Throughout the years, the Gators have been supremely talented and produced a lot of draft picks. They also have been in the SEC championship game the last two years, but the reason they have gotten killed against Alabama is because of the offense. After the spring game, it seems Feleipe Franks has taken a solid lead in the quarterback battle.
The Red-Shirt freshman slung 119 passing yards and a TD in only a half of football. Even Jim McElwain has made it clear that Franks has taken the lead in the QB battle. Coaches usually do not reveal a lead candidate unless one candidate has jumped way above the other. The pro-style QB has weapons like Antonio Callaway at WR and Jordan Scarlett in the backfield. I strongly believe the Gators will be lethal on offense.
The other factor is the schedule, the two tough non-conference games they have are Michigan and Florida State. By those programs pedigrees, those would be major wins and Florida will be a far superior offensive team than the Noles or the Wolverines. Florida gets away with not playing Alabama or Auburn this season, and their tough SEC games are all in the swamp: LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Ever since Jarrett Stidham announced on his Twitter that he would be attending Auburn, I have bought in. This was a team that last season made the Sugar Bowl with an average (at best) QB. Sean White did the job he needed to do last season: feed the run game, be a sideline to sideline passer, and do not turn the ball over.
He did just that, but now comes a different dynamic. It is like going from a Lexus to the Ferrari, with the same roster. Stidham is an elite down the middle of the field passer with elite dual threat ability. It won’t be just him running in that backfield, as Auburn was the best rushing team in the SEC last season and they return both Pettway and Johnson.
With the loss of Carl Lawson, it is only natural that the defense will take a step back, but they will still be adequate. We have seen in the past that the elite QB’s will push their teams to the top in modern schemes of college football. Clemson did not beat Alabama last season with their defense, they won with quarterback play. Auburn has a tough schedule though, the second week of the season they travel to Death Valley to play Clemson, which will most certainly set the tone for the season.
The meat of their schedule is brutal, they have a road stretch where they go to the other Death Valley in Baton Rouge to play LSU, then Arkansas in Fayetteville, which according to Jalen Hurts was the loudest place he played in. After UARK, they have a bye, but after that play Texas A&M in College Station, and then host Georgia.
The middle of that schedule needs to be dominated in order to make the CFB playoff, but I believe even if they lose to LSU and Clemson, this is the season they stick it to Alabama in the Iron Bowl. This year, the Iron Bowl is in Auburn and the Tigers have the clear advantage in the QB matchup. Watch out for the Tigers, they’re coming Bama fans.
Ahh yes, the team everybody has bought into because of their star safety Derwin James. Yeah, I did fall for the trap last season and picked them ahead of Bama. I actually thought Deandre Francois was the next Jameis Winston after the Ole Miss game. I can’t believe I fell for a game versus an Ole Miss defense, we all have our cold takes. This season I will NOT buy them as a CFB playoff team, screenshot this now, #7 will be as high as they get.
Right away, they play the best team in the nation, which is Alabama, and they lost all of their offensive weapons. Usually, if you do not have many offensive weapons versus the Tide, the results do not favor you, just ask the guys in Gainesville. FSU lost arguably the best dynamic offensive weapon in RB Dalvin Cook. He was the only reason FSU was competitive in that game against Michigan. Deandre Francois threw 27 total passes and only completed 9 of them. That is a solid 33% completion rate, which would probably make Tim Tebow proud.
Cook rushed for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns, that is a big hole to fill. The likely replacement is true freshman running back Cam Akers, who is supremely talented, but he has not ripped any college turf yet.
Among that project, FSU lost DeMarcus Walker, who was one of the best pass rushers to ever wear the garnett and gold. With the inconsistency of Deandre Francois, they also lost Travis Rudolph, who registered 840 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, another card removed from Jimbo’s shrinking deck.
The Seminoles schedule is not too brutal, nothing like Auburn will see. The play Bama, Miami, UF, Louisville, and Clemson as their toughest opponents, and only Clemson and Florida are on the road. The middle of their schedule is incredibly easy, the type of easy that can turn disastrous.
They have a stretch where they play NC State, Wake, have a bye, Duke, Louisville, BC, and then Cuse. I think they lose the Louisville game, but the trap games are Duke and Cuse. They both had their big moments last season due to good QB play. Eric Dungey (Syracuse) is an explosive QB and Daniel Jones (Duke) looks to have made massive strides after that horrendous UVA game. If they lose one of those, kiss the playoffs goodbye.
Dark Horse Teams
Teams that could become a dark-horse for the playoffs include, Oklahoma State, Georgia, and West Virginia. All three of those teams now possess dynamic quarterbacks, WVU picked up Florida transfer Will Grier, who will grate Big 12 defenses like parmesan cheese. Besides, when is the last time a QB transfer from UF ever worked out? (he plays for the Carolina Panthers).
Oklahoma State won’t be able to stop anybody. A beer league flag football team could probably score 35 on them. The modern scheme of college ball does not care about defense, they have QB Mason Rudolph, arguably the best WR in the FBS with James Washington, and have a 1,000 yard rusher in Justice Hill. The Cowboys will compete. Now we have Georgia, a mystery team. They have Jacob Eason, who is hopefully past the freshman blues, and return RB Nick Chubb. If they can stop dropping Eason’s passes, they might be in good shape.