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Florida Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018

Florida Gators College Football

Florida Gators College Football

Just about everything that could go wrong, went wrong for the Florida Gators in 2017. 

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Not only did they not win the SEC East for the first time since 2014, but they also suffered their second losing season in five years. After finishing 4-7, the Gators and head coach Jim McElwain mutually agreed to part ways.

With McElwain out, Dan Mullen returned to Florida where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2005-08. Unlike last year when the Gators had to open against the Michigan Wolverines in a neutral-site affair, they will begin their season against Charleston Southern in Gainesville.

Florida will actually play their first three games at home before travelling to Knoxville to play the Tennessee Volunteers. So how will the Gators do this season? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Florida in 2018.

Florida Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018

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Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

I expect Florida will show marked improvement in coach Dan Mullen’s first year. Sure, the Gators don’t have a roster stockpiled with talent as in previous seasons, but there’s enough here to expect a rebound of three or four victories. Mullen’s background and track record on offense is sorely needed after Florida averaged just 22.1 points a game last fall. The quarterback position is unsettled going into fall camp, but Mullen will find a way to squeeze enough production out of his starter. Whoever wins the job will have some talented pieces in the supporting cast, including running back Jordan Scarlett, receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Kadarius Toney, along with five starters in the trenches. The strength of Mullen’s first squad is the defense. The Gators have one of the SEC’s top defensive backfields and return a solid core up front. Florida has to play LSU and Mississippi State in crossover play with the West but won’t have to leave the state after a road trip to Vanderbilt on Oct. 13. Also, swing games against Missouri and South Carolina take place in November -- allowing Mullen plenty of time to put a few pieces into place on offense.

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Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

I'm a bit more optimistic than most about Year 1 of the Dan Mullen era. This team has a major concern at quarterback, but there is talent elsewhere, most notably at running back, wide receiver and cornerback. The Gators will embark on a very interesting three-game stretch with a visit to Tennessee on Sept. 22. Mullen does not want to lose to the Vols in his first year. Then, the next week, it's off to Starkville to face Mullen's former team. After that, LSU visits the swamp. This is not a vintage LSU team, but the Tigers always have talent and are very capable of winning this game. Georgia and Florida State are the two biggest games of the latter half of the season, but the home date with South Carolina is the most impactful with regard to the SEC East standings.

Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)

There's nowhere to go but up for Florida's offense and I think Dan Mullen will bring the Gators plenty of consistency on that side of the ball for the first time in nearly a decade. Obviously a lot of that will have to do with finding the right quarterback but I'm not as worried about that position as in the past given how the solid the team is at the skill positions and offensive line. The defense should make a jump with coordinator Todd Grantham using some talented pieces to be more aggressive and the schedule certainly sets up quite favorably to bounce back and