2011 Florida Gators Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Season Opener vs. FAU
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A couple of days ago we took a look back at Florida football coach Will Muschamp's two most recent games against Saturday's season-opening opponent, Florida Atlantic.
Now, with kickoff right in front of us, we'll take a look ahead to this weekend.
Here are five fearless predictions for Muschamp's official debut:
1. He may not talk about it to the media, but expect Muschamp to take 10 minutes or so of his own time prior to the contest to think back on his journey to this point.
Not many people get the opportunity to come back and coach the team they grew up loving and watching every Saturday afternoon in the fall. Muschamp, who spent the early-to-mid part of his childhood in Gainesville, will live that for the first time on Saturday.
He'll take a few moments for himself, and then he'll go out and earn his first win.
2. In the final season of what has been an accomplished career, look for 77-year-old Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger to receive a polite (though hardly enthusiastic) pregame reception from the crowd at The Swamp.
Now, longtime UF fans may not get all warm and fuzzy about Schnellenberger, remembering he, as Miami's coach, called timeout to set up for a field goal in the waning seconds of the Hurricanes' 31-7 road victory against the Gators in 1980.
Still, I expect him to hear a smattering of cheers.
3. Florida's defensive line will dominate.
I'm on record as saying I believe the three best positional units in the Southeastern Conference are (in no particular order) Alabama's linebackers, Alabama's defensive backs and the receivers at Arkansas.
But I also think the Gators' relatively young front four could end up outstanding.
A few numerical predictions for Saturday:
Two sacks for Ronald Powell and one for fellow sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd.
Starting defensive tackle Jaye Howard also will record a sack, and he will lead UF with four quarterback pressures.
Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley will collect two tackles for a loss.
Playing for the first time as a Gator, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr will record a couple of tackles and will bat down a pass.
Omar Hunter will make a stop on a 4th-down conversion attempt by FAU.
4. There will be heavy competition among the reserve offensive tackles.
The Gators appear to be pretty set at offensive tackle with athletic juniors Matt Patchan and Xavier Nixon starting on the left and right sides, respectively. Redshirt freshman Chaz Green, who exited the spring as a starter, will provide a quality and trusted backup to each.
Third-year sophomore Kyle Koehne is the only other tackle listed on the roster. That said, look for some interior linemen to get a look on the outside if only to create some experienced depth.
5. Here's a fun stat: Since 2007, among running backs with at least 200 career carries, Chris Rainey (7.12 yards per carry) and Jeff Demps (7.07) rank 1-2 in college football in yards per carry.
Look for both players to raise those averages slightly with their performances against FAU. The guesses here are that Rainey carries 10 times for 98 yards and a touchdown, while Demps goes for 82 yards and two scores on eight carries.
Note: If Demps is able to rush for 99 yards against the Owls, he will reach 2,000 for his career. Rainey should reach that mark around midseason, as he enters the 2011 campaign 397 yards shy.
A Few Quick-Hitters
Quarterback John Brantley has been dealing with a back injury, but look for him to play into the third quarter on Saturday. Here's saying he goes 14-for-21 for 234 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
True freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson will grab UF's first interception of the season. It will come early in the second quarter.
Rainey will score UF's first touchdown of thee season, rushing in from 12 yards out on the Gators' opening drive.
Brantley will find tight end Jordan Reed from 17 yards out in the opening quarter for Florida's first passing touchdown of the season.
In a game where both concede snaps to backups due to the contest getting out of hand, linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic will lead the Gators in tackles with five each. FAU linebacker Yourhighness Morgan (had to get that name in somewhere!) will lead everyone with nine tackles.
Florida will punt once all game.
FAU backup quarterback Nick Bracewell grew up in Live Oak, Fla., playing for Lafayette High School in Mayo (the alma mater of former UF quarterbacks Kerwin Bell and Herbert Perry), which is a part of The Gainesville Sun's coverage zone. Look for Bracewell, a redshirt freshman, to enter the contest in the second half, leading the Owls to a rare score.
Prediction on the Final Score: Florida 67, FAU 14
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