Photo: University of Florida
The offseason is known by many as “talking season,” and no talking season is complete without making some predictions. Throughout the month of August, In All Kinds Of Weather will be doing just that- in a variety of forms- with the Gator football season.
First up is our win total projections. If you follow ESPN’s FPI (football power index), you already have an idea of how this works. Essentially, I’m going to go game by game, and assign a percent chance that Florida wins each game. I will then add them all up to get Florida’s projected win total.
The percentages are out of a hundred, but divided by 100 to get an estimate for each win. So in this case, 100% = 1, a 90% chance = 0.90, and so on. If, for example, I gave Florida a 75% chance to win each individual game on its schedule, I would officially be projecting a 9-3 record for Florida, as 12 X 0.75 = 9. If I gave Florida a 50% chance to win each of the twelve games on its schedule, I’d officially be projecting a six win season.
One difference between my projections and the FPI, though: the FPI doesn’t take anomalous factors such as luck, time of year, game temperature, or specific position matchups into account. They just use a cocktail of total team talent, returning starters from the year before, and how they did the year before. I’m using any and all possible variables to come up with my projections. Make sense? Great! Then let’s get to some Gator football projections!
Game One: Utah Utes
Fourteen years after bellyaching about how they deserved to play Florida for the national championship in 2008, Kyle Whittingham and the Utes will finally get their shot. For all the talk about the Pac-12 not playing the same brand of football as the SEC, Utah’s got weapons that Florida will have their hands full trying to stop: dual-threat QB Cam Rising has a returning 1,000+ rusher in Tavion Thomas and two pass-catching tight ends in Dalton Kincaid and Brant Kuithe. Playing in the early September Florida heat, though, even in a 7:00pm game, could spell trouble for the Utes’ defense if Florida’s offensive line and deep stable of running backs can wear them down. Then again, it’s game one of a new defensive scheme, and historically, Florida always struggles in the tackling department in season openers to begin with. On a neutral field, I’d consider Utah the favorite, but I give Florida a razor-thin edge here because of its daunting home-field advantage. Florida’s chance to win: 51%
Game Two: Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is officially a serious threat for the Gators after splitting the four games in which they faced Dan Mullen. The Wildcats lose a lot of pieces from last year’s team, but they do have mobile quarterback Will Levis back, and he can sling the ball as well as run it. Fortunately, the Gators will have gotten some experience against a dual-threat QB the week before in Utah, and I do think that helps somewhat. I also expect Florida’s defense to clean things up between week one and week two, and the fact that Kentucky, like Utah, will be unfamiliar with the heat and humidity enveloping them for at least the first half helps too. The natural talent advantage has to go to Florida, as it does pretty much every year, but Mark Stoops has compensated for that by building a nasty street-fighter of a program that scraps and claws for everything. As a result, you can expect another nailbiter either way. With this game in the Swamp, though, I’m taking the leap of faith that Florida buys into what Billy Napier is preaching, locks down in the fourth quarter and toughs it out- but any prediction on this game should be made with a pretty low degree of confidence. Florida’s chance to win: 59%
Game Three: South Florida Bulls
Yawn. Last year, Florida went up 35-3 over South Florida- with Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson rotating in and out- midway through the second quarter before taking a nap and cruising to a 42-20 win. The Bulls went on to finish 2-10 last year, promise to be little better this year, and now they’re traveling to the Swamp as the Gators’ first sacrificial lamb (or I guess cattle?) of the season. It would take a meltdown of cataclysmic proportions for this game’s outcome to reasonably be in doubt by the time Tom Petty blares through the Gainesville night, and if that’s the case, it spells major trouble for the rest of the season. But let’s not think that way. You can Sharpie this one in as a win. Florida’s chance to win: 98%
Game Four: @Tennessee Volunteers
