A hard reality for Florida Gators fans: through two weeks of the 2019 college football season, the UCF Knights still run the state of Florida.
Sure, UCF hasn’t played tough opponents, but the Knights have roared past the competition with an offense which still looks potent. The reality might not mean much in the middle of September, but as any Gator football fan could tell you, perception is part of the reality in Gainesville.
Remember this: Florida was not a bad program under former coach Jim McElwain. It wasn’t a great program – and that is part of why many people legitimately felt McElwain wasn’t doing the job – but it wasn’t horrible. Multiple SEC East championships represented a noticeable improvement from the awful Will Muschamp years. Gator fans expect to be in Atlanta, and McElwain – for all his many faults – enabled UF to attain that standard.
One of the several crucial sins McElwain committed as Florida’s coach – not the only one, but important enough to matter – is that his teams were boring.
At Florida, winning isn’t the only requirement for a head coach; winning in an attractive way is also demanded.
You might not think that’s fair, but that IS the reality for Gator football.
Steve Spurrier and then Urban Meyer (with Dan Mullen calling plays for Urban) spoiled Florida fans, but in defense of Gator fans, we can acknowledge that if you witnessed aesthetically pleasing football over two decades from two separate coaching staffs, you would also think that visually sexy football should be a requirement for a Gator head coach.
The added fact that Mullen was part of that previously established Gator legacy makes him well aware of the demands of the Florida job. He knew this when he returned. He signed up for the scrutiny and the added expectation to not only win, but entertain.
Right now, UCF is winning the battle for entertainment in the Sunshine State, with Miami and Florida State still struggling.
The Gators get their big chance to change that equation this Saturday in Lexington, Kentucky.
Yes, first things first: Florida would much rather win an ugly game against Kentucky than lose a pretty one. After losing to Kentucky a year ago in the Swamp, Florida simply can’t lose back-to-back games to Big Blue. A dark cloud would hang over the rest of the season, and only a win over Georgia could remove it. UF better win this game, and if it has to be a rock fight, so be it.
However: Florida could take a huge step forward in its evolution if it can win this game and look good doing so.
Kentucky wants a rock fight. Coach Mark Stoops always wants to drag other teams into the mud and play a slugfest. His programs always rely on defense first. Going into Lexington at night is not the toughest road trip in the SEC, but it has not been a picnic in recent years, either – for the Gators or anyone else.
Feleipe Franks – the player who will determine how far Florida travels this year – faces a lot of questions entering Week 3. One would be correct to say that Franks has to answer fundamental questions about his capacity to lead this team with consistency and reliability.
Franks’s ability to address fundamental questions will likely determine whether Florida wins this game in Lexington A competent Franks will create a win.
The step beyond that? Mastery.
A competent Franks will enable Florida to get by. A masterful Franks will enable the Gators to thrive.
Kentucky is the perfect opponent for Franks early in the season, because it will enable us to see where Franks stands on the spectrum between “UGH!” on one end and “mastery” on the other.
Tennessee, Vanderbilt and South Carolina aren’t playing well enough right now to test Franks in full. Kentucky’s offense – without injured quarterback Terry Wilson – is a
complete mystery, but Kentucky’s defense offers a more robust test than the other non-Georgia SEC East foes could provide.
We will find out if Florida is competent enough to win more of the games it is supposed to win this season. We will find out if Feleipe Franks is masterful enough to give Florida a legitimate chance to win in an entertaining fashion.
The status of Florida football under Dan Mullen will probably be easier to measure after Week 3. The Gators can only hope they will change the conversation relative to UCF in the state of Florida.
Vols Coach Pruitt- “Yes I hate Florida”
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:
Jeremy Pruitt didn't mince his words when asked if he does, in fact, hate the Gators.
"Yes, I hate Florida."https://t.co/4Ux0DzPwYl
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 19, 2019
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.
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.
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