Most weren’t sure what to expect from the Florida Gators in 2015. The expectation was that they would be better under new head coach Jim McElwain. Just how much better was up in the air.
Things couldn’t have started out much better. Florida opened up 6-0 and had just recently destroyed No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10. They then lost starting quarterback Will Grier to a suspension and the offense was never the same.
Florida would lose at No. 6 LSU 28-35 for their first defeat. They responded with 4 more wins, but were struggling to get back bad teams.
The last 3 games left a bad taste in the mouths of Gator fans. They were embarrased at home by in-state rival Florida State 27-2. After they they lost 15-29 to Alabama in the SEC Title game. The season concluded with a ugly 7-41 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
A lot of people are going to overlook the Gators after their poor finish to last season. That would be a mistake. Florida is a legit contender to defend their SEC East title.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|11/26||@ Florida State|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread
The first thing you have to look at with SEC East teams is who they draw out of the West. Florida gets LSU and Arkansas with the game against the Tigers at home. It’s also important to note that the Gators have just 3 true conference road games.
The Gators should have no problem getting out to a strong start. They open with 3 straight home games against UMass, Kentucky and North Texas. All of which they figure to be double-digit favorites.
Then comes the game that a lot of people will have circled. Florida travels to Tennessee on Sept. 24. The Volunteers are the early favorites to win the East and this game could very well decide the champion. The Gators have won 11 straight in the series, but barely squeaked out a 28-27 win a year ago.
The two other key games for Florida is that home game against LSU and neutral matchup against Georgia. If they can win these two, they will be in great shape to win the East, even with a loss at Tennessee.
Depending on how things play out, the finale at FSU could have huge playoff implications.
Florida was a prime example of how quarterback play can make or break a team. The Gators averaged 32.2 ppg in their first 6 under Grier and just 16.5 in the other 8 games without him.
Treon Harris stepped in and did the best he could, but he really struggled in the passing game. He completed just 50.6% of his attempts with just 9 touchdowns in 235 attempts.
Harris returns for junior season, but has been moved to wide receiver. The big question is who will take over at quarterback. McElwain has plenty of options. The frontrunners are transfers Luke Del Rio (Oregon St) and Austin Appleby (Purdue). They have a couple of talented true freshmen that were in for the spring.
Regardless of who wins the job, the offense should look more like it was with Grier than Harris. Keep in mind that McElwain has a history of getting the most out of whatever quarterback he gets his hands on.
Florida does lose leading rusher Kelvin Taylor, but the running game wasn’t great. They only averaged 127 ypg and 3.5 yards/carry. The hope is that junior college transfer Mark Thompson will step in and contribute right away.
They get back leading receiver Antonio Callaway, who shined as a freshman last year. They also return junior Brandon Powell and have a lot of young talent in the mix.
One of the problems last year was the offensive line was inexperienced. The good news is that weakness figures to be a strength this season.
While the offense was hit or miss in 2015, the defense was a constant force. The Gators held opponents to just 18.3 ppg and 310 ypg. Matching those numbers won’t be easy.
The lose studs Jonathan Bullard (DL), Antonio Morison (LB) and Vernon Hargreaves (CB). That’s a big time playmaker at all three levels of the defense departed.
The good news is they do have 6 starters coming back and a lot of talent still on the roster.
The defensive line should once again be a strength. They get back starters Bryan Cox and Caleb Brantley. They also are excited about adding in sophomore CeCe Jefferson to the starting lineup.
They have another All-American candidate back at linebacker in senior Jarrad Davis. As well as one at corner in junior Jaleb Tabor. You also have to keep an eye out for senior safety Marcus Maye.
Overall the defense figures to once again be the strength of this team.
Regular Season Win Total
SEC East Odds
SEC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
There’s plenty of reason to be excited if you are a Gators fan. It typically takes a head coach a couple years just get things headed in the right direction.
McElwain stepped in and got immediate results in his first year. It’s not out of the question that they could be even better in 2016. More of his recruits will be on the field and players have a better understanding of his systems.
My big concern is the offense and what will they get out of the quarterback position. It should be better, but it’s no guarantee. I took a conservative approach and called for a 6-2 finish in the SEC and 9-3 record overall. I have them losing two of their three against Tennessee, LSU and Georgia, along with FSU.
Win Total Prediction