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.
Head Coach Jim McElwain has announced that Jordan Scarlett and Rick Wells are suspended from all team activities.
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) August 30, 2017
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:
McElwain on #Gators QB Malik Zaire: "He will play, no doubt about it."
— Graham Hall (@GrahamHall_) August 31, 2017
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.