Photo by Joel Auerbach / Getty Images

Florida vs Miami

Saturday August 24, 2019

7:00 PM / ESPN

Camping World Stadium, Orlando

College football will celebrate its 150th season in 2019 and the Florida Gators will be playing the very first game. A rivalry that has lain dormant for much of the past thirty years will be renewed on Saturday night in front of the entire nation. Despite the long breaks in the series, Florida still hates Miami and the Canes loathe the Gators.

There will be a myriad of story lines to focus on when the two storied rivals take to the turf at Camping World Stadium. Which team’s inexperienced offensive line will hold up best against the other’s deeply talented defensive front? How will first year head coach Manny Diaz fare against his former boss, in Dan Mullen?

These are just a few of the many questions that will be answered on Saturday night when these two schools meet each other for the 56th time. Miami currently leads the series with a 29-26 record and has had the Gators number as of late. However, it is Florida who comes into the matchup as a 7.5 point favorite.

Florida will be looking to build on the successes of Dan Mullen’s first season in Gainesville. Following a 10-3 season that saw the Gators finish in the top ten as Peach Bowl champions, the expectations are even greater for the Gators in 2019. Many are even considering them a dark horse candidate for the college football playoff.

The Gators have the talent to make a run this season, but much of that will hinge on whether or not the Gators can stay healthy. Depth is a very real concern for Florida both in the secondary and along the offensive line. As long as both of these units remain unhindered by injury, the Gators will be a difficult test for any team.

Redshirt junior quarterback Feleipe Franks is expected to take even greater strides in his development than he did last season. Historically, Dan Mullen’s quarterbacks have always put up big numbers in their second year playing under him. Early reports out of fall camp indicate that this trend will be repeating itself yet again.

Lamical Perine had a very impressive year in 2018 and will be leading a deep and talented stable of running backs this season. Perine is the total package and he could make things very difficult for a Miami defense that struggled against the run last season.

Florida returns one of the best receiving corps in the nation, which bodes well for them as they face off against a Hurricanes secondary that has lost significant depth to the transfer portal over the last couple of weeks. The tandem of Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes have only gotten stronger this off-season, and both have improved their already solid technique.

Florida has dynamic playmakers all over the field. Between Jacob Copeland, Kadarius Toney, C.J. Henderson, and Marco Wilson, the Gators are a scoring threat no matter which unit is on the turf. With that said, this game could be a blowout win just as easily as it could be a nail-biter.

Miami is always a tough opponent for the Gators and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Manny Diaz is a brilliant defensive mind who will likely scheme to keep the game close into the fourth quarter.

Florida will need to be creative in their protections against a highly skilled Miami defensive front. Franks needs to be crisp and decisive in his ball placement. There is no time for being unsure of what to do or where to go.

On the opposite side of the ball, Miami quarterback Jarren Williams finds himself in an unfavorable position. He will make his first career start against an elite Gators defense. Todd Grantham will make sure that Williams is never comfortable, and the Florida defensive backs will close all aerial routes.

Much of this chess match will be played in the trenches and that is the equalizer. Miami needs to be dominant in this area in order to have a puncher’s chance. If Florida manages to get an early edge or plays above expectations along the offensive line, this will get ugly very quickly.

The Gators just have too much talent for Miami to overcome this time and they should leave Orlando with a big win to start the 2019 campaign.

Florida takes on Miami at 7:00 p.m. EST live from Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Coverage begins at 10:00 a.m. on ESPN.

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