TAMPA — Throughout the season, Florida’s defense has had to carry the offense. Those roles likely will be reversed in the Outback Bowl, which, of course, is probably a frightening prospect for many among Gator Nation.

The defense is so depleted by injuries, especially at linebacker, that the matchup against Iowa’s powerful downhill running game very well could turn into a mismatch Monday. That means the defense will be on the field for long periods of time and wearing down over the course of what is expected to be a hot afternoon.

The much-maligned offense needs to help its defense. It can do that by playing with consistency and mounting some long scoring drives like they showed they’re capable of doing against Alabama’s stout defense in the SEC Championship Game.

At times, when the offense flashes its promise like it did against the Tide, the Gators don’t seem that far off on offense. At other times, when they’re going three-and-out and nothing good is happening, it’s appears miles away from where Jim McElwain wants it to be.

After being around McElwain and the players this week, I’m getting the feeling the offense will start coming around and realizing its potential in 2017. But will it happen this early, on just the second day of the year?

Probably not. But the offense is capable of doing just enough to score some points and keep its defense relatively fresh by playing with consistency and generating some time-consuming drives.

It’s not going to be pretty; it never is with this team. But somehow, someway, the Gators will come up with a positive closure for 2016 and a positive beginning for 2017.

Prediction: Florida 16, Iowa 13.

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