The Florida Gators, ranked 17 in the AP Poll, are set to face off with the Michigan Wolverines, ranked 11 in the AP Poll, in Arlington, TX. Both teams enter the game with high expectations in 2017, but only one team will emerge with a win after 60 minutes of football in Jerry World.
The game is set for this Saturday, September 2nd at 3:30 pm EST, and will be broadcast nationally on ABC and can be streamed on WATCH ESPN.
The Gators and Wolverines will both be dawning Color Rush uniforms for their season opener. Here’s a look at the Gators uniforms:
The Gators will be underdogs in this one with Michigan being favored by 4.5.
Let’s take a look at five storylines heading into Saturday:
1. Feleipe Franks has been named the starting QB for the Gators
The Gators have had a QB problem since . . . 2009.
This year the team may have it’s best group of QBs since Tim Tebow graduated. The problem, until Jim McElwain’s Wednesday press conference, was that we didn’t know which QB would be named the starter. Coach Mac named the redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks the starting QB. Whether or not Franks will remain the starter throughout the season, or even for the entirety of the first game, remains to be seen.
At 6’5” and 220 lbs. Feleipe Franks has prototypical size, arm strength, and athleticism, but he’ll be facing the toughest test of his football career this Saturday. Will the redshirt freshman that’s never taken a snap in college be able to take advantage of the youthful, yet talented Michigan defense?
2. The Gators will be without ten suspended players against Michigan
This question comes to the forefront after news broke that a total of ten Gators would be suspended for their contest against Michigan. They’ll be without star WR Antonio Calloway, RB Jordan Scarlett, WRs James Robinson and Rick Wells, OL Kadeem Telfort, defensive lineman Jordan Smith, Richerd Desir-Jones, and Keivoniss Davis, and linebackers James Houston, and Ventrell Miller. The news broke Wednesday that the Gators would be without starting RB Jordan Scarlett. That means two of the Gators best offensive players won’t be in action for what is likely the most important season opener in Florida history. Make no mistake about it – losing Calloway and Scarlett is a major blow for the Gators against Michigan, but they appear better equipped at WR and RB to handle the losses than they have been in years past.
3. Can the defensive backfield hold up?
Injuries will lead to depth concerns in the defensive backfield. The team’s best safety Marcell Harris was lost for the year with a torn achilles and Nick Washington continues to battle a shoulder injury. The Gators may be forced to start freshman safety Shawn Davis against Michigan. Of course, all of the Gators defensive backs are talented, but inexperience may be a factor. Can the Gators secondary hold up against Michigan QB Wilton Speight if Nick Washington can’t play in the opener?
4. Can the Gators offense move the ball consistently?
In years past the Gators have struggled to move the ball consistently, usually due to a lack of production from the QB position. The Gators will need to find balance against Michigan if they hope to escape Jerry World with a win. In 2016 Michigan was the best team in the country against the pass and ranked 13th against the run. Granted, the Wolverines lost 10 defensive starters, but with dynamite recruiting on the defensive side of the ball they’ll still be a tough unit in 2017. The biggest reason the Gators haven’t been able to win games over the last several seasons is the offense not being able to hold onto the ball for extended periods of time, which in turn leads to a tired Gators defense. Controlling the clock and moving the ball consistently will be a story line for the Gators against Michigan and throughout the rest of the season.
5. Can Jim McElwain outwit Jim Harbaugh?
If the Gators are able to emerge victorious this will be THE biggest win of the Jim McElwain era. His opponent in this one, Jim Harbaugh, is thought of as one of the very best and brightest coaches in football, college or professional. The chess match began weeks ago and will continue throughout Saturday. McElwain waited until Wednesday to name his starting QB, and the notoriously neurotic Jim Harbaugh has yet to name his team’s starting QB or even release a full roster. However, it seems a foregone conclusion that Wilton Speight will be the guy for Michigan. These two have gone back and forth at each other throughout the week, but whoever can make the right moves on Saturday will likely start the season 1-0 and be in a great position to compete for a playoff spot.
There are a ton of compelling stories heading into this one, but this matchup, like so many Gator games in recent memory, will come down to whether or not the Gators can put points on the board – If they can, then the Gators might just start the season out on the right note. If not the noise surrounding the ten suspended players will get even louder and the pressure on Jim McElwain will mount.
The Gators and Wolverines will have a highly competitive matchup. Florida has more fire power on offense than it’s had since 2009, while Michigan will be starting 10 new players on defense and will be replacing all of their starters at skill positions on offense. Still, the Gators don’t have a proven QB and will deal with experience issues in the defensive backfield. Harbaugh and McElwain will go back and forth in this one, but in the end Michigan’s advantage at QB and superior recruiting during the Jim Harbaugh era will carry them to a narrow victory of the Gators.
Florida 24, Michigan 27