Florida Gators 2020 Season Preview and Predictions

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Samantha L. Sayre previews the Florida Gators 2020 Football season and looks at how they will fare in the new look schedule and the best bets to place on the team.

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Hey everybody, we need to be talking about the Florida Gator 2020 football season and how they are going to react to being one of possibly only three conferences that are going to be challenging for the national championship. I think what allows them to be a top contender this season is the chance they made three seasons ago by hiring Coach Dan Mullin. He had been an offensive coordinator at Florida under Coach Urban Meyer and then left to become head coach at Ole Miss. 

He was in the process of shocking some people and turning around the Ole Miss program when Florida came calling. People knew that Florida had fallen on hard times. Many sportswriters and some fans thought that it was going to take him a while to get them back to their normal upper echelon status in the SEC.

However, Coach Dan Mullen did not believe that and in two years with the Florida Gators has totally turned them around. I think exceeded, almost everyone’s expectations with a 21-5 record last season. They were 11-2 and 6-2 in conference last season while winning their second bowl game. This year, they look to be contending for the SEC title with COVID-19 wrecking havoc on the sports landscape.

Being a conference championship is automatically going to get you into the playoffs this year, but that there may be one spot for someone who loses in a championship game. Well, that may be Florida.

Quarterbacks:

Let’s start breaking down some key positions that Florida has and some that they have to get better at before they can contend. Obviously, we want to start with the quarterback, which is going to be the fifth senior Kyle Trask.  He was a two-star recruit and was not supposed to be the star of this QB class, but he certainly is. He threw for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns last year as he stepped up. This season he will be the top returning passer for the SEC. LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm are gone this year to the NFL. The Gators are looking for big things from him.  However, with this season, you never know.

So, let’s look at the backup, redshirt sophomore QB Emory Jones. He played in 11 games last season as a reserve, but Coach Mullin made sure to get him into different environments and experience.  He is extremely athletic and has had two seasons under his belt to learn the system. Jones was top rated recruit and is ready to take the helm should an injury or a Covid quarantine happen. However, it is obvious that Kyle Trask is running this team.

Running Backs:

Now let’s look at the backfield which was an issue for Florida last season.  The question is…is it going to be better this year for the running backs and offensive line. We want to look first at junior running back, Dameon Pierce.  Now, I know you are going to look up the stats and say, Sam what are you thinking? He only had 305 yards with four touchdowns. You are thinking she saying that they’re going to run the ball? WHAT? Well, they are.

Coach Mullins has made it very clear that they have to be more balanced this year. In 2018, they were pretty much balanced. The Gators were at 213.5 passing yards per game, and they were at 213.2 rushing yards per game. However, like I said last year with Kyle Trask coming on to the scene, they got really unbalanced with 300.8 passing yards per game to only 129.8 rushing yards per game. So, when you see that then you know that he is wanting to get back into the running game.

Dameon Pierce is going to be a strong part of the running game coming back. However, they’re going to be rotating their running backs. Florida got a Miami transfer, sophomore running back, Lorenzo Lingard. Again, if Covid or an injury would hit the Gators then they are set. With running two backs, they can show different speeds and different looks.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends:

If there’s anything the Gators are known for in the NFL it is their wide receivers and tight ends in recent years.  They suffered some losses by losing Van Jefferson and Freddie Swain. However, probably the best player on the team this year and last is Kyle Pitts. He was ALL-SEC last year with 54 catches and 5 touchdowns. With his size and athleticism, there are numerous NFL scouts that are going to be watching him and looking forward to drafting him, probably in the first round. Plan on him being the massive target for Kyle Trask to hit.

What we also want to look at is, they have two senior wide receivers who have been in the program with Coach Mullin and know his schemes. That is Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney. Both of them have worked in the slot and on the edge. They don’t care to go over the middle or go up the field. I think they’re going to be a staple of how Florida is actually going to stretch the field this year. So, I really see that Florida fans are going to have something to really look forward to.

Offensive Line:

I think that it’s all going to come back to the offensive line. The whole season will come down to how these guys do. Can they hold protection and opening holes? They have to be able to run the ball against the different defenses that they are going to face in the SEC. I think we all agree the SEC has the best defenses in the country. In order to succeed, and even remotely think that you have a chance at the SEC championship, you have to be able to run the ball.

The problem is the offensive line does have three starters returning however they are not deep. They have a senior Brett Heggie that they’re going to be moving over to center. They also have a Mississippi State transfer in Stewart Reese. However, the key for this season comes down to the left tackle senior, Stone Forsythe Sr. He’s 6-7 and 329 lbs. and really should be a terror.

He should be able to totally control QB Kyle Trask’s blind side. Hopefully he can push up the field and create a hole for a running back to slash through. However, if you can’t do this then they have to move him over to the right tackle and it becomes a tryout to see who can handle the left side which is so important. Then you may see Trask get antsy in the pocket during big games. I just feel like he is going to be the key to their offensive line and the running game.

Defense:

When you go in to talk about Florida’s defense, I think you have to start with their defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham. He has been a college coach and NFL coach. He loves running the 3-4 scheme where he can create mismatches and bring pressure from different areas to make sure that the offense is always kept guessing. Even with Joe Burrows, Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm in SEC last year, Florida had no 300 yard passing games on them and it all starts with the defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham.

Now, not saying that Florida didn’t take some losses last year through graduation. They surely did include their sack leader, Jonathan Grenard and their leading tackler, David Reese III. Their huge loss was their top cornerback CJ Henderson, who was taken ninth in the NFL Draft by Jacksonville. He became a huge hole that they definitely need to make sure that they fill.

