Here’s everything you need to know about the season-opening meeting between the Eastern Michigan Eagles and Florida Gators today on SEC Network.

When: Today, Sept. 6
Where: Gainesville, Fla. – Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Game Time: 4 PM ET
TV: SEC Network
Current Line: Florida (-39.5)

Game Buzz: The Gators finally will open up their 2014 season after last weekend’s weather debacle. Eastern Michigan has some talent at the running back position, specifically Bronson Hill. However, the Gators should win this game easily. All eyes will be on the debut of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and his up-tempo spread offense.

Saturday Down South previews


Players to watch:

  • QB Jeff Driskel
  • DE Dante Fowler
  • WR Quinton Dunbar
  • CB Vernon Hargreaves
  • RB Kelvin Taylor
  • RB Matt Jones
  • WR Demarcus Robinson
  • LB Jarrad Davis
  • OT DJ Humphries

Freshmen to watch:

  • CB Jalen Tabor
  • CB Quincy Wilson
  • CB JC Jackson
  • S Duke Dawson
  • DL Gerald Willis
  • WR CJ Worton
  • QB Treon Harris

Keys for Florida:

  • Protect Jeff Driskel. The Florida signal-caller returns in his first game back from fracturing his leg last season. It will be vitally important for the offensive line to give him as much time as possible today. With a new offense and first-game jitters, more time for Driskel will help him settle down and settle into Roper’s new spread offense.
  • Force turnovers. Part of last year’s struggles was the Gators’ turnover margin, which finished up at -2. Muschamp has placed a big emphasis on taking the ball away on defense. The Gators are 19-3 under Muschamp when they win the turnover battle, so setting the tone early on defense will be crucial for the Gators.
  • Avoid being too aggressive. Much has been made about how eager the Gators are to actually play a game. They were forced to wait another week because of the weather, but this is definitely a team that’s hungry to finally move on from last season. With that can come a lot of aggression and adrenaline, especially in the first few minutes which can lead to mistakes. They can be excited, but it’ll be up to Muschamp to make sure they’re just as focused as well.

Gators’ glaring weakness to watchOffensive Line – The Gators have experience on the offensive line, but it’s also a rather unproven line. They are finally all healthy coming into the season, so they’ll be at full strength. However, it’s very much up in the air on how they’ll perform. Inconsistent play will make things much tougher on Roper and Muschamp as they proceed through their SEC schedule.

Most interesting part of the game: Florida holds the second-longest winning streak for season openers at 24 games, behind only Nebraska.

Team buzz: 2014 is a make or break season for the Gators. All eyes will be on the Gators offense today as Roper makes his Florida debut. The success of his spread offense could very well decide the fate of Muschamp’s job after the season.


Players to watch:

  • RB Bronson Hill
  • QB Reginald Bell
  • DL Pat O’Connor
  • LT Lincoln Hansen
  • TE Tyreese Russell

Freshmen to watch:

  • QB Reginald Bell

Keys for Eastern Michigan:

  • Set the tempo. Eastern Michigan prides itself on playing at a fast tempo. Last week, they ran 86 plays against Morgan State. It’s doubtful they reach the same number against the Gators, but if they can maintain a fast tempo on offense, they’ll have opportunities to keep the Gators on their heels and exploit some holes.
  • Give the ball to Bronson Hill. Bronson is the team’s leading rusher out of a deep group of running backs. He’s aiming to surpass 900 yards for the third consecutive year and he became the first EMU running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards since 2003. He received 19 carries last week, so you can bet that the Eagles will give him the ball a lot today, especially in a raucous environment like The Swamp.

Eastern Michigan’s glaring weakness to watch: Run defense – EMU surrendered 210 rushing yards last week to a Morgan State team that doesn’t have near the talent that Florida has at running back. The Gators have three legitimate running backs that will see time today in Matt Jones, Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown. Brandon Powell could see some snaps as well. As long as the offensive line is playing well, the Florida RBs should be able to have a big day.

Most interesting part of the game: As mentioned before, EMU likes to play with a very up-tempo offensive style. They’ll look to push the tempo anytime they have the ball. The Gators’ conditioning will be tested on defense.

Team buzz: EMU has some talent, especially in running back Bronson Hill and he’ll be the focal point of the offense. The Eagles also have a dual-threat QB with Reginald Bell starting, but as a redshirt freshman he isn’t the most refined passer. EMU’s defense is suspect and should provide a good tune-up for Kurt Roper’s new offense. All in all, the Eagles shouldn’t hang around with the Gators too long in this game if Florida plays as it should.