Photo credit: Florida Gators
Now that we’re well into the month of August, it’s time to start gearing up for the 2023 Gator football season. And the best way to begin doing that is with our annual win projection total.
For new readers, the idea is simple: take the % chance you think the Florida Gators have to beat Utah, add that to the % chance you think Florida has to beat McNeese, and so on until you’ve done this for all twelve teams. Take that number, and divide it by twelve. So, for instance, if you think Florida has exactly a 50% chance to beat all twelve teams, your projected win total is six, meaning you predict Florida to go 6-6. (We did this back in November, immediately after the FSU game.)
Of course, it’s not that simple in actuality. Different opponents provide different variables. So with that said, let’s get to it!
Game 1: @ Utah Utes
The health of Utah QB Cam Rising will have a lot to do with this. Is he healthy enough to play after tearing his ACL in the Rose Bowl? As of now, he says he’s going to play, so we’ll go with that assumption at this time. The elements of Utah won’t have nearly the effect on the Gators that the Florida humidity had on the Utes last September, but this is still a road game against the best college football program in the westernmost half of the country over the last few years. And even if Rising doesn’t play or isn’t fully healthy, tight end Brant Kuithe and a fundamentally sound defense will present plenty of issues for a new-look Gators squad. By no means is this game unwinnable, but the odds are stacked against Florida in this one.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 32%
Game 2: McNeese Cowboys
I understand that this next sentence is precisely the kind of thing that leads to trouble, but I can’t help it, facts are facts. McNeese went 4-7 in the FCS Southern Conference last year, and gave up 40+ points in five of those losses. These are not two teams that belong on the same playing field. But that’s going to happen anyway this fall, and the result of this game should serve as further proof of why. Put it this way: if Florida doesn’t win this game by at least five touchdowns, it is a major cause for concern.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 99%
Game 3: Tennessee Volunteers
Florida has owned Tennessee over the better part of the last two decades, but has Josh Heupel finally guided them around a corner and back to respectability? Maybe. Hendon Hooker thrived in his system a year ago, but he’s gone now and it’s Joe Milton’s show. How Milton looks in his fourth start is still a major question mark, but it’s almost a certainty that the Vols will score. The question is if Graham Mertz and Florida can outgun them in the Swamp, a place where the Gators haven’t lost to Tennessee since 2003. Put this one down as a tossup for now, but give Florida the razor-thin edge because of its home field environment.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 54%
Game 4: Charlotte 49ers
Talking about Charlotte’s 3-9 campaign that saw blowout losses to UAB, Western Kentucky, and FIU last year feels like a cop-out, but it’s hard to find a better way to synopsize the infant program from Conference USA. On top of the other litany of problems they had a year ago, now they have to replace QB Chris Reynolds, a three-time team captain. While perhaps the 49ers won’t be quite as overmatched as McNeese, it’s still extremely difficult to fathom a scenario where this game is competitive for more than a quarter or two. Then again, we said that about a 1-11 USF team a year ago, too.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 98%
Game 5: @ Kentucky Wildcats
Devin Leary steps up to the control panel of the Kentucky offense in place of the departed Will Levis, and he’ll be counted on to jump-start an offense that was held to six points or fewer in three of its final six games of 2022. The defense, while solid, does have holes, and you’d like to think Florida’s offensive line could win a lot of reps against the Cats’ front seven. Florida has consistently outrecruited Kentucky since recruiting rankings first became a thing, and while that didn’t mean much the last two seasons (or really, the last ten), the law of averages says Florida is bound to start winning this game again- and soon. A road trip to Kentucky won’t be easy, but you have to think Florida is a slight favorite.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 59%
Game 6: Vanderbilt Commodores
Florida played an absolutely pitiful game against Vanderbilt last year in Nashville with basically its scout team wide receiver group, and yet there they were, 39 yards away from forcing overtime (assuming they could execute a simple PAT). The Commodores’ defense was abysmal last year, giving up 52+ points in four of its twelve games (they even gave up 31 to Elon!), and promises to be little better this year. Maybe you can’t call this a true “revenge” game because Florida had so many other problems last year, but that game should be on the Gators’ minds and Florida shouldn’t have any trouble this time around on Homecoming weekend.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 97%
