Jim McElwain and the Gators are looking to build on previous seasons. After two straight trips to the SEC Championship game, these Gators have their sights set higher.
2017 looks to be another year where every SEC team is looking up at Nick Saban and Alabama. Luckily for Coach McElwain and the Gators, they won’t be facing Alabama in the regular season this year. The East is wide open this year. Florida’s main nemesis will be Georgia, but Tennessee, Kentucky, and South Carolina could make some noise as well.
McElwain and the Gators have won the SEC East title in his first two seasons. Despite these positive results, fans in Gainesville have high expectations. Anything less than an SEC East title will be a disappointment. Anything more and the Gators may be booking their tickets to the College Football Playoff.
So here are my all too early game by game predictions for the 2017 Florida Gators.
Florida vs. Michigan
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX
September 2nd – 3:30 pm EST
The main story has no doubt been the ten Florida players suspended in the weeks leading up to this game. Despite losing their two biggest offensive playmakers to suspension, Florida will still win this game. Lamical Perine will take a majority of Jordan Scarlett’s carries and has the potential to be a big time back. Look for McElwain to include funky formations and a couple trick plays to utilize Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire’s running ability.
Michigan’s defense will be good again, but it will be tough to replace ten starters on that side of the ball. Harbaugh is a master recruiter so no doubt they’ve got talent on that side of the ball. Despite this talent, the limited experience may be too much to overcome. Low scoring affair with the Gators edging out the Wolverines.
WIN 1-0 (0-0)
Florida vs. Northern Colorado
September 9th – 7:30 pm EST
Not much to say about this game. Gators are superior on both sides of the ball. Add in the fact that this game is in Gainesville and it is difficult to see Northern Colorado having any chance.
WIN 2-0 (0-0)
Florida vs. Tennessee
September 16th – 3:30 pm EST
This will be the Gators first SEC test of the season. Last year was the first time the Vols beat the Gators since 2004. The last time Tennessee left The Swamp with a victory was in 2003. Both teams will have experience. Each have fourteen starters returning on either side of the ball.
Conference road games are tough. Conference road games against teams with a top level defense is even tougher. The Gators will be relying on the defense to carry the load, but Freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks will have some experience under his belt by now. If the skill position guys like Callaway and Scarlett are back, look for some big plays from them.
WIN 3-0 (1-0)
Florida @ Kentucky
September 23rd – TBD
Kentucky will surprise a lot of people this year. Mark Stoops has the Wildcats trending in the right direction. Don’t be surprised if they knock off a team and spoil their chances at an SEC title. That being said, Florida should still win this game.
Kentucky does not have the talent on either side of the ball to hang with Florida this year. Expect them to hang around in this game due to the fact that they’re at home, but don’t expect them to win. Florida takes a thirty game win streak against Kentucky into this game. Big Blue Nation will have to wait for basketball season to get another shot at the Gators.
WIN 4-0 (2-0)
Florida vs. Vanderbilt
September 30th – TBD
Even though Florida has struggled against Vanderbilt the past two seasons, they will be able to handle the Commodores in Gainesville. After winning 13-6 in 2016 and 9-7 in 2015 it should be no huge surprise if Vanderbilt pulls off an upset.
The difference in this game will be the Florida offense. Hopefully, by this point in the season they have an established quarterback and can build off of those anemic offensive performances in 2015 and 2016. The defense will continue to be stout so don’t expect Vanderbilt to put up more than 20 or so points.
WIN 5-0 (3-0)
Florida vs. LSU
October 7th – TBD
This will be the biggest test of the season to this point for the Gators. The defenses should be fairly even so this could be a low scoring affair. LSU has won in The Swamp as recently as 2014. While home field advantage will certainly play a role in this game, LSU will have no fear going into this one.
Anticipate this to be a low scoring contest. One big play here or there could be the difference for Florida. Without that big play, overcoming LSU’s rushing attack may be too much to handle for four quarters. LSU squeaks past Florida by one score.
LOSS 5-1 (3-1)
Florida vs. Texas A&M
October 14th – TBD
The Gators will be out for blood if they are coming off their first loss in conference play. Texas A&M will be the underdogs in this game, but will certainly be capable of pulling off the upset. A&M returns seven starters on defense, but have questions on offense.
Both teams may have redshirt freshman starting in this game. The biggest question is which young quarterback has improved more up to this point. Will it be the Gators’ Franks or Aggies’ Nick Starkel. Florida fans will sweat, but ultimately be victorious
WIN 6-1 (4-1)
Florida vs. Georgia
Everbank Field, Jacksonville, FL
October 28th – 3:30 pm EST
This game could decide who wins the SEC East title and heads to Atlanta to play for possibly a chance at the College Football Playoff. Both teams will be coming in from an off week so expect to see some trickery from Jim McElwain and Kirby Smart.
Florida has won this matchup the past three seasons. Georgia will have a formidable defense in Kirby Smart’s second year. They return ten defensive starters and bring in young talent on that side of the ball as well.
Florida will need to win the turnover battle in this game because these teams are separated by so little talent wise. By this point in the season they will have the skill position players to break open a big play to make the difference. Way too early prediction for this game is that Antonio Callaway has a late punt return TD that gives Florida a late lead that they won’t give up.
WIN 7-1 (5-1)
Florida @ Missouri
November 4th – TBD
This is a classic “trap” game. The fear in this game is that it falls in between Georgia and a road game against South Carolina. Despite having superior talent at nearly every position, young kids who can smell an SEC East title might overlook this Missouri team. Add in the fact that this is a road game and it could spell trouble.
Even though all signs point to this being a possible “trap” game, Florida will win this game handily. This game will mirror last season’s 31-10 drubbing at Arkansas and McElwain is too good of a coach to let that happen again.
WIN 8-1 (6-1)
Florida @ South Carolina
November 11th – TBD
This is one of the sneaky tough matchups on Florida’s schedule this year. Road game against a team that has an outside shot at contending for the SEC East title. Did we mention that Florida’s former coach will be patrolling the Gamecock sidelines?
South Carolina will have every reason to win this game, but Florida’s defense will once again be the difference in this game. To this point in the season, Florida’s defense will have won them a lot of games. Whether or not they can take the next step will be on the offense.
WIN 9-1 (7-1)
Florida vs. UAB
November 18th – TBD
UAB is coming off of a 6-6 season and returning no starters on offense. This game is a very long ways away so a lot can change, but if the Gators have problems winning this game then their record will not be 9-1 up to this point. Gators roll the Blazers.
WIN 10-1 (7-1)
Florida vs. Florida St.
November 25th – TBD
Florida has not beaten Florida State since they went into Tallahassee in 2012. Both teams could be in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff up until this point. It is far too early to predict this game, but the Seminoles will have more experience in big games.
They will likely have the advantage with Deondre Francois at quarterback. The defenses should be fairly even. Gut instinct says Florida State wins this by one score.