You guys have made it this far through what’s probably been the most difficult offseason in your lifetime, so here’s a reward for your loyalty: previewing every single game on the Gators’ schedule all at once. That should tide you over until Friday at least, when your countdown clock suddenly has a lot fewer digits filled than it did throughout the winter, spring and summer.
(Note: click the links on each game to read my much more in-depth looks at each of Florida’s opponents.)
So, let’s get to it!
Game 1: Idaho @ Florida, August 30
I wrote this preview before wide receiver Dezmon Epps was booted from the team for violating team rules, so what I projected to be a largely ineffective offense is now going to downright suck. The dismissal leaves QB Chad Chalich with virtually zero proven receivers to throw the ball to, and unless tailback Richard Montgomery goes all Marcus Lattimore on the Gators’ defense and puts up 200+ yards, Idaho has no chance. Their defense is awful, and the game should essentially be over by halftime.
Projection: Florida 45, Idaho 3
Game 2: Eastern Michigan @ Florida, September 6
Ever so slightly better than Idaho is the next team on Florida’s schedule, Eastern Michigan. They’re from the MAC, a conference that has caused Florida some headaches over the years, but they’re also the worst team in the MAC. Unlike Idaho, EMU has two running backs (Bronson Hill and Ryan Brumfield) that can potentially cause damage. Having said that, the rest of their offense is filled with question marks and their defense is so bad that unless Jeff Driskel spends half the day chasing after Mike Pouncey type snaps, this game will be even more of a laugher than Idaho.
Projection: Florida 52, Eastern Michigan 7
Game 3: Kentucky @ Florida, September 13
The first “real” team on Florida’s schedule isn’t all that much better than Florida’s first two opponents, but it’s one the Gators must take seriously. As long as they do that, though, they’ll win in convincing fashion. Kentucky has scored three touchdowns in the Swamp in their last five trips. Make it three in their last six trips, plus their defense surrendering a bunch of them to Jeff Driskel, Kelvin Taylor and the Florida offense.
Projection: Florida 35, Kentucky 6
Game 4: Florida @ Alabama, September 20
Alabama loses a lot from last year, and I believe this is the most vulnerable Crimson Tide team since 2010. Unfortunately, that 2010 team clobbered Florida in Tuscaloosa, which is where this game will be played. On the bright side, Florida figures to be better than they were in 2010, not to mention better than the 4-8 train wreck they rolled out last year. But Kenyon Drake and TJ Yeldon will be too much for even Florida’s defense to stop. They’ll slow them down, but not enough to win the game in Bryant Denny.
Projection: Alabama 31, Florida 14
Game 5: Florida @ Tennessee, October 4
Talk about a monkey on your back. The last time Tennessee beat Florida, I was in elementary school. They’ve beaten Florida exactly two times in Knoxville in the last ten games played there- and one was directly due to a blown call by an official, while the other came in overtime. So expect Tennessee to fight, and Florida to play sloppy football for awhile. But this team is too good to lose to the Vols. Justin Worley struggles all day as the Gators squeak out win number ten in a row over the Vols.
Projection: Florida 20, Tennessee 17
Game 6: LSU @ Florida, October 11
A huge game in the Swamp, to say the least, and Florida’s first realistic toss up game of the year could make or break the entire season, even if it’s not a divisional game. Losing to LSU, in addition to at Alabama, puts Florida at a major disadvantage in the SEC East race. Thus, I expect Florida to give LSU their best shot. But freshman running back Leonard Fournette scores the game winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter to break the hearts of Gator fans everywhere.
Projection: LSU 14, Florida 10
Game 7: Missouri @ Florida, October 18
A loss to LSU the week before has the Florida players steaming, and they’ll take it out on what seems to be a shell of the Mizzou team that won the SEC East a year ago. Maty Mauk is a decent quarterback, and he has a decent running game behind him. But heavy personnel losses to the receiving corps and defense will be too much for Missouri to overcome, and Florida will roll over them after struggling early.
Projection: Florida 38, Missouri 16
Game 8: Florida vs. Georgia (Jax- Georgia is home team), November 1
Florida simply has to beat Georgia if Will Muschamp wants to keep his job in 2015. The lone exception is if he wins 11 games again (including a bowl game/SEC Championship Game, so figure either 10-2 with a bowl/SEC Championship win or 11-1 with a bowl/SEC Championship loss). Losing four in a row to the Dogs is simply unacceptable, and coupled with losses to LSU and Alabama, it would be the final nail in his coffin. So the Gators are going to give it their best shot with their coach’s job riding on it. But it’s not enough; Georgia’s much better defensively and they still have a decent offense. Todd Gurley scores the game winning touchdown late, putting Muschamp’s job security on life support.
Projection: Georgia 27, Florida 23
Game 9: Florida @ Vanderbilt, November 8
Vanderbilt isn’t terrible, but let’s be real, last year was some sort of alternate universe. Desperate and beaten down after the Georgia loss, the Gators will restore some normalcy to the college football world by pummeling Vandy like they always do. QB Patton Robinette is in for a long day, and with eight starters to replace on defense, breaking that ~25 point line that Kurt Roper is aiming for should be a breeze.
Projection: Florida 34, Vanderbilt 10
Game 10: South Carolina @ Florida, November 15
It’s always a story in itself when the Head Ball Coach comes back to Gainesville, even though he’s been at South Carolina almost as long as we he was at Florida. His Gamecocks are as good as ever, but they always find a way to lose that late season game that they shouldn’t on paper, and this year, it’s going to be against Florida in the Swamp. Mike Davis is going to get his yardage, but Florida’s defense will stuff him when it matters most to save Muschamp’s job for another week.
Projection: Florida 30, South Carolina 20
Game 11: Eastern Kentucky @ Florida, November 22
Are you kidding? Two of the nation’s worst teams to start the year and now we get an FCS team that goes .500 every year and- most importantly- does’t run the triple option? It may be a bad thing, actually, that Florida plays such a bad team before playing such a good team in FSU, because adjusting to the speed and talent level isn’t easy. But in terms of this game, well, it figures to be a joke. After what happened last year, EKU’s jerseys may as well read “Georgia Southern”, because Florida’s going to treat this game like a rematch- and thus, they’re going to turn it into a blowout.
Projection: Florida 55, Eastern Kentucky 13
Game 12: Florida @ Florida State, November 29
I wish I could predict a “Ron Zook Field” moment here with a straight face, but I can’t. The truth is that this FSU team is going to be much better than that FSU team ten years ago was, and with the Noles fighting for a spot in the college football playoff, they’re not going to lose this game. Now, as for the 2015 game in Gainesville? This far in advance, yeah, I like Florida’s chances. Not this year, though. FSU wins convincingly enough to put Florida at 8-4, which will really heat up the debate among Florida fans about Will Muschamp’s future.
Projection: FSU 28, Florida 13