2015 Florida Football Predictions

Florida was able to bounce back from their dismal 4-8 campaign in 2013 to go 7-5 this past season, but it was far from the type of season that has come to be expected in Gainesville. Head coach Will Muschamp was fired with two games left in the season, ending an era of major disappointment.

It was an interesting season to say the least for Gator fans. Florida barely extended their 28-game winning streak against Kentucky, needing triple-overtime to escape with a 36-30 win. They lucked out a 10-9 win at Tennessee, before a heartbreaking 27-30 loss at LSU. They turned it over 6 times in a 13-42 loss to Missouri, where they allowed a total of just 119 yards. They pulled off a huge upset in their rivalry game against Georgia 38-20 (10-point dog), gave away a game at home against South Carolina 20-23 and nearly upset No. 1 Florida State on the road in a 19-24 defeat before a 28-20 win over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.

Depending on which way you look at, Florida could have just as easily been 9-2 or 4-7. It makes for an interesting transition into the first year under head coach Jim McElwain, who spent the last 3 years as the head coach at Colorado State. Gator fans are certainly familiar with McElwain, as he spent 5-years as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Expectations will be high starting in 2015, but chances are it will take some time for him to get Florida back to a national power.

Last Season
SEC (East)
Record
ATS Record
Over/Under
Points For
Points Against
4-4 (3rd)
7-5
7-5
8-4
30.2
21.1
Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/5 New Mexico State
-35.5
1
9/12 East Carolina
-13
.83
9/19 @ Kentucky
-1
.51
9/26 Tennessee
+4
.38
10/3 Ole Miss
+4
.38
10/10 @ Missouri
+5.5
.35
10/17 @ LSU
+14
.15
10/31 Georgia (Jacksonville)
+12
.18
11/7 Vanderbilt
-15
1
11/14 @ South Carolina
+2.5
.46
11/21 Florida Atlantic
-21
1
11/28 Florida State
+3
.43
Estimated Wins: 6.67
Roster Breakdown

One of the big reasons that the Gators brought in McElwain, is his ability to get the most out of whatever quarterback he gets his hands on. It’s a position that has haunted Florida since the departure of Tim Tebow. The Gators haven’t averaged more than 186 passing yards/game since Tebow and he wasn’t even that great a passer.

Jeff Driskel opened last year as the starter, but was eventually replaced by the more athletic true freshman Treon Harris. While Harris only completed 49.5% of his attempts, he averaged 18.5 yards/completion, which was a drastic improvement over the 10.0 ypc that Driskel put up. Harris also provided a spark on the ground, rushing for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Most would have assumed that Harris would be the starter in 2015, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Muschamp has came out and said that it’s red-shirt freshman Will Grier that’s ahead of Harris and junior Skyler Mornhinweg. Regardless of who wins the job, expect a lot better overall numbers in the passing game.

Improved quarterback play could have a positive impact all-around on the Florida offense. The Gators poor quarterback play limited their receivers and allowed opposing defenses to focus in on the run.

While they lose their leading rusher in Matt Jones, they don’t figure to suffer a setback with the return of junior Kelvin Taylor (565 yards) and sophomore Adam Lane (181 on just 24 attempts). I also think we could see a big breakout year from junior wide out Demarcus Robinson, who had 53 catches for 810 yards and 7 touchdowns last year.

The big concern for Florida and possibly the thing that will keep the offense from reaching it’s full potential, is an inexperienced offensive line that returns just 1 starter (had 4 players drafted) and had just 7 scholarship players available in the spring. With that said, they do have a lot of highly rated youngsters on the roster and should benefit from having a mobile quarterback (both Harris and Grier are dual-threats).

Florida defense was good enough last year to win the SEC East and was the one area that didn’t suffer a decline during Muschamp’s tenure. While they lose defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, McElwain did a nice job replacing him with Geoff Collins, who spent the last 4 years serving the same position at Mississippi State.

