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What to watch for as depleted Gators take on Michigan

Josh Ciganek

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Photo by Icon Sportswire

The Florida Gators open up it’s college football season Saturday against Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. And arguably the biggest story is who is not playing for the “orange and blue.”

With that in mind, here’s what you need to get ready for the battle:

This will be just the fourth meeting between the two schools and will feature two of the top offenses in the nation. However, there is more to watch on Saturday than just the offense.

One of the main things to watch for is how strong this Gators team will play with ten players suspended, including top wide receiver Antonio Callaway and last year’s leading rusher Jordan Scarlett.

With those two main playmakers out for Saturday’s game, it will very difficult to see how the offense will make big plays.

Head Coach Jim McElwain had kept the quarterback situation under wraps until Wednesday when he announced Feleipe Franks as the starter for Saturday. After a strong spring game and plenty of competition this offseason, Franks beat out Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire and a returning Luke Del Rio. The Gators boss revealed this on the radio Thursday night:

 

 

So, it’s entirely possible that all three QBs end up playing in this game, and maybe, even in the first half.

Another area to watch in Saturday’s game is the Michigan’s defense. Coach McElwain highlighted this in his press conference earlier in the week, as he was impressed with how stout the defense was. The Wolverines’ defense made multiple stops on first and second down in 2016 that caused a lot of third and long situations. It will be vital for the offensive line of Florida to keep Michigan’s defense at bay.

The last thing to watch for is the special teams play that coach McElwain said would be crucial to create opportunity. With Calloway being suspended, the punt and kick returners will change hands for the game. Brandon Powell and Dre Massey will take over on punt returns, while Tyree Cleveland and an unnamed freshman will be the main kick returners. It’ll be important for the special teams to set up the offense, as well as the defense to contain Michigan’s field position.

Saturday’s game will be a test for this young Florida team, and coach McElwain is looking forward to the opportunity. But, with the suspensions and controversy, it will be a battle to get anything going against a strong Big Ten opponent to open the year.

Josh Ciganek 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.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Florida Gators

Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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