Florida Gators

I Will Take My Talents To…

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the Early Signing Period in the rearview mirror and bowl season over, the last big day for college football before spring practice is National Signing Day.

With many of the top recruits from the 2020 class already signed, who is left for the top programs to pick up on Wednesday, February 5th?

Five Star Running Back Zack Evans is the number 1 running back in the class of 2020.

By far the wildest recruitment of the 2020 cycle. Evans signed a LOI (Letter of Intent) with the Georgia Bulldogs back in December, got cold feet, and asked to be released from his LOI.

Georgia obliged and now Evans is back on the market as an extremely talented athlete with some off the field issues.

This recruitment still seems very cloudy through, as Evans has left a lot of coaches guessing. This is shaping up to be a Tennessee, Ole Miss and Georgia battle. Alabama, Florida and LSU have rescinded their offers over the past few weeks.  My Pick: Georgia

Four Star Safety Avantae Williams backed off his early commitment to the Oregon Ducks back in December.

Williams is the 9th ranked safety in the 2020 class.

He is a hard-hitting safety that can cover a lot of ground. Williams’ recruitment is a battle between Miami, Florida and Georgia. My Pick: Florida

Four Star Offensive Lineman Sedrick Van Pran has been committed to Georgia since August.

Van Pran has taken official visits to Alabama and is scheduled to be at Florida this weekend.

With the departure of former Offensive Line coach San Pittman, Van Pran seems to have opened up his recruitment. It would be shocking if Van Pran is not a Bulldog come National Signing Day. My Pick: Georgia

Four Star Running Back Jahmyr Gibbs has been committed to Georgia Tech since May.

After a very strong senior season, Gibbs has received offers from Ohio State, LSU, Georgia and Florida.

While Florida and Ohio State have put on the full court press, Gibbs will stay firm to his commitment. My Pick: Georgia Tech 

Four Star Athlete Damarcus Beckwood has hopes of playing college football and basketball.

The 6-foot-4, 220 pounder is a versatile weapon on offense playing both wide receiver and tight end in high school.  This is a battle between Tennessee and Florida. My Pick: Florida 

February 5th marks the final day of the 2020 recruiting cycle. National Signing Day will still be important as there are a couple highly touted 2020 high school prospects that remain uncommitted.

And there will always be the few flipped prospects that make headlines on National Signing Day.

Since Dan Mullen’s time at Florida, the Gators have used the transfer portal to pluck talented players. The Gators have landed four star Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes in Mullen’s first year at Florida.

Last season, the Gators landed five-star defensive end, Brenton Cox.

This season is much different, the Gators signed a pair of five stars in running back Lorenzo Lingard and wide receiver Justin Shorter. Both players have applied for waivers with the NCAA.

Kirby Smart used the portal to add quarterback Jamie Newman. Newman has one season of eligibility and should be the front runner for QB1 for the Bulldogs.

Can Newman do what Joe Burrow did for LSU?

The Best All-Time

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

LSU just finished one of the most dominant football seasons in recent memory with a 42-25 win over Clemson for the National Championship.

It was LSU’s third national championship this century to go along with titles in 2003, and 2007. I have been watching college football since the 1970’s and here are my top five college football teams in the window:

Honorable Mention: 1976 Pittsburgh 12-0: The Panthers with Heisman winner Tony Dorsett drilled SEC Champion and 4th ranked UGA in the Sugar Bowl 27-3 as Dorsett rushed for over 200 yards.

1999 Florida State 12-0: The Seminoles beat a Michael Vick led Virginia Tech team in the Sugar Bowl to win Bobby Bowden’s second National Title in Tallahassee. Where have those days gone FSU fans?

2005 USC: 12-1: The Trojans were a great team that lost to Texas for the National Title. Reggie Bush and company were defending champions but this team was better than their 2004 title team.

