It’s hard to find a worthy challenger to Georgia in the SEC East, even when you look hard. That’s what made Saturday night interesting, because it was something called Week 0. And we got to look hard.
Florida kicked off the season Saturday night a week earlier than everyone else with a made-for-national-TV game against in-state rival Miami. Florida seems to be that team, that most likely candidate, to give the Bulldogs are run for it in the division. A lot of people see the Gators making the next big step this year.
They opened with a 24-20 win, but they didn’t impress me one bit in doing so.
Florida was ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press preseason poll, and I was shocked by that. Too high, I thought. It made one thing easier for me, because I always to pick two top 10 teams in the preseason that won’t be there at the end. I’ll take Florida as one for sure. (Ohio State’s my other).
The reason for that is I just am not buying the hype that Feleipe Franks is suddenly going to be an all-conference quarterback. He still has issues in my book, even as a 4th-year junior. I’m not doing handstands over the fact that he played well in his last 4 games last year in wins over South Carolina, Idaho, Florida State and Michigan. Those first 3 teams were a mess by then, and a disheartened Michigan couldn’t have cared less in that bowl game.
That’s why I was shocked the Gators were ranked so high in the preseason poll. Sure, it’s still Franks and his issues, but there are other flaws with this Florida team as well. The Florida offensive line has had to be completely revamped with only 1 starter returning, and I’m just not sure that group can be a top-half-of-the-SEC line this season.
They looked awful Saturday, with Miami defenders keeping the heat on Franks all night. And they were terrible in the run game, making room for only 52 yards on 27 carries. That’s not going to cut it all season long.
Florida’s defense is supposed to be very good, but I’m not reading a lot of great stuff into Saturday’s game. Sure, they had 10 sacks, picking on Miami’s 2 freshman tackles all night long. I felt sorry for those kids; they were definitely in over their heads.
Still, though, first-time starter Jarren Williams, the former Kentucky commit, moved the ball a lot of the night against the vaunted Florida defense. The redshirt freshman passed for 214 yards, and DeeJay Dallas rushed for another 95, 50 on his long TD run.
Vaunted? I think not.
I still see this Florida team losing at least 3 games this season, maybe more. A September upset loss to Tennessee or Kentucky wouldn’t surprise me, either.
Florida coach Dan Mullen seems to be in Franks’ corner, but I don’t know if he’s just trying to keep him propped up or not.
“I was pleased with a bunch of stuff with him,” Mullen said. “One of the things he knows is, we’re going to put the game in his hands. There (are0 some teachable moments in there and some things he can continue to learn. One of the things I kept seeing from, even if things didn’t go right, we made a mistake, he came right back firing. He handled adversity that came long.”
Take the good with the band in other words. It’s ride or die with Franks this season for the Gators. Even when the Gators had a lead and a chance to close out the game with less than 5 minutes left, Franks threw a costly interception that gave Miami another chance. Sure, Franks was hit on the throw, but that’s still something that cannot happen late in a game.
“I’m putting the game in his hands,” Mullen said. “I thought we had something there and we didn’t. He was trying to throw it away and he gets hit and the ball kind of floats and gets picked. That’s on me. I don’t know if I would have put him in that situation last year. It shows the confidence we have in him.”
A lot of this game wasn’t pretty. Florida had 4 turnovers — including 2 Franks interceptions — which brought out that sickening and newly obnoxious Miami turnover chain far too often.
“The game did get sloppy at times,” Franks said. “Obviously I didn’t try to go out there and throw a pick (late in the fourth). That’s not what I planned to do. But thing happen throughout the course of the game. That’s what adversity is. It’s all about just trying to persevere through it. That’s what we did.”
I’ll give them props for persevering and coming away with the win. But I’ll also say this: If I had a little bit of concern that Florida could beat Georgia in late October, I feel less concerned now. The Gators aren’t getting 10 sacks against Georgia’s talented offensive line, and if they still can’t run the ball and have to rely on Franks to win them a game, then I feel really good about that.
Sure, the Jacksonville showdown is still 2 months away. But if Saturday night was any indication, if I’m a Georgia fan, I feel a lot better on Sunday morning that I did on Saturday.