Florida’s post-Zook dominance of Tennessee almost feels too good to be true. Terrible Florida teams, mediocre Florida teams, and great Florida teams alike have beaten the Vols like a drum since 2005, and it feels like it has to stop at some point. A season in which the Gators hit the road for the first time after three straight home games to start the year might be the formula for that, particularly when that road environment is notorious for its hostility and that team the Gators are facing has a legitimate quarterback, a strong offensive line and a playmaking wide receiver (Cedric Tillman). Of course, Florida has a counter to Hendon Hooker named Anthony Richardson, and the Gators do have a slight overall natural talent advantage, but to me, this smells like a game where Florida turns the ball over a bunch of times and shoots itself in the foot with self-inflicted penalties. Florida’s chance to win: 32%
Game Five: Eastern Washington Eagles
Beyond North Dakota State, James Madison, and Jackson State, EWU is one of the best FCS programs out there. Now in his sixth season, Aaron Best has done a nice job of picking up where his predecessor Beau Baldwin left off. And you can bet that the Eagles will circle this game as their Super Bowl- the game that they’ve dreamed their whole lives of playing. Unfortunately for them, they have to replace QB Eric Barriere and some key pieces on their defense and that doesn’t bode well for them as they take a massive step up in competition. I wouldn’t call this one of those “bet your house for a hundo” games, especially after Samford scared the daylights out of Florida last year, but this is the kind of game you take your young children to, whereas LSU is… not. Florida’s chance to win: 96%
Game Six: Missouri Tigers
Florida and Missouri have a weird history of ripping each other apart for exactly two games at a time before the other one takes over that duty, and now this strange series comes back to Gainesville for Florida’s homecoming. The Tigers have a ton of question marks, including at QB after Connor Bazelak transferred to Indiana and at running back after Tyler Badie graduated, and all signs point to a major rebuilding job for Eliah Drinkwitz in year three. That doesn’t mean Florida should logically be expected to blow Missouri away as is customary for one team to do in this series, but even if Florida has a subpar showing, you have to think the talent disparity takes its toll at some point. I’d be stunned if the Gators lost this one. Then again, I was stunned in 2018, so who really knows? Florida’s chance to win: 86%
Game Seven: LSU Tigers
The Gators have been snakebitten against LSU over the past dozen years, but that snake made sure to inject a little extra venom in the past two meetings: Florida was favored by 24 points in 2020 and 14 points in 2021, and lost both times. LSU, of course, is markedly different than Missouri or Kentucky in that it always recruits at an elite level because it has a product that can sell itself, and so the Tigers are right on par with (if not ahead of) Florida in the talent department. The big advantage Florida does seem to have is at the QB position, where LSU is currently engrossed in a three-way battle with Jayden Daniels, Myles Brennan, and Garrett Nussmeier. But LSU is still stockpiled with talent at every other position, highlighted by receiver Kayshon Boutte and defensive lineman Ali Gaye, and the presence of that much talent on the other team puts pressure on Richardson to have a spectacular game. A win over LSU certainly isn’t out of the question in 2022, particularly with the game being in Gainesville, but being cognizant of the litany of five-star athletes dressed in purple and gold means acknowledging that this is going to be an uphill battle. Florida’s chance to win: 41%
Game Eight: Georgia Bulldogs (Jax)
The good news: Georgia loses more than half of its playmakers from last year’s national title team. The bad news: Georgia has out-recruited Florida for the better part of the last decade, and Billy Napier can’t fix that in one year. Guys like Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and Kelee Ringo got enough playing time last year that they’re essentially just drag-and-drop pieces onto that Georgia defense. So while the faces and nameplates will be different for Georgia in 2022, Florida is still going to be swinging above its weight in Jacksonville. Do note, though: as is the case with LSU, Florida has a notable advantage at the QB position from a pure talent standpoint (although Stetson Bennett IV does have two years of experience over Richardson), and if Richardson demonstrates growth in the first seven games and the offensive line can at least give him time to operate, the Gators have a fighting chance. Five-loss Florida teams have sunken Georgia’s national championship hopes in the St. John’s River before, too, as this game tends to be a point of either salvation or redemption for underwhelming teams that see one last chance to make sure that the season is remembered for something positive. So the objective, non-homer, go-with-your-head-and-not-your-heart betting advice is to bet on Georgia to raise the final toast in Jacksonville… but not with too much money. Florida’s chance to win: 19%
Game Nine: @Texas A&M Aggies