1979 Alabama 12-0: This was Bear Bryant’s last National Title team at Alabama.

They won seven games by 20 or more points. The Tide led the nation in scoring defense and beat a very good Arkansas team 24-9 in the Sugar Bowl.

2018 Clemson 15-0: This team beat Alabama 44-16 to capture the National Title, and blew out Notre Dame in the semifinals 30-3. Dominant defense with four NFL players on the defensive line.

My Top Five College Football Teams of All-Time:

  1. 1996 Florida 12-1: This was great football team and Steve Spurrier’s only National Champion that blew out unbeaten FSU 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl to avenge a 24-21 regular season loss to the Seminoles.

Bob Stoops was the defensive coordinator and the team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel at QB and All-American receivers Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony.

The Gators outscored their opponents 612-228 during the season. The Ole Ball Coach put Florida football on the map when he took the job in 1990 and won 127 games in 12 years in Gainesville.

  1. 2005 Texas 13-0: Vince Young led the Longhorns to a classic 41-38 win over USC in the Rose Bowl.

Texas scored 652 points during the 2005 season while giving up only 213. The Rose Bowl that year may be the greatest college football game I have ever watched on television.

  1. 2001 Miami 12-0: The 2001 Canes only allowed 117 points all season, and hammered Nebraska 37-14 in the Rose Bowl for the title.

Many say this was the most talented team in the history of college football with players like Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, this roster was littered with future Pro-Bowlers.

  1. 2019 LSU 15-0: The first team in the history of the SEC to go 15-0. Led by Heisman winner Joe Burrow, who tossed for 60 TD’s to only 6 Int’s on the season.

This LSU team will go down as the best team in the history of the SEC. The Tigers beat Clemson for a National Title, while Clemson was riding a 29-game winning streak.

This team beat five teams ranked in the top 10 of the final rankings, and six of the top 15. This team will stand the test of time for greatness.

1.1995 Nebraska 13-0: The most dominant team in college football history. The 1995 Cornhuskers averaged 53 plus points a game and defeated four teams ranked in the Top 10.

No team all year came closer than 23 points to the Huskers, and this team beat a great undefeated Florida team 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl and it looked like men playing middle schoolers.

27 players from this team played in the NFL. QB Tommie Frazier is one of my favorite college football players of all-time. He Led the Huskers to back to back National Championships in 1994 and 1995.

There you have it folks. College Football is our greatest game. Nothing really comes close.

Sunshine Rivalry

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

This is the best week of the year for college football fans.

Rivalry week is finale week to yet another college football season.

The feast begins Friday night at the Bounce House with “The War on I-4”, and ends Saturday night with Florida vs. Florida State.

We have heard it so many times in our college football lives, “You can throw the record book out when these two teams get together.”

This year it may be different, both UCF and Florida are heavy favorites in their respective matchups.

“The War on I-4” is the end of the year battle between UCF and South Florida. The Knight’s open up as a 23-point favorite. These are two teams heading in polar opposite directions.

The Bulls lead all-time series 6-4, but the Knights have won the last two games of the “War on I-4.”

Take it from me, this game is going to be a blow out! The Bulls have lost three home games in a row against Temple, Cincinnati and Memphis. Coach Charlie Strong is on the “HOT SEAT.” We can call it a local rivalry game, but the Bulls are no match for the Knights in 2019.

UCF has been one of the best offensive teams in the country with the points to prove it. The Knights have 30 or more in 31 straight games, which is the longest streak in the AP poll era (1936).

On Friday night, the Knights will extend the 30 or more point streak as they boat race the Bulls.

My prediction is this game is going to be ugly if you are a South Florida Bull.

Like all UCF home games this season, the game will be over by half time.

UCF 56 South Florida 20

Florida versus Florida State: The sheer richness of noteworthy games, assures us some wild rides and crazy results.

The Gators haven’t beaten the Seminoles in Gainesville since 2009. Since 2000, Florida State holds a 10-9 advantage, despite how close the record is the games have not been close.

