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What a dramatic change in fortune the city of Gainesville experienced in Dan Mullen’s first go round at the helm of the Florida Gators football program! After limping to a 4-7 finish under the prior regime, the Gators exploded with a 10 win season that was capped off with an exhilarating 41-15 thrashing of the Michigan Wolverines in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Even so, the losses incurred against Missouri, Georgia and Kentucky let it be known that there’s still plenty of improvement needed on both sides of the ball for Florida to get back to the dominating status it once owned under the Steve Spurrier regime. With the offense taking enormous strides under the new coaching staffs’ leadership and the defense proving to be a rock, expectations for this upcoming season are at a fever pitch. Temper those expectations though as the schedule is tough, and it remains to be seen as to whether the program is truly on par with Alabama and Georgia. Current futures odds at online sportsbooks state otherwise with the Gators owning 9-game season win total odds and abeefy 12-1 return to win the SEC.
The Gators offense took giant strides forward a season ago with it showing an ability to rack up yardage ( No. 39 ), pound the ball on the ground ( No. 26 ) and put points on the scoreboard ( No. 22 ). Where it faltered however was in the passing game with the offense managing just 213.5 yards per game which was good for No. 83 in the country. For this unit to take it to the next level, Feleipe Franks is going to need to dramatically build upon his solid showing from last season. The now junior threw for only 2,457 yards and accrued a solid 24:6 TD/INT ratio while competing just over 58 percent of his passes. His big bodied frame will have NFL scouts drooling if in fact he ups the yardage and completion rates and continues to show an inability to not turn the ball over. While the rebuilt offensive line is a concern, the playmakers on this side of the ball aren’t with both the running back and receiving positions chock full of upper end experienced talent. More growth is expected on this side of the ball with Mullen calling the shots in year two!
Continuity is the name of the game when trying to excel in the game of football, and that’s exactly what the Gators have after the program upped the ante for Todd Grantham to prevent him from bolting for greener pastures in the NFL. With that, his attacking and aggressive 3-4 scheme will once again be run this upcoming season, and that’s great news after the defense ranked out amongst the best in most pertinent statistical categories a season ago. The secondary was rock solid against the pass in allowing less than 180 yards per game ( No. 12 ), and it has a chance to be even better in 2019-20 with experienced star power returning at both the cornerback and safety positions. Thirteen of the top 17 tacklers return, and the pass rush is expected to be dominant with Jabari Zuniga returning from injury and Jonathan Greenard being thrown into the mix after coming in from Louisville. The linebacker corps and depth in the middle of the line are this unit’s only concerns, but the highly rated new recruits should calm the nerves as the season progresses.
Florida hasn’t won the SEC since 2008. That will likely change in the near future, but it might be a wee bit premature to expect Dan Mullen to pull that feat off this season. The rebuild is still in the early stages. While the program was able to accrue 10 wins last season, it’s highly likely this year’s squad isn’t able to improve upon that tally regardless of the fact that the team ranked out No. 8 in the initial installment of the Coaches Poll. The road slate is intimidating to say the least with neutral site bouts set to go against Miami and Georgia and true road matchups at Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina and Mizzou. It’s an unforgiving schedule, and because of it, it might prove to be nearly impossible for the Gators to match last year’s 10 win output at offshore sportsbooks. But if all the stars align and the injury bug is avoided, it can be a truly memorable season for the city of Gainesville.