Despite having to replace a special talent in defensive end Dante Fowler, who was recently selected 3rd overall in the NFL draft, the Florida defensive line figures to be one of the best units in the SEC. The Gators get back senior defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard as well as junior defensive end Bryan Cox, but are expecting big contributions out of red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Taven Bryan and true freshman defensive end Cece Jefferson.

Luckily, middle linebacker Antonio Morrison decided to come back for his senior season, as he easily could have left early for the NFL. Morrison will be counted on to mentor juniors Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian, who are expected to take over at the two vacated spots on the outside.

Having a strong defensive line will certainly help aid the transition for the two starting linebackers, but it’s not just the players up front that will be aiding them. Florida should field one of, if not the, best secondaries in the country. They will have starting experience at all four spots and will be led by one of the elite corners in the nation in junior Vernon Hargreaves.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
SEC East Odds
SEC Championship Odds
SEC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
7.5
+600
+2800
N/A
+8000
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Season Predictions

I have learned over the years that it’s better to limit your expectations for first-year head coaches, even a big name like McElwain, which is why I’m not getting carried away and picking the Gators to win the SEC East. I have them going 4-4 in conference play, largely due to the fact that they draw both LSU and Ole Miss out of the West and have just 3 true home games in the SEC.

With that said, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Gators surprised and far exceeded my expectations. The only thing that has been holding this team back is the quarterback position. They have had 12 players drafted in the last 2 years, including 5 that have been taken in the first 3 rounds. If McElwain can work his magic with either Grier or Harris, this team is certainly capable of competing with any team on it’s schedule.

The problem is that there is almost always a learning curve when it comes to implementing new systems, especially when that’s taking place on both sides of the ball. It’s important to note that when McElwain took over a Colorado State team that had just won 3 games the previous year, they only improved to 4 wins in his first year on the job. There was then a huge jump in year two (8 wins) and three (10 wins).

2015 Projections
SEC (East)
SEC Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
4th
4-4
7-5
UNDER 7.5

Mr. East

Mr. East
MrEastSportsPicks.com

The Florida Gators have been put into the abyss of seven total SEC teams with a season win total of seven. The Gators finished 6-5 last year, and had another easy win wiped off the slate when the game against Idaho was cancelled and not reschedule, or else they would have gotten to seven. The Gators were a lot better than the 6-5 record, as three of the losses came by five at Florida State in a game they should of won, an OT loss vs South Carolina by three, and a three point loss to LSU. The Gaotors, with any luck, could have finished 10-2. Just one win in the three mentioned games, along with the completion of the idaho game, would have left them at 8-4.

The Gators are therefore under the radar coming into this season, and may in fact be the surprise team in the SEC. Their last three years of recruiting has them 2nd to Alabama with eight 5* players. Just two years ago they were losing to the likes of Georgia Southern, but last year they pasted their out of conference opponents, and that will continue this year. They have the two weakest SEC teams on the schedule in Kentucky and Vanderbilt, plus they get a reduced Florida State team at the Swamp this year.

Florida comes in at the same odds (+6600) as six other teams to win the National Championship. Those odds rank them as the 21st team from the top, so the 7-5 season projected for the Gators here does not add up. Jim McElwain should make a difference as well. Take the OVER 7 wins.

asa

ASA
ASAWins.com

UNDER 7.5 Wins – The Gators always have talent but they did lose a bunch of experience with 31 lettermen moving on. That’s second most in the SEC. They also have new systems on both sides of the ball with new head coach Jim McElwain coming over from Colorado State. We think he is a very solid coach, however our opinion is the 2016 or even 2017 season is when we’ll see a big jump in terms of wins. Two years ago the Gator offense was abysmal scoring only 18 PPG. It took a jump forward last year (30 PPG), however we don’t think it was as much improved as it might have appeared. They put up big numbers against the poor teams they played. In SEC play they averaged just 25 PPG on 338 total yards. Not great. The offensive line might be the least experienced in college football. Just one player on the offensive front has ever started a game. That’s it. The defense was 9th in the league in PPG allowed but they should be improved. A tough slate, inexperienced offense, new head coach, and only 3 SEC home games have us looking at the UNDER for the Gators.

More College Football Predictions