Just two short years ago, the Florida Gators were in the same boat as this Florida State team. Florida fired Jim McElwain mid-season and the Seminoles thumped the Gators 31-13.

Fast forward to 2019, Florida State has fired Coach Will Taggart. Florida State is 2 and 0 since Intern Coach Odell Haggins took over the reins. The Seminoles became bowl eligible with a convincing 49-12 victory over Alabama State.

Coach Haggins is 4 and 0 for his career as a head coach at Florida State. Saturday night in the Swamp Coach Haggins will take his first lost.

Florida State has been a dumpster fire since the day Willie Taggart was hired. Don’t get me wrong, the Seminoles have a lot of talented players on their roster. It’s just those players talent has not translated into wins for the Seminoles.

Quick fact: Florida State ranked 124 in the NCAA in pass defense (the lowest in School history). The Gators ranked 19 in the NCAA in pass offense.

Florida State will start the game with a lot of fire and desire but at the end of the day they are no match for this year’s Gator team.

The Gators are playing for a New Year’s 6 bowl, and they would like to send their senior class of 18 players off with a victory.

The Seminoles have given up 36 sacks and 102 hurries in 2019, whereas the Gators have sacked the quarterback 38 times and 134 hurries.

Side note: Florida State’s search for a new head coach has taken a few turns over the past few weeks.

First, FSU strikes out on Bob Stoops. Next, brother Mark Stoops tells FSU no thanks.

The hot names are Norvell, Campbell, Clawson and Haggins.

Also, a report surfaced that Willie Taggart did not sign his contract. This report is not correct Willie Taggart signed his contract, but FSU administration did not sign. Just like the regular season FSU cannot finish.

Final Score:  Florida 45 Florida State 20

Dropped The Ball

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2002 Georgia Bulldogs finished the season as SEC Champions for the first SEC title in 20 years for UGA.

UGA beat FSU in the Sugar Bowl and finished ranked #3 nationally. This was Mark Richt’s best football team in his 15 years at UGA, but the only blemish on the schedule was at The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail party. Here is that dreadful day through the eyes of this writer.

November 2, 2002 was a beautiful day in Jacksonville.

Weather was great and Georgia fans were in Jacksonville in force.

UGA was unbeaten, Spurrier was gone to the NFL and Florida was down. They were coming into the game with three losses for the first time since the 1980’s.

This was going to be the year that UGA put UF in its place and took control over the series again.

UGA fans had been beaten into submission by the Evil Genius before he took the Washington Redskins job. Spurrier had gone 11-1 against UGA in his 12 years in Gainesville.

Ron Zook was the Florida coach and UGA came into this game very confident that they would blow out Florida.

I was supremely confident also. You could tell early in the day that the Gator Nation was nervous, and we smelled that and it was like a hungry football team attacking an all you can eat country buffet.

The game was the first and only night game at the Cocktail party. I have never talked so much trash at a football game in my life.

I just knew unbeaten UGA was going to blow out the Gators. I had my best trash talk lines ready like “Shreveport in December at the Poulan Weed Whacker Bowl, you better have a winter jacket Gators”, or my favorite “The Grand Ole Opry at Christmas time is the highlight of a Music City Bowl Trip”.

We knew well because UGA was just there the previous season, but when talking trash facts do not enter into the mix, and it’s UGA/UF and we had an 8 hour tailgate experience and who cares Georgia keeps Florida from falling into the ocean on any map or atlas you can purchase.

We started the walk from our tailgate spot to the stadium looking like Ric Flair making a championship match entrance and talked down to just about every Florida fan that would make eye contact.

We got to our seats and settled in, thankfully. Drink of the day was Jim Beam and 7-Up.

Fred Gibson was hurt and could not play. Billy Bennett missed 3 FG’s and Rex Grossman threw the WR screen pass 237 times that day and UGA just could not stop it.

