The 2019 college football season gets underway tonight when the Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators meet at a neutral site for another chapter in their storied rivalry. These teams are facing off for the 56th time in a rivalry that dates to 1938, with Miami holding a narrow, 29-26 edge in the all-time series. The entire country will be watching when they renew the bad blood for the first time since 2013 at the Camping World Kickoff game, as it’s the only Division I contest being played until this upcoming Thursday. This nationally televised opener takes place at Camping World Stadium on the Disney World campus in Orlando, Florida and will be broadcast by ESPN at 7 p.m. ET. It should make for an exciting matchup, as it features a Florida team ranked No. 8 in the country in the preseason polls—one that is expected to make its return to prominence in 2019—going up against an unranked but talented Miami program that could accelerate its rebuilding timeline with an upset tonight.
Here’s everything you need to catch the first major college football game of the 2019 season:
Miami Hurricanes vs. Florida Gators Viewing Guide
Date: Saturday, August 24
Start Time: 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Spread: Florida -7
Total: Over/Under 46
Oddsmakers currently have Florida as a seven-point favorite in tonight’s 2019 college football season opener, down a point from the opening mark of UF -8. The line has moved due to a slight majority of public bets (60%) and total cash wagered (67%) coming in for the Gators in the Camping World Kickoff. The total for this matchup has moved far more significantly, dropping from an opening mark of 50.5 points all the way down to 46 with the game’s 7 p.m. start time drawing nearer. It’s no surprise shops have adjusted the over/under downwards, as approximately three-quarters of the public (71% of bets, 79% of money) are on the under side of the bet.
The Miami Hurricanes tweeted a quote from new head coach Manny Diaz on the intense emotions that will be in play tonight:
The Gators are coming off a respectable 10-3 campaign that culminated in a blowout victory over Michigan in the Peach Bowl to cap off head coach Dan Mullen’s first season in Gainesville. The team is returning numerous starters on both sides of the ball, including junior quarterback Feleipe Franks, who threw for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns last year, while also adding 350 yards and seven scores on the ground. His continued development could be the engine that propels UF to the College Football Playoff, but the offensive line is most likely to be the real determining factor regarding whether the Gators can reach their true potential during the 2019 college football season. The school lost four offensive linemen from last year’s squad and will need to rely heavily on unproven, first-time starters like left tackle Stone Forsythe to protect the signal-caller.
Unfortunately for Florida, this first test comes against a ‘Canes defense that is bringing back a handful of key starters. This group includes linebacker Shaquille Quarterman and defensive lineman Jonathan Garvin, who finished second and third, respectively, in sacks for a team that ranked just outside the top-10 in the country last year in that category and No. 4 overall in total defense. Still, the Miami defense may struggle against the pass if it can’t bring pressure, as only one member of last year’s starting secondary—cornerback Trajan Bandy—is returning for the 2019 college football season. Despite all the new faces, Bandy is confident that the Hurricanes will be able to pick up where they left off last year.
“I think we’re going to play fast. We’re going to get after these guys,” said Bandy, as per OrlandoSentinel.com. “We’re going to run to the ball. We’re going to make plays.”
One key trend going in Florida’s favor is its propensity to win openers over the last three decades. Since the 1989 season, the Gators are 28-1 straight-up in their first game of the new college football season. The only Week 1 loss the squad has suffered in that span occurred in 2017 against Michigan. Here’s some more relevant betting trends to keep an eye on for tonight’s matchup, as well as a prediction on the outcome courtesy of pro handicapper Jon Price of SportsInformationTraders.com:
Miami Hurricanes vs. Florida Gators Betting Trends
– Miami is 7-1 straight-up in its last eight meetings with Florida, including a 21-16 victory in their most recent matchup back in 2013.
– The Hurricanes have won both neutral site showdowns—the 2001 Sugar Bowl and 2004 Peach Bowl—with the Gators.
– The Gators are 2-8 SU across their last 10 contests against ACC opponents.
– SEC schools are 5-0 ATS in their last five matchups against ACC foes with a spread of 7 to 10 points.
Miami Hurricanes vs. Florida Gators Pro Prediction
There are plenty of question marks all over the field going into tonight’s game, but ultimately Miami’s inexperience at key offensive positions will come back to haunt the program. The Hurricanes are starting a freshman quarterback, left tackle and right tackle, which isn’t exactly a recipe for success in such a high-profile game. Jarren Williams won the starting QB job during camp and has plenty of talent, but his ability to air it out won’t be on display if the offensive line doesn’t give him a chance to get in a rhythm. U-M will likely dial up plenty of screens and quick passes to try and move the chains, but it won’t afford their plus-skill position players like running back DeeJay Dallas and receiver Jeff Thomas the space they need to create the long drives to keep up with Florida offensively.
The Gators were strong on the offensive side of the ball during Mullen’s first year in Gainesville and they should only get better during the 2019 season. The team brought back its starting quarterback and almost every relevant skill position player, giving them a level of comfort and familiarity that is so important in an opener, especially one that will be on national television with no other games to draw attention away. That is something that simply doesn’t exist for Miami, a squad that is debuting both a new head coach and quarterback this evening. Even with Florida leaning on four first-time O-line starters this year, they project to be able to make enough big plays to have the edge when the final whistle blows.
Don’t expect fireworks, however, as this should be a relatively low scoring affair. With the Hurricanes likely to employ a conservative plan of attack on the offensive end to ease Williams into his first collegiate start and Florida’s offensive linemen having to figure out a ferocious ‘Canes pass rush, this one should end up well under the total. Even with the over/under moving down steadily since it was first put up on the board, there is still plenty of value to be found at the sportsbooks. Don’t be surprised if this one plays in the low 40’s and ultimately results in the Gators escaping with a win, but not a cover, when all is said and done.
ATS Pick: Miami +7
Prediction: Florida 23 – Miami 20