Cornerbacks and Safeties:

When you hear either Coach Mullin or Coach Grantham speak about the defense. They are looking for some players to really grow into key roles and become leaders. So, let’s talk first about the back end of the defense. It was definitely the Achilles heel of the Florida Gators in 2019.

Starting with the safeties and then the cornerbacks, they are looking forward to senior safety, Shawn Davis to really control this defense and lead that secondary. He is the safety valve that is going to contain everything and make sure that it is stopped. Senior safety, Brad Stewart Jr. Will be on the other side.

Then when we look at the cornerbacks. They are looking at a potential ALL-SEC top corner in junior Marco Wilson. They are going to be putting a lot of pressure on him to take on the main receivers of every team and locking them down. But we all know that when you do that then the other side is available and can be ready to take advantage of. So, Florida is really counting on the rising star sophomore cornerback Kaiir Elam. Florida is going to need him to step up to, not necessarily be a lockdown corner, but to be able to handle himself and anything that is coming his way.

Linebackers:

The linebacking core for the Florida Gators doesn’t seem to be an issue. I’m not hearing a lot through the spring and through the summer of them being really concerned about that. You can’t be concerned when you have junior linebacker Ventrell Miller that had 55 stops last year. He will be the leader of this core and his partner in crime will be the Georgia transfer linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. He’s a 6-4 and 247lbs. that should be a top pass rusher for the Gators coming from the weak side. Then you are going to see junior Amari Burney getting into the picture to form a solid linebacking core.

Special Teams:

Let’s getting into the security blanket of Florida Gators which is kicker Evan McPherson. He was on fire last year making 34 out of 38 field goals. It was the one thing that the Gators could count on when they got near the red zone since they had problems running the ball that McPherson would give them some points.  However, the punter side is looking shaky. 

The Gators will be relying on an Australian freshman Jeremy Crenshaw to be able to control his nerves and be able to step up in big game situations. He has to be able to the coffin corner kicks to flip the field. Since Florida was 13th out of 14 SEC teams in fielding punts last season that is one thing they are concentrating on in the offseason. They’re going to be looking at trying to find someone that can actually make a difference back there and get some yardage.

Dealing with Covid-19 and Injuries:

We need to talk a little bit about the COVID-19 situation and how I think Florida will deal with that. Coach Mullin was an assistant coach under Coach Urban Meyer and they have continued to be friends. Coach Mullin has bought into the Focus 3 system that Tim Kight has developed. It relies on E + R = O which is Event + Response = Outcome. He has been teaching this to the Gators for the last two years and this season it will definitely be put into practice.

So, when COVID-19 hit. They were prepared. They were taught that this is an event and how we respond to it when create an outcome of our season. They know there are going to be many events come up this season, whether it be an injury, or whether it be someone coming down with COVID. They know they may have to be quarantine for 7-14 days and then miss two games. This is going to be an event that they are going to have to have a positive response to by stepping up as a team or a unit or a player.

I really think with them putting this system in two years ago and it being constantly preached would show many fans out there what they are made of. We saw last year how players stepped up and how units stepped up when players got hurt.  How are they going to deal with a positive player? I think the same way. I think Florida may be more prepared for this situation than some other teams.

Big Games to Look For:

Of course, the big game that is always circled on Florida’s calendar has to be the Georgia game. I think the Georgia game this year basically will be the SEC East championship game. Georgia has always given Florida issues and been a back and forth game in recent years. Florida doesn’t have to play Alabama or Auburn this year unless they meet them at the SEC Championship game. When the SEC released the additional games to make out the 10-conference game schedule then Arkansas and Texas A&M to Florida’s schedule.  The SEC will be announcing dates and times at a later date.

BETS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

On FanDuel, BetMGM and DraftKings, there are no game bets up yet for you to bet on. Back in June, the Florida games that you could bet on where Kentucky (+14.5), Tennessee (+6.5), LSU (+3.5), Georgia (-3.5), and Missouri (+17.5). Look for these games to open back up soon with lines that are similar unless a key player would be injured or opt-out. When they come out then we will discuss each and how we are betting.

Look for a bet to show up of Over/Under 8 or 8.5 games for Florida to win. I’m betting this one if I see an 8 or lower listed on an app then I want to jump on the over VERY quickly.  I don’t see Florida losing to Tennessee or Texas A&M. I think their two tough games will be LSU and Georgia with them taking care of LSU at the end of the game.

Of course, this is barring anyone being out for any reasons. So, I really look for Florida to go 9-1, but with a good chance if some luck rolls their way of going 10-0 to head to the SEC Championship game.

Florida Gators to win SEC Championship (+1200) at DraftKings

On DraftKings right now, you can get Florida at +1200 and on FanDuel right now, you can get Florida at +700.  Obviously, DraftKings is the better value. I’m going to encourage you to throw some money at it.  No, I’m not betting the bank and I’m not guaranteeing it.  However, I think this season may become a crapshoot quickly with Covid playing a factor.

With their program philosophies and their backups, I think that Florida has a definite chance at getting to the SEC Championship and if they get there then you never know. I think with the different looks that Coach Grantham runs on defense that they could confuse Alabama some.

The main issue is going to be the offensive line and whether Florida can run the ball to open up the pass. Do I think they do? Hmm…probably not, but I have enough doubt if I can get +1200 or higher then I’m going to throw some money at them because you don’t know where the cards are going to fall.

Florida Gators to win National Championship

I think that if the Florida Gators make it to the SEC Championship…win or lose that they will be in the playoffs. Again, you have no clue how it could go with injuries, the possible flu coming and Covid. Right now, on BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel there are no National Championship odds, but I’m going to bow out of this one.  I’m not sure what kind of value you may be able to get.

I’m totally looking forward to this season and keeping up with everything that goes on from week to week. Going to be FUN! Can’t wait. Just glad we have some sports to look forward to.

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