At halftime I talked Scott Spence out of walking back to the truck. When UGA struggles Spence will head to back to the vehicle in a New York second. Then it happened trailing 20-13 in the 4th quarter Terrence Edwards dropped a wide open TD pass that would have tied it and reality starts creeping in.

Well UGA blows the game and a National Championship appearance to UF, and in classic Gator form they were waiting on us on what seemed like 10 mile walk back to the truck.

One lady yelled in my ear “Same ole Georgia” It escapes me what my response was back. One guy was standing on top of a planter yelling “I heard a lot of crap coming in here today, but I don’t hear anything now”.

We labeled the one hour trip back from Jax to the Golden Isles as “The Trail of Tears”. I fired Mark Richt after this game. 5th straight loss to the Gators.

Looking back on this makes me understand now that this isn’t the same ole Georgia of 2002.

Kirby has instilled toughness in the program. Georgia has better talent, and a two game winning streak and has physically whipped Florida over the past years to a combined score of 78-24.

Give me UGA 27-20 in 2019, but the game is on November 2nd again, however which makes folks like me nervous.

Steve Spurrier created that doubt in all of us Dawg fans. Damn you Ball Coach. The WLOCP is a great American sporting event that you need to experience at least once in your lifetime.

Florida Georgia Line

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida-Georgia football rivalry began in 1915 and they have played every year since 1926, except for 1943(canceled due to war). The “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” started in 1933. Jacksonville has hosted the game with the exception of 1994 and 1995.

Georgia leads the series with 51 wins 43 loses and 2 ties.

Let’s take a look at the series by decades. Georgia owned the 1980’s winning eight times during that period.

The 1980 game, Georgia trailed 21-20 with time running out, facing a third down and long from their own 7-yard line.

Georgia quarterback Buck Belue scrambled around his end zone then found wide receiver Lindsey Scott open in the middle of the field.  I can still hear legendary Georgia radio announcer Larry Munson’s call of the play.  “Run Lindsey” lives on today in my memories.

In 1990, Florida hired its prodigal son, Steve Spurrier. The 1990’s belonged to Florida winning 9 times during that decade.

The 1993 game, Florida was leading 33-26 with five second remaining. Eric Zeier, the Georgia quarterback completed what looked like the tying touchdown to Jerry Jerman.

However, Gators cornerback Anthone Lott had called a timeout. On the next play, Lott was called for pass interference giving the Bulldogs one last chance. Zeier last pass was incomplete. Gators won 33-26

The 1994 and 1995 games are the only game since 1933 not played in Jacksonville. In 1994, the Bulldogs traveled to Gainesville and took a beating 52-10.

In 1995, the Gators went to Athens and embarrassed Georgia 52-17. Coach Spurrier stated after the game, “we wanted to be the first team to hang half a hundred on them in their own stadium, we heard no one had ever done that before.”

The 2000’s belonged to the boys from Florida. The Gators won 8 times during the 2000’s.

The 2007 and 2008 games stand out during this decade. In 2007, after a short touchdown run by Knowshon Moreno, the entire Bulldog bench rushes the field to celebrate.

Coach Mark Richt stated that he ordered his team on the field after the touchdown.  That celebration fueled the Bulldogs to a 42-30 victory. This game is remembered as “The Gator Stomp.”

The 2008 game featured two top ten teams with an inside track to the SEC Eastern Division race. The Bulldogs dominated the first half on the field but missed two field goals and failed to recover an onside kick. The Gators lead at half 14-3.

The second half was all Gators just like the 2000’s. Tim Tebow lead the Gators to a 49-10 rout of the Bulldogs.

The 2010’s are up for grab this Saturday.  Georgia leads the 2010’s 5 to 4 wins. With a win on Saturday, Georgia would win the decade battle for the first time since the 1980’s.

This may be the most significant Florida-Georgia game since 2008. The winner takes control of the division and their college playoff hopes are still alive.

