offensive line which simply cannot facilitate a consistent or especially productive running game.

He has had Jabari Zuniga, arguably his best defensive player, healthy for a tiny fraction of the season. Jon Greenard has been injured for multiple games as well.

Everywhere you look, Florida has been limited. Everywhere you look, Florida has not had the ideal players it would want to face Georgia and LSU.

Speaking of Georgia and LSU, Florida had to play those two teams this year. It also had to play Auburn and Miami and still has Florida State on the slate.

If you were to tell Mullen that he would have his best players within the context of an injury-free season, this 2019 course of events (in terms of wins and losses and style of play) would have been noticeably disappointing. Yet, given the injuries and the limitations, Florida being 6-2 in the SEC and 9-2 overall is pretty damn good.

Adjusted for circumstances, Florida has done as much as it realistically could have been expected to do. LSU is the best team in college football this regular season. Florida gave the Tigers a good test for three quarters and were outplayed in the fourth. There isn’t much more one could have asked from UF in that game.

The Georgia game was certainly a disappointment, but if you’re going to say that Florida and Georgia have the same levels of talent, please turn in your college football analyst card at the door.

That is not a credible assertion.

We can talk about recruiting in a separate conversation or column, but in 2019, Dan Mullen has coaxed a 9-2 record – likely to become 10-2 with a win over Florida State – from a limited roster with a lot of backups playing extended snaps at hugely important positions.

Florida is winning games without style points. It is managing situations and handling challenges.

Sound familiar? These were the two SEC East-winning seasons under McElwain, the only two seasons in this decade (which is about to end) when Florida went to Atlanta.

The 2019 Gators share the ragged, uneven quality of McElwain’s teams, but the coaching and adaptability are better. The number of losses is lower. The ceiling for the program is higher.

McElwain 2.0 feels like an insult, until you look below the surface and see what is truly being compared.

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Florida Gators

Georgia clinched SEC East- eliminated Gators Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders

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John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Any hope the Florida Gators had of working their way back to Atlanta and the SEC Title game, through a potential backdoor, ended Saturday night. That’s when, the Georgia Bulldogs outfought their rival Auburn, 21 – 14 giving them a 6 – 1 record and the SEC East title for the third consecutive year.

Earlier in the afternoon, the Gators had done their part to set up a possible late season rally to win the division by smothering the Missouri Tigers on the road 23 – 6. That improved Florida to their final SEC record of 6 – 2. However, because they lost head-to-head 2 weeks ago to the Dawgs in Jacksonville, it meant the Gators had to have Georgia lose both of their remaining games, including next week at home with Texas A&M.

Georgia made sure that didn’t happen, as D’Andre Swift ran for 106 yards and Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm threw three touchdown passes. That included the eventual game-winner to tighten Eli Wolf from 5 yards out that put Georgia up 21 – 0 after three periods.

Auburn put together a tremendous rally behind freshman quarterback Bo Nix, who threw for 245 yards and a touchdown and ran for another TD to pull the Tigers within 21 – 14 with seven minutes to go.

Auburn got the ball back two times with chances to go and get a tying touchdown and both times, the Bulldogs held them on downs. The last one coming in the final minute of the game when Nix was sacked on fourth down inside his own 15-yard line to clinch the win and title for Georgia..

The Bulldogs, who were ranked fourth in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings still controls their own destiny to the playoff by winning out and winning the SEC title game.  Of course, likely standing in their way is that top-ranked LSU, who is unbeaten heading into play Saturday night and will be the other team trying to make the final four.

The best case scenario now for the Gators is to win their remaining game with rival FSU at the Swamp in two weeks and then look to be in a possible “New Year Six” game, most likely the Cotton Bowl.

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