Special Preview- Week Zero

Miami Hurricanes at (8) Florida Gators

Miami: After a magical 2017 season that saw the iconic football institution get back to relevance, 2018 was a disappointment for the Miami Hurricanes. Coming into a year with high expectations, the consistency just wasn’t there for the program known as “The U”. Even when they did win their division a few years back, everything was going smoothly for them. They were consistent in running the football, the defense was one of the best in the nation, how could we forget that? Anytime they recorded a turnover, the infamous “turnover chain” came out! Remember that? The one question mark they’ve had over the last two years has been the quarterback play. To me, that’s what’s holding them back from being one of the elite teams in college football. It was an interesting off-season for this program. After four seasons with his alma mater, Mark Richt decided to retire. Just as one-time defensive coordinator defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was set to take the job with Temple to be there new head coach, the U pulled him back and here he is back with the Hurricanes as Richt’s successor. Just as I mentioned up top about the issues at quarterback, the starting job was narrowed down between Ohio State transfer Tate Martell, N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams. Heading into the season, I thought Tate was the front-runner to win the starting job. Boy, was I wrong! The redshirt freshman, Jarren Williams won the job. Let’s learn more about this kid. He’s 6’2, 209 pounds who plays the quarterback position very fluidly. He’s a very crisp passer who likes to stand in the pocket that can fling the ball all over the field. The one thing I’ll say about him is he’s a much better athlete than people give him credit for with his ability to move to extend plays. If all works out, he can provide steady play which should provide a tremendous improvement on offense for the Canes in 2019, especially with a strong defense to fall back on. To open the new season, Miami will face an in-state familiar foe in Orlando.

Florida: After last season concluded, I was asked on social media who the two most improved teams were in the country. One I mentioned were the Texas Longhorns under Tom Herman. The second was the Florida Gators. The university decided to part ways with Jim McElwain as the head coach and hired Dan Mullen to take over to lead the way. Mullen was hired on to do two things: One was to get this program back to its winning ways and the other was to fix the quarterback position. Dan has made strides towards both those goals. The quarterback play has lagged some under the leadership of Ron Zook and Will Muschamp. It didn’t do much of anything under McElwain who was more of a defensive minded coach to begin with. The decision to make this hire was a direct step to address the issues. Quarterback Felipe Franks had a great year under Mullen’s coaching experience and offensive scheme. The quarterback from Wakulla, Florida saw increases across the board statistically, and had a 24-6 TD-INT ratio with nearly 2,500 yards passing. The Gators offense was very balanced. They ran the football well and had one of the best offensive lines in the nation. You can’t be successful running the ball without having a solid group of guys up front to lead the way. While Mullen was bought in to fix the offense, the defense was always the backbone of this team that had been playing consistently for years. The formula for Florida is play ball-control offense, hit a couple explosive plays, and lock opponents down with a tough, physical defense. And, in large part, they did just that in 2018. A new year is set to begin for the Gators.

Miami Player to Watch: Lorenzo Lingard– You feed him the ball; he’ll do something with it. He’s patient enough to allow the lanes to open, then he attacks with his speed, he flows his blockers and he feels he can score anytime he touches the ball. He’ll be key especially with a new quarterback under center.

Florida Player to Watch: Jeremiah Moon– The Gators had one of the best defensive ends in the SEC in Jachai Polite who was their pass rushing specialist. He’ll be tough to replace, but this is where Moon comes in. He’s the likely candidate to fill that role, but it remains to be seen if he can approach the level of excellence that Polite displayed.

Final Analysis: This is an exciting way to begin a season. This is a rivalry that’s been fierce for many years and this will be their first time playing each other since 2013. There’s a lot of bad blood between these two teams. Florida beat Miami for several recruits in the 2019 cycle, and Dan Mullen was passed over for the Miami HC job twice, when it went to Al Golden and Mark Richt, respectively. Both teams play great defense which I feel will be the determining factor in this game. Florida can mix things up which I feel will confuse Jarren Williams who’s making his first start. Miami must run the ball to help Williams. The stakes are high for the Gators. They want to build towards a potential championship season and a win against the U could get them headed in the right direction. For the Hurricanes, this is hopefully the game that takes them back to greatness. A strong showing and hopefully a win would be a major statement and give the Canes a quality win early on that they can build on for the rest of the season.

Prediction: Florida 24 Miami 20