Keys to the Game for the Bulldogs:

  • Establish the running game (entire offense revolves around running the ball)
  • Win the turnover battle
  • Pressure Trask

 

Keys to the Game for the Gators:

  • Tackle, Tackle & Tackle (no yards after contract)
  • Contain D’Andre Swift (there is not a team in College Football that can stop him)
  • Win the cornerback/wide receiver battles

Georgia is a 3.5 point favor. My prediction: Florida takes it 24-16

The Good, Bad and Lucky

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As someone who grew up in North Carolina and didn’t start really following college football until the late 80’s/early 90’s, I never had much interest in the Georgia/Florida rivalry.

At that time Florida was dominating the series like a father does in basketball against his 7-year-old, so unless you had some connection to either team, it was just a regular game with a clever nickname.

It wasn’t until my wife and I began our short, two-year stint in Athens (‘01-‘03), that I realized just how big the entire game, and the festivities surrounding it, were.

I don’t remember much about the 2001 game, other than the fact Florida won, but the day before the 2002 certainly stands out in my mind.

All sports fans are superstitious to some degree, whether they want to admit it or not. In the case of a fellow employee I worked with at an Athens carpet store during the 2002 season, his superstition involved a Georgia t-shirt he wore every Friday before the weekend’s game.

Leading up to the Florida game, I suppose the superstition was working, since Georgia was undefeated and ranked in the top 5. So, you can understand my surprise when this person showed up to work on that Friday, the day before arguably the biggest game of the season to that point, without his Georgia shirt.

Now it wasn’t just those of us in the warehouse that were aware of this ritual, everyone else in the building, including the owner, knew about it.

As word of the forgotten t-shirt trickled throughout the store like a game of telephone, the owner, who was apparently well versed in superstition lore, decided to step in.

Not only did he send my co-worker home to collect his t-shirt, while on the clock, but he stepped right in and filled in for him while he was gone. He, like most everyone else, didn’t want to be the jinx that caused Georgia to lose.

Since I didn’t have a dog in the fight (no pun intended), I thought the whole ordeal was pretty funny, especially since I thought Georgia was going to win.

Florida had really struggled to begin the season and Georgia was clearly the better team; just goes to show records don’t matter in any rivalry, even if it’s one you don’t pay much attention to.

Even though Florida won, the magical shirt continued to be worn every Friday as Georgia finished the season with only one loss. I guess it wasn’t only that the shirt had to be worn, but it needed to be on his body before he arrived at work in order for its mystical powers to flourish?

Now, I realize this isn’t some scandalous story, or one that ends with my buddy running down Broad St. screaming “Danny Wuerffel is my Dad”, but, when was the last time the owner of the business you work for paid you to go home because of a superstition?

Plus, over the course of the two years I lived in Athens, and five years in Georgia overall, I never encountered a situation that embodied how important the Georgia/Florida game is to its fans.

If you’re a Georgia fan, I can only hope my former co-worker remembers to wear his shirt to work on Nov. 1.

From my experience, the outcome of the game depends on it.

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Recapping last weekend college football action around the sunshine state, we have the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, to steal a line from the classic 1966 spaghetti western.

The Good:

UCF traveled to Boca Raton on Saturday and true freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel led the Knights to a 48-14 victory over FAU.

UCF’s rushing attack of McCrae (93 yards), Thompson (91 yards and a touchdown), Anderson (75 yards) and Killins (37) amassed more than 300 yards rushing for the second week in a row.

Gabriel finished the night 7 of 19 passing for 245 yard and 2 touchdowns. UCF’s defense put pressure on Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robinson all night long. UCF tallied 5 sacks with 16 tackles for loss.

Up next for the Knights is Stanford.

Stanford quarterback K.J. Castello is expected to start after missing last week’s loss to USC due to a concussion.

UCF opens as a seven-point favorite over the Cardinals. This is a classic battle of two contrasting styles. UCF wants to play fast, whereas Stanford prefers to play in a phone booth.

UCF’s defense will be challenged against Stanford’s huge offensive line.

