Florida Football: Game-by-game predictions for 2014
Will Auburn repeat as SEC champions? What team will emerge as a division darkhorse no one’s talking about? It’s time for Year 2 of our two-week, daily ‘Crystal Ball’ series on how each of the SEC’s 14 teams will finish this fall.
We hit a couple big-time upsets last fall including Tennessee’s win over South Carolina, but didn’t expect 12 wins out of Mizzou, a BCS title-game run from Auburn or Florida’s faceplant in Will Muschamp’s third season.
2014 CRYSTAL BALL SERIES
- MISSISSIPPI ST.
- TEXAS A&M
- OLE MISS
- SOUTH CAROLINA
THE 2014 BATTLEFIELD
Aug. 30 vs. Idaho (W): Jeff Driskel tosses two touchdown passes, runs for another in his return to the Florida offense under first-year play caller Kurt Roper.
Sept. 6 vs. Eastern Michigan (W): Another blowout with a 400-plus yard offensive performance has Gator fans starting to believe in the receiving corps and a balanced backfield featuring Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones.
Sept. 13 vs. Kentucky (W): Florida takes its 27th straight against the Wildcats, the longest current uninterrupted winning streak over an opponent in major college football.
Sept. 20 at Alabama (L): Will Muschamp has his hands full in this one, Florida’s most difficult game of the 2014 season. The Gators remain in control of their own destiny regardless of the outcome and they’ll take that mindset into Knoxville the following week.
Oct. 4 at Tennessee (W): What’s the over/under for first downs picked up by the Vols? Turnovers are a problem early and the Gators cash in.
Oct. 11 vs. LSU (W): Here’s a fantastic midseason matchup made for that CBS 3:30 p.m. ET time slot. Verne Lundquist reminds us all LSU’s star freshmen are too tough to handle and Gary Danielson snickers as a Les Miles homer. Florida’s defense shows up when it’s most needed and the Gators prevail in a hard-fought battle.
Oct. 18 vs. Mizzou (W): Maty Mauk struggles against a prolific Florida secondary, but makes enough plays with his feet to keep the Tigers in it. Similar to the 2012 finish in Gainesville, Mizzou runs out of time in one of the Eastern Division’s best games of the season and falls by a touchdown.
Nov. 1 vs. Georgia, Jacksonville (W): This one’s circled in heavy red marker in Muschamp’s office. He can’t afford another loss to his division rival, nor can the Florida fanbase. The Gators’ recent streak of ineptitude against the Bulldogs ends in Jacksonville and Florida regains control of the wheel.
Nov. 8 at Vanderbilt (W): Driskel thrashed the Commodores’ defense in 2012 and has his sights set on another big game. Derek Mason’s defense could be one of the SEC’s most underrated this time around. Vandy’s move to a 3-4 scheme lessens big play opportunities for the Gators, but the Commodores’ offense has too many questions to contend.
Nov. 15 vs. South Carolina (W): The Eastern Division Championship Game goes in the Gators’ favor since they have the luxury of playing at the Swamp. South Carolina’s reminded throughout the week leading up to the game it has only won in Gainesville once all-time.
Nov. 22 vs. Eastern Kentucky (W): A one-week breather sandwiched between games against two Top 10 teams.
Nov. 29 at Florida State (L): No team’s beating the Seminoles during the regular season, not even the Gators.
2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 10-2, 7-1
THE LOWDOWN: Muschamp saves his job with a division title? Possibly, but that’s why they’re predictions. Hardly anyone’s picking the Gators this season after last season’s fiasco, but the favorable schedule — and Florida’s overall talent level — reveals otherwise. Florida plays one SEC ranked team on the road and two at home. Win two of those three games coupled with an emotional victory over Georgia in Jacksonville and it’s likely enough to push the Gators into Atlanta. Florida’s capable of 10 wins during the regular season barring injuries, but admittedly, the Gators are likely the SEC’s hardest team to get a handle on this preseason.