It is finally game week! It feels like it’s been a long time since the Gators hosted a game in the Swamp.
That changes Saturday, as 90,000 screaming Florida fans are expected to remind these Gators of just what they were missing a year ago.
Florida introduces the Florida Atlantic Owls to The Swamp for a 7:30 PM kickoff.
The following are our staff’s predictions for the Gators’ matchup with the FAU Owls.
This is a game that, on paper, shouldn’t even be close. However, Vegas doesn’t necessarily see it that way as Florida is only a 24-point favorite (for comparison sake, Mississippi State is a 36-point favorite against Louisiana Tech). That could be for a few reasons. Possibly, Florida enters 2021 completely underrated thanks to the loss of generational talent at QB, TE, and WR. Or, potentially, with a showdown against Alabama looming just two weeks later, maybe Vegas expects a vanilla showing from the Gators in an effort to hide strategy from Nick Saban and company. Either way, Florida is far too talented to not rout the Owls. Gators, 45-10.
I’m confident when I say the Gators will start off the 2021 season strong with a win against the Owls. While they took a hit on the offensive line, losing star players Kyle Pitts and Kyle Trask in the NFL draft, the comeback is inevitable. The defense did lack last season, but with the return of players such as defensive lineman Zachary Carter, they have a chance to redeem themselves. Quarterback Emory Jones and his ability to run the ball also makes big moves for the team. I simply do not see the 5-4 Owls taking the lead in the game. I say that Florida beats out Florida Atlantic by at least 20 points. Gators, 35-14.
There is not a doubt in my mind when I say that Florida should and will win this game. The Gators have built a solid depth chart, especially at running back, that will bully the Owl defense in four quarters of football. Quarterback Emory Jones should also have a fun day with his receivers and I wouldn’t be surprised if coach Dan Mullen unleashed freshman Anthony Richardson early in the game. On the contrary, I believe that the Gators will get off to a slow start on the first few drives and predict that Florida will put up only 17 points in the first quarter (I don’t mind being proven wrong in this scenario). FAU coach Willie Taggert and his team will believe the game is close but Florida will run away with it in the second half. Gators, 31-7.
There are so many questions surrounding this Florida team. There will be a lot of truth to the old saying you can’t tell the players without a program. NFL departures cost the offense an abundance of production. Gone are Trask, Pitts,Toney, and Grimes. However, there is talent up and down the offensive skills position depth chart. Dan Mullen will kickoff his 4th year in Hogtown with a cast of hopefuls that includes Jones, Richardson, Bowman, Fraziars, and Elksnis. How does “next man up” play for our first cliche’ of 2021? Defensively, the Gators were a mess that DC Todd Grantham and his staff failed to correct during the 2020 season. Mullen and Grantham turned to Wesley McGriff and Jule Montinar to fix a broken secondary. And there will be a host of new hopefuls throughout the Gators D like Newkirk, Valentino, Truesdell, Marshall, Blades, and Perkins to name a few. Evan McPerhson and Jacob Finn have departed the UF special teams. Mullen wisely wrapped up the spring early, giving S&D Coordinator Nick Savage additional time to work with a group who had little time together in 2020. FAU head coach Willie Taggart hit the transfer portal hard. Overall the Owls two-deep has a LOT of youth. Taggart + youth = spells disaster. Look for Florida to wear them down. Gators 49-10.
The Gators will certainly dominate the Owls, but it’s unrealistic to expect Florida’s offensive power from last year to return – not yet, at least. A cocktail of inexperience and excitement swirls in the glass of the Gator offense, which sits in front of quarterback Emory Jones. Jones threw the ball 32 times for 217 total yards in the 2020 season, so he’s proven he’s capable of success. Now, he just has to prove he can do it consistently. Defensively, the Gators will have to iron out details amongst an unacquainted secondary. Against an FAU offense that averaged 18.89 points per game, wrinkles shouldn’t be a problem. Gators 31-10.
The Gators and Owls are set to kickoff the 2021 season from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at 7:30 PM on Saturday. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network.