Game time is 3:30 at The Bounce House.  Stanford melts in the fourth quarter. My take: UCF 34 Stanford 21

Florida Gators took care of business against one of their cupcakes on Saturday by shutting out UT Martin 45-0. Feleipe Franks completed 25-27 for 270 yards, 0 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. The Gators took care of business on both sides of the ball against a less talented UT Martin.

Up next for the Gators is a trip to Lexington, Kentucky to open SEC play against the Wildcats.

Both teams are 2-0 but Kentucky is forced to play without starting quarterback Terry Wilson due to injury. Wilson torched the Gators last season as Kentucky ended a 31-game losing streak vs. Florida.

Sawyer Smith will get the nod for the Wildcats on Saturday night. Kavosiey Smoke leads the Wildcat’s rushing attack 18 carries for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Florida will enter this contest with two major players out due to injury Kadarius Toney (shoulder) and C.J. Henderson (ankle).

The Gators look for revenge in the commonwealth after Kentucky broke the streak.  Gators defense too much for Smith and company. My take: Florida 31 Kentucky 16

The Bad:

The Miami Hurricanes have lost their first two games since 1978.

North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Hurricanes 28-25. The Tar Heels were led for the second week in a row by Freshman quarterback Sam Howell. Howell’s touchdown pass to Dazz Newsome with 1:01 left in the game put the Tar Heels up 28-25.

Miami had one last chance but Bubba Baxa shanked the field goal attempt wide left to seal the North Carolina victory.

Jarren Williams 30 for 39 for 309 yards and 2 touchdowns and Deejay Dallas 14 carries for 107 yards paced the Hurricanes.

Miami will rebound this week with a blowout win against an overmatched Bethune Cookman Wildcats. My take: Miami 54 Bethune Cookman 13

The Ugly:

Florida State won the game against UL Monroe but collapsed in the 2nd half again.

Leading 24-7 at half, Florida State forgot for the second week that there are four quarters to play.

UL Monroe scored on their first four drive of the second half. UL Monroe outscored the Seminoles 31-14 in the second half, and forced overtime.

Cam Akers carried the Seminoles the entire game with 36 carries for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns while also catching 5 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.

Akers scored on a third and goal to give the Seminoles lead 45-38.

UL Monroe QB Caleb Evans walked in moments later to bring UL Monroe an extra point from a second overtime.

The Seminoles got lucky when the extra point sailed wide right.

Florida State travels Virginia to open ACC conference play against the Cavaliers. Coach Taggart and company avoid a second straight disaster.

FSU right now is a dumpster fire and the Cavaliers take advantage of the chaos.  My take: Virginia 31 FSU 23.

Gators and Hurricanes

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

After all of the talking, all the predicting and all of the back and forth from both fan bases on Social Media, it’s finally here: The Miami Hurricanes and The Florida Gators kick off this Saturday.

The eyes of the College Football world will be watching Gators vs Canes when they face off at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL on August 24th.  Let’s breakdown the kick off to the 150th season of College Football.

MIAMI OFFENSE vs. FLORIDA DEFENSE

Miami just announced that they are starting redshirt Freshman Jarren Williams.

Every football fan knows the best way to take pressure off a young quarterback is run the football. Establishing the run game early is vital for the Hurricanes success in this contest.

The Hurricanes rushing attack begins with junior Deejay Dallas. Dallas had an outstanding sophomore season, compiling a team best 1,260 all-purpose yards.

Promising sophomore Cam’Ron Harris is expected to back up Dallas. However, I believe the battle will be between the Hurricanes offensive line and the Gators front seven, and whether or not Miami can run the ball.

Miami is starting a true Freshman Zion Nelson at left tackle, and redshirt Freshman John Campbell at right tackle.

Florida lost Jachai Polite, but the defensive line is 9 deep with seasoned SEC players. Todd Grantham (D-coordinator) will disguise his schemes to confuse the young QB and tackles.