Game 7: @ South Carolina Gamecocks
Perhaps the Gamecocks never will be a true CFP contender under Shane Beamer (even with the expansion to twelve teams) but it’s pretty clear that this is a respectable program now. Spencer Rattler has dominated Florida once before in his career (with Oklahoma) and been dominated by Florida once before, setting up a rubber match in Columbia at a critical juncture of the year for both teams. South Carolina has some tools for Rattler in Juice Wells and JuJu McDowell, and with a rough schedule to start the year that includes road trips to Georgia and Tennessee, they’ll need this one to keep their season afloat. Florida does have more overall talent than South Carolina, but on the road against a desperate team- not to mention one that’s sure to remember last year’s 38-6 stomping- this has “trap game” written all over it. And underlined, for good measure.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 38%
Game 8: vs. Georgia Bulldogs (Jacksonville)
As they did at various points in the 2021 and 2022 games, you can expect Florida to fight hard in Jacksonville. They might even have the lead at some point. Carson Beck takes over for the finally-departed Stetson Bennett at QB, and Georgia loses nearly its entire starting defense. But Georgia recruits well enough that, sure, there might be some growing pains, but this defense will take a small step back at worst and very possibly won’t miss a beat. And they know that Florida’s running game will be its strength, so that’s what they’ll defend. Rivalry games are weird, and Florida does have a history of sinking Georgia’s season in the St. John River, but unless Graham Mertz has the game of his life and Florida’s trio of freshman receivers in Andy Jean, Eugene Wilson, and Aidan Mizell transform into stars, the Gators are in for a long day.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 19%
Game 9: Arkansas Razorbacks
The good news for Arkansas is that QB KJ Jefferson is back in 2023. The bad news is that he doesn’t have an embarrassment of riches around him to help out. The Arkansas offense struggled mightily against good opponents last year, and now they come to the Swamp in what will be Florida’s first home game in a full month. This is also the point in the season you can expect to see a large number of Florida youngsters coming into their own, particularly up front. Expect the Hogs to put up a battle, but the Gators simply have too much talent in too many places to think this game goes south.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 84%
Game 10: @ LSU Tigers
Florida is going to have the same problem against LSU that the Bayou Bengals’ other eleven opponents will have: Harold Perkins, who’s quite possibly the best defensive player in the country. On the other side, dual-threat QB Jayden Daniels returns, as do top-flight pass-catchers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. as part of an offense that thoroughly cooked the Gators last year. So now on the road, this is going too be an uphill battle. Florida and LSU always play tense, close games, and 2023 probably won’t be any different. But when you go with your head and not your heart, you’ve simply got to go with the team that has the talent advantage on its home field.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 30%
Game 11: @ Missouri Tigers
You have to think Florida’s defense, even if it gets off to a rough start in 2023, will be so much better at this late stage of the season than it was in 2022. That would mean that Brady Cook will have issues throwing the ball, and Nathaniel Peat and Cody Shrader could struggle to gain traction on the ground. The one disclaimer to this game is that Eliah Drinkwitz could be on the hot seat or even fired at this point, as he has never had a winning season in his three years at Missouri, and if that number reaches four, things could get ugly. Cold weather does complicate things, and it gets pretty cold in Missouri in late November, but unless Mertz or Florida running backs turn the ball over multiple times, the Gators should win.
Florida percent chance to win: 77%
Game 12: Florida State Seminoles
Mike Norvell has done an admirable job excavating FSU from the deep-water tomb that Willie Taggart buried the program in. Jordan Travis is one of the most proven QBs in college football, and he’ll have weaponry around him at the skill positions. But even with a dynamic playmaker in Jared Verse returning on the defensive line, there are still questions about this defense, which looked suspicious as 6-7 Florida and Oklahoma squads teamed up to drop 70 points and 954 yards of offense on to conclude the 2022 season. Assuming Napier sticks with what works as a play-caller this time, and assuming his newest batch of handpicked freshmen develop by season’s end, it’s hard not to like Florida’s chances in the Swamp. By no means will this be easy, but this feels like a nail-biting Florida win.
Florida’s percent chance to win: 62%
Overall win projection: 7.49 games