In preparation for Saturday’s season-opener between Idaho and Florida, Saturday Down South is taking a look at the key match-ups that may decide the showdown between the Vandals and Gators.

Idaho defensive line vs Florida offensive line

Among the Gators’ offensive problems last season, none may have been more concerning than the offensive line.

The Gators’ line allowed 27 sacks last year  and a near conference-worst 86 tackles for loss for a combination of 380 yards lost. Pushed around and beaten, the offensive line didn’t have the depth necessary to win the crucial line of scrimmage battles in the SEC and struggled to keep opposing defenders out of the backfield.

This season appears to be a different story for the Gators, at least for now. Everyone is healthy moving into the season opener and Will Muschamp is excited about the depth of this year’s line.

And he has a good reason to be. Left tackle DJ Humphries should be much improved from last season now that he’s healthy. Trip Thurman, Max Garcia, Trenton Brown and Chaz Green all have another year of experience under their belts, giving the Gators five upperclassmen starters. Behind the first five, Muschamp has been very complimentary of guys like David Sharpe, Antonio Riles, Drew Savary and Roderick Johnson, all of whom should be a part of the rotation. This gives the Gators essentially nine guys to rotate in and out of the game. Depth like this will help keep legs fresh and effort levels high, which will be crucial as the Gators transition to Kurt Roper’s up-tempo offense.

However, despite the depth, Muschamp is still worried about the lack of experience with some of the linemen.

“We’ve got great numbers, it’s just experience [that I’m worried about],” Muschamp said at Wednesday’s teleconference. “When you’re talking about the mix of eight, nine or 10 guys, some of those guys just haven’t had the game day experience.”

The offensive line’s first test will come on Saturday against the Idaho Vandals, who come into the season with new experience as two JUCO transfers have been added within their front seven. That doesn’t even include arguably Idaho’s best defensive player, Quayshawne Buckley.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound senior defensive tackle will be the main guy Florida’s offensive line must key in on. He led the Vandals in with 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Think he’s big? Those two JUCO defensive linemen – Alfonso Hampton and Max Martial – stand at 6-foot-5, 346-pounds and 6-foot-4, 320 pounds. Do not be surprised to see the Gators’ line pushed this weekend. Under a brand new offense, there’s bound to be some mistakes and miscommunication on the line, especially when you have nearly a combined 1,000 pounds pressuring you.

I do expect the line to be improved for Florida, but until they can get on the field and prove just how far they’ve come since last season, it’s difficult to be absolute on their progress.

This Saturday will be a good test for them, but if they pass it or not remains to be seen.