The question is, can Dan Enos (Miami O-coordinator) take advantage of Grantham’s aggressive style?

Miami has explosive receivers in Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley, and Buffalo transfer KJ Osborn.  They will match up against two top corners in CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson.

One advantage for Miami in this matchup is Tight End; Breven Jordan and Will Mallory against Florida’s Linebackers David Reese and Amari Burney. Florida has always had problems with Tight Ends.

FLORIDA OFFENSE vs. MIAMI DEFENSE

This is the match up I’m looking forward to watching: Head Coach vs. Head Coach.

Miami’s front seven is probably the greatest strength for Manny Diaz and his team. The Hurricanes return their starting Linebackers Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McClould.

On the defensives line for Miami, Junior defensive ends Jonathan Garvin and Trevon Hill are looking to take full advantage of Florida’s new starters at both tackles.

If Miami has a weakness, it is in their secondary; where the Canes have to replace 3 starters from last season.

Florida’s offense will ride or die in this game behind Feleipe Franks.

Florida is loaded with skilled players like Lamical Perine, Van Jefferson, Kadarius Toney (Tag Positions) and many more. The question is can Florida’s inexperienced offense line hold up against Miami’s front seven.

Florida’s offensive line coach, Dan Hevesy will earn his paycheck in this contest.

Florida has four new starters on the offensive line; Stone Forsythe (LT), Brett Heggie (LG), Chris Bleich (RG) and Jean Delance (RT) (Delance sustained an injury in camp and is questionable for Saturday’s game). Depth is an issue; Florida doesn’t have a true utility lineman among the reserves.

COACHES

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. This is the first game for Manny Diaz as a head coach with an entirely new offensive staff.

PREDICTION

This game gives me deja vu of Florida opener in 2017 versus Michigan.

Florida starting a redshirt freshman quarterback against a tough veteran defense.

I believe Florida’s defense controls the game long enough for Florida’s offensive line to wear out Miami’s front seven.

Feleipe Franks has a big game with his arm and legs throwing for 2 scores and running for another. Florida 31 Miami 17.

The SEC East Crystal Ball

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are now under three months and counting until the start of College Football Season.

As far as I’m concerned, no other sport compares to College Football and the best conference from top to bottom is the SEC.

Clemson from the ACC won the Natty in 2018, but the ACC is nothing near the caliber of the SEC in football. If that previous statement bothers you then get some sensitivity training.  We will take a look at the SEC East.

Here are my SEC East Predictions for 2019:

Georgia 11-1: Kirby Smart is the best recruiter in the business. Georgia has the best 85-man roster in the country.

Jake Fromm could be a sleeper contender for the Heisman. The offense could be scary good with the best offensive line coach and players in the country.

Will this team lay an egg against someone they are not supposed to? History says yes.

I’m dreading the Auburn trip on 11/16. This team will play for the SEC title and will contend for the College Football Playoff. If the Dawgs win the SEC, they are in. This could finally be the year. The pass rush must improve in 2019.

Missouri 9-3: Kelly Bryant will be at QB in 2019. Barry Odom is doing a fine job in Columbia. Could the Tigers be 8-0 coming to Athens on November 9th? Florida comes calling on November 16th for second place in the East. Give me the Tigers over the Gators.

Florida 8-4: Two words, Feleipe Franks. Will Franks lead the Gators to back to back 10-win seasons?

Dan Mullen has trolled UGA in the off-season, but the schedule is tough. The Gators open against Miami and have Auburn, LSU, and Georgia in the heart of the SEC schedule.

Florida is putting all of its’ eggs in the Georgia basket, but they better be careful.

They have a solid defense, but again Feleipe Franks. If this team contends in the East it will be because of improved QB play. Can Mullen recruit with Kirby? Time will tell.

Tennessee 7-5: If the Vols win in Gainesville on 9/21 then excitement goes through the roof in Rocky Top.

Jeremy Pruitt is a fantastic coach and he is starting to put some pieces together in Knoxville.

