Florida lived a little dangerous last season, as the Gators had five games decided by eight points or less.
However, thanks to a defense that allowed just 14.5 points a game, Florida finished the regular season at 11-1 and played in a BCS bowl for the first time since the 2009 season. The Gators were defeated by Louisville 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl, but coach Will Muschamp seems to have Florida back on track to being an annual top 10-15 team.
The Gators return eight starters for 2013, including quarterback Jeff Driskel. The defense loses a couple of key players, but this unit will regain the services of end/linebacker Ronald Powell – who missed all of last season with an injury – and the secondary is one of the best in college football.
The schedule makers certainly didn’t give Florida many breaks in 2013. The Gators have to travel to Miami in Week 2, play at LSU in mid-October and finish SEC action with a road trip to South Carolina on Nov. 16.
What will Florida's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Florida's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
9/7 at Miami
9/28 at Kentucky
10/12 at LSU
10/19 at Missouri
11/2 Georgia (Jacksonville)
11/16 at South Carolina
11/23 Georgia Southern
11/30 Florida State
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
How high Florida can climb in the SEC East standings will depend largely on an offense that ranked 10th in the conference in scoring last year. Despite the departure of a couple of key defenders, the Gators should still have one of the SEC’s best defenses. However, the offense struggled to find a consistent passing attack in 2012, and much of the same core is back for 2013. The offense has to replace running back Mike Gillislee, and still needs to find a couple of playmakers at receiver. The offensive line should be better with the addition of two transfers, but quarterback Jeff Driskel has to take the next step in his development. Winning the turnover battle was a key reason why Florida was 4-1 in one-score games last season, and the Gators need similar production in 2013. Much like my South Carolina prediction, I’m guessing Florida will end up 9-3. Maybe it’s not a loss to at Missouri (the Tigers only lost by seven in the Swamp last year), but I think the Gators will lose three times in 2013.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
The first five weeks look favorable for Florida, which really only faces one tough test (week 2 at Miami) before traveling to LSU. The Tigers’ health could be a question that week as they will be coming off consecutive road trips to Georgia and Mississippi State. If LSU is healthy, the Tigers should be able to take advantage of their home field and beat Florida. The Gators’ next three games – Missouri, Georgia and Vanderbilt – will all be tough, but I have Florida escaping all of them. But not South Carolina. The Gamecocks were too beaten up when they lost in Gainesville last year. A bye week should have them more prepared for Florida this time around. That leaves the Gators with a 10-2 record, which should put them in contention for an SEC Eastern Division title.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I have no idea what to make of Florida, and my picks probably reflect that. Georgia and Florida State are going to be really good, yet I have Florida winning both of those matchups. Miami might not have as good a final record as Florida, but I’ve picked the Hurricanes here. The Gators are going to be the same kind of team they were last season: Stingy on defense, but limited on offense. Florida did a lot of things great teams do last season — executing second-half adjustments and pouncing on opponents’ mistakes. But the ball control game and limitations in the passing attack mean Florida is going to be in a ton of close games again. That formula may meet its match against a high-powered offense like Miami or on the road against a team that does the same thing well (LSU, South Carolina).
SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
The Gators could have the best defense in the SEC. They are stacked with names like Easley, Purifoy, Roberson, Morrison, Fowler, Powell and Bullard. Last year, Florida’s D had 20 INT’s (no fly zone), 7th best mark in the nation. It’s a pretty tricky schedule, at Miami, at LSU, Georgia, at South Carolina and FSU. They will get a bye week early before Tennessee and another five weeks later before Georgia. Now to the bad, last year they finished 118th in the country in passing, averaging 143.6 YPG. You cannot win a National Championship with numbers like that. Name to remember: Matt Jones, RB
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Gators' offense will be much improved in 2013 and it should be on full display in an early non-conference test with Miami in South Florida. Should it win in Miami, Florida will be 5-0 heading into Baton Rouge to battle LSU in what could be a top 10 match-up. Should it handle it's business against teams like Florida State, Missouri and Vanderbilt in the second half, Will Muschamp will be starring directly at another 10-win season. Bouts with Georgia and South Carolina loom large in the first three weeks of November and a split either way would give the Gators a shot at a trip to Atlanta.
Unfortunately for Florida, it didn't get many breaks when it came to scheduling. The Gators' three toughest SEC games are at LSU and South Carolina and the annual cocktail party with Georgia in Jacksonville. I've got Florida coming out on the losing end of all three of those, but beating both Miami and Florida State to capture the Sunshine State crown isn't too bad of a consolation prize, right?
Related College Football Content
SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC 2013 All-Conference Team
Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
South Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
Best and Worst Times to be a LSU Fan
The SEC's Best Traditions
Unit Rankings: 2013 SEC Offensive Lines
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013