For the third game in a row, Florida is facing a team with a question mark at QB but is loaded with talent across the board at every other position. This time, though, Florida is on the road in one of the largest and loudest environments in college football. I’d give LSU transfer (and Gator killer) Max Johnson the nod in terms of who I expect to start at QB, but this game- even more so than others- feels like it’s going to be won in the trenches. And for all the respect I have for Gervon Dexter and O’Cyrus Torrence, they’re going to have their hands full for the third straight game on their respective sides of the line of scrimmage. Plus, the Aggies have proven weapons at the skill positions in Devon Achane and Ainias Smith, and though Richardson’s dazzling talents can keep Florida afloat in any game in which he doesn’t make mistakes, it’s a pretty tough ask to expect Florida to steal a win in College Station. Don’t write the Gators off entirely in this one, but temper your expectations for it. Florida’s chance to win: 28%
Game Ten: South Carolina Gamecocks
Shane Beamer seems to have solved his quarterback problem with Spencer Rattler, at least compared to the other problems South Carolina has to deal with. Receiver Josh Vann and tight end Jaheim Bell returning should help, but the Gamecocks are going to have quite a mountain to climb just to get to a bowl game. Maybe they will have answered a lot of other question marks by game ten, but for now, that’s the profile of the team the Gators are welcoming into the Swamp for Senior Day. I’m banking on Florida having lost at least two, maybe three games in a row before this one and that doesn’t bode particularly well for a team that embarrassed Florida a year ago after the Gators had shut down the operation in Columbia. Assuming that Billy Napier’s persona has been authentic, I find it highly unlikely that the Gators are anything less than fully motivated for this one- and paired with a decisive natural talent advantage on Senior Day, Florida has to be considered a substantial favorite. The Gamecocks certainly aren’t a walkover, but you shouldn’t be tuning in for this game expecting anything terrible to happen. Florida’s chance to win: 77%
Game Eleven: @Vanderbilt Commodores
Florida’s biennial road cupcake game against Vanderbilt might be a little less fun than usual this time around. For one thing, it’s late November in Nashville, which could mean a cold, dreary, and downright physically unpleasant afternoon. (Or worse, night.) For another thing, Florida’s SEC East and New Year’s Six Bowl fates are likely to be locked in one way or another before this game kicks off. Now, this doesn’t scream “letdown game” in the sense that Florida can reasonably be placed on upset alert, but it does reek of a sluggish, subpar showing in which the Gators slog to a ho-hum two-or-three-touchdown victory and don’t even come close to touching what’s likely to be a gaudy spread. Luckily, Florida’s decades of consistently recruiting a vastly superior caliber of athlete compared to Vandy gives the Gators plenty of margin for error on a day where Florida might need it. Translation: don’t even bother with the line about Florida’s “B” game being enough to beat Vanderbilt’s “A” game, Florida’s “C” game should do just fine. Florida’s chance to win: 94%
Game Twelve: @Florida State Seminoles
In year three of the Mike Norvell era, you have to think the Seminoles will have their best team since 2016. Jordan Travis is a legitimate dual threat at QB, Jammie Robinson could quietly bid for an All-American season at cornerback, and FSU might finally have improved its offensive line to the “competent” level after being astoundingly inept there for three seasons in a row thanks to Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart. That said: FSU still does not appear to be a physical match for Florida on either side of the line of scrimmage, though they do seem to be drawing closer on the defensive line with strong run-stuffing DT Robert Cooper back for a fifth year. And the weirdness of this game- a short week being made even shorter for Florida as the visiting team that has to sit on a bus for two and a half hours- could complicate things. But the Seminoles have too many holes to objectively trust them with a wager against Florida. Call the Gators a moderate, not a massive, road favorite on Black Friday. Florida’s chance to win: 70%
Official projection: 7.51 wins
Add up .51, .59, .98, .32, .96, .86, .41, .19, .28, .77, .94, and .70, and you get 7.51 projected wins. Or in other words, I think an over/under of 7.5 wins for the season is an excellent O/U, with seven wins and eight wins being nearly identically likely; an 8-4 record is microscopically more likely than 7-5, with the third most likely record being 9-3.
Of course, if a bunch of those tossup games go Florida’s way, and the Gators pull a big upset or two, we could be looking at a lot more than single-digit wins… so let’s hope for that!