They say one should not read too much into an opening-game performance. But I feel compelled to do so after watching the Gators stagger and stumble to an unimpressive 24-7 win over what was supposed to be an outmanned UMass team.
My first take is that this Florida team is nowhere as good as I thought it was going to be. I guess some of the readers are right: I drank the Kool-Aid during the preseason when they were so many positive vibes coming out of the Florida camp. I feel misled.
Quarterback play certainly is better, and the scheme is certainly better, but that offensive line looks just as soft and suspect as it did a year ago. If those guys struggled against an undersized UMass defensive front, imagine the carnage that lies ahead with the start of SEC play. Again, like last season, points are going to be hard to come by.
My second take is on Luke Del Rio. He’s a smart guy, he obviously knows the offense and where to go with the football, but I question his arm strength. There’s been a lot of talk about getting the downfield passing game going this season, but I don’t know if his arm is strong enough to really stretch the field and the defense. That means opposing defenses are not going to be afraid to compress the field, which means more players along the line of scrimmage and less chance of generating a consistent ground game.
My third take is that this is a team that’s going to have to rely on defense and special teams — I know, the special teams thing sounds strange after what happened there last season — to stay in games and win games. So, basically what I’m saying is this season could look similar to last season in terms of style of play. So, brace yourselves for a lot of low-scoring (and boring) games.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, on to this week’s game against Kentucky.
The Wildcats definitely have a chance to end their 29-game losing streak to the Gators. They have a good quarterback and some explosive playmakers on offense and will inflict some damage on the UF defense. And they may not have to inflict a whole lot because it’s doubtful the Florida offense is going to produce a bunch of points. I know, the UK defense was awful in the second half against Southern Miss last week, but with UF’s offensive line in the state that it is, the Gator offense has a chance to be the cure for the ’Cats on that side of the ball.
I’m tempted to pick a historic UK win that will end the streak. But I’m going to go, just barely, with the Gators in this one. Florida will find a way to win the game, but there’s no way the Gators will cover the 16-point spread. That’s a guarantee.
Prediction: Florida 31, Kentucky 20