Will Tennessee ever beat Alabama again in football? Pruitt needs two more top 15 recruiting classes to get Tennessee back to being Tennessee again. Be patient Vol fans you are on the way back.

South Carolina 6-6: The Gamecocks have a brutal schedule. Alabama and Texas A&M from the west and Clemson to close out.

I think Will Muschamp is a pretty good football coach, but with Georgia being a national power, and Florida and Tennessee on the way back it is going to be hard for Carolina to get any traction in the division.

South Carolina is putting together a good 2020 recruiting class. This team will upset someone in 2019, and ruin their season.

Kentucky 5-7: The Cats will come back down to earth in 2019. Benny Snell is gone.

The Cats host Florida early in the season after breaking a long losing streak that stretched over 30 to the Gators in 2018. Basketball is king in Kentucky. Cats go back to being a bottom feeder in football.

Vanderbilt 3-9: Vandy hosts UGA in the opener and LSU in week 3. This is going to be a long season for Vandy football.

Vandy fans might better tune into the College World Series starting this weekend as that may be the high-water mark for the athletic program for the rest of 2019.

Biggest division game: UGA vs UF in Jacksonville

Division upset of the Year: South Carolina over Texas A&M. The Aggies get caught overlooking Carolina at home the week before playing Georgia in Athens.

Bowl Teams: Georgia, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

The SEC Tournament

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Most people associate March Madness with the start of the NCAA Tournament, but for most teams the madness begins the week prior, with the conference tournaments.

You’ve got some teams whose only shot at making the big dance is by winning their conference championship. Then you have those lovely “bubble teams” that need to have an impressive showing to help sway the committee to include them. And finally, you have those teams that are safely in, but can improve their seeding with a few conference tournament wins. The SEC Tournament runs the whole gamut this year.

There are seven SEC teams entering the start of the conference tournament that need to win the whole thing in order to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

Out of those seven teams- South Carolina and the bottom six in the standings- if I had to pick one that could possibly make a run, I’d probably go with South Carolina. Not that I think they will do it, but if I had to choose a Jim Carrey “So you’re saying there’s a chance” team, it would be the Gamecocks.

The bubble teams get a little more interesting. Most bracketologists have Florida in, but I just don’t see it. Outside of their win against LSU, they don’t have another Top 25 win while having a few questionable losses.

They also have a worse conference record, and only more win, than a South Carolina team that beat the Gators in their only matchup, but isn’t even being considered to be a tournament team.

Ole Miss, and I guess to an extent, Auburn, are the other two that seem to be on the fringe. I think both of those have proven enough that even a first game exit shouldn’t prevent them from making the tournament. That said, getting a conference tournament win would solidify things a little more, especially for the team from Oxford.

Out of the “locks” Tennessee and Kentucky are playing for a possible one seed, but LSU is the team that intrigues me. With Will Wade’s indefinite suspension for what equates to a seven year old telling his teacher he isn’t chewing gum only to have the gum fly out of his mouth, how will the Tigers adjust?

They are deserving of a two seed, regardless of how they perform in the SEC tournament, but if they lose their first game would the committee downgrade them to a three seed?

The committee has shown in the past they do take player injuries and player availability into consideration when seeding; it’s not beyond the realm of possibility they could do the same thing if a team’s coach has been suspended due to recruiting violations.

As for that one seed battle between Kentucky and Tennessee, I think it depends on how Duke performs in the ACC tournament.

Gonzaga, Virginia, and UNC are all but guaranteed a one seed; if the Blue Devils were to win the ACC with a healthy Zion, I don’t think you can keep them from a one seed, either. If not, it’ll be between the Volunteers and Wildcats for that final coveted spot.

The casual fan won’t start tuning in until next week, which is a shame. For many teams their NCAA tournament has begun.

The buzzer beaters, the joy, the tears, all those things are already taking place in conference tournaments. March madness is here. Let the fun begin.