clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Opponent Preview: Florida

Let’s try not to get too bogged down in The Swamp

Florida mascots Albert and Alberta stand on the Florida sideline with a stadium full of fans in the background.
Albert and Alberta make for a cute sideline couple.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Opponent: University of Florida (Summer Preview | Roster | Florida Athletics)

When: October 7, 2023, 3:00 PM CT on SEC Network

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium - Gainesville, Florida

Last year: 6-7 (3-5 SEC)

The last time we saw these guys: 31-24, Vanderbilt (2022)

Series record: 11-43-2, Florida

Head Coach: Billy Napier (9-9 at Florida)

The top accomplishment listed on Napier’s page is that he cut down Florida’s penalty yardage in his first year. Wowzah. Not what I would want the highlight of my tenure thus far to be, especially when your lowlight is LOSING TO VANDERBILT!!! I have seen a lot of chatter both ways about Napier, and don’t really know what to think about him. He found incredible success at Louisiana where he won two Sun Belt Coach of the Year trophies in four years along the way to a 40-12 record, and he has put together quite the recruiting class at Florida, but it’s too early to say if he’s building a successful program or not. He lost a lot of key guys from the team, too, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if this were a really down year for Florida.

Offense: Delicious “Graham” Crackers...

Graham Mertz has so far completed an absurd 79% of his passes for an average of 8.8 yards. This comes after three seasons in a row where he hovered right around 60% completion. If he really is that accurate, there’s not going to be anything we can do to stop him. On the ground, Florida has two guys who are both averaging upwards of 50 yds/game in Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson, Jr. The second-year and third-year players, respectively, are building off strong seasons last year. Expect the ball to end up in Ricky Pearsall’s hands more often than not, though. Florida’s leading receiver has 419 yards so far this season, about 300 more than the next 2 closest receivers on the team. Given Graham Mertz’s supposedly otherworldly accuracy, a pass to Pearsall against our defense seems like an automatic first down.

Defense: Make a Great Base for “Shemar”s...

Shemar James, second-year linebacker, leads Florida in tackles. He is a key piece in the Florida defense that, despite only 7 sacks and 1 interception through 5 games, has held opponents to one of the lowest yards/game totals of the year and fourth-lowest total of passing yards, allowing only 131 per game. Seems like they may not make big, flashy defensive plays, so we may be able to avoid big, flashy mistakes, but Florida’s got some dudes in the defensive backfield that will hunt you down if you get the ball in your hands. Expect a weak showing through the air and pray we don’t help them make big plays.

Special Teams: Which You Can “Smack” on...

Their seems to have been an early-season kicker competition at Florida, with Trey Smack coming out on top after Adam Mihalek went 1-for-3 through 3 games. Trey has gone 12-for-12 since the start of the season combining extra points and field goals, including a long of 54. That encompasses his entire collegiate field goal-kicking career so far. On kickoffs, he records a touchback much more often than not, so I would expect to see a touchback the vast majority of the time following a kickoff. Jeremy Crawshaw is the Florida punter, and he has a pretty good leg, BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO AVERAGE MORE YARDS PER PUNT THAN BEST PUNTER IN THE WORLD MATTHEW HAYBALL!!! Crawshaw does still average 47 yards/punt, though, good enough to be near the top of the FBS. Yes, he is from Australia. On the return side, Trevor Etienne handles the most returns. So far he has averaged 23 yards through 3 return attempts. There’s not a lot of information on this, so it’s probably safe not to expect much trouble on returns.

Schedule: The Rest of Fall!

Outlook: Happy Campers?

I really lucked into those names lining up, huh? After a 6-7 season last year, I think Florida is in good shape to do about the same or maybe a little bit better this year. They’ll likely beat us, and between South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, and Missouri they’ll probably win two more and be bowl-eligible. With a sharpshooter like Graham Mertz, they could add on another, though. Billy Napier is attempting a longer, more methodical rebuild, and I think this season may just be one where they’ll have to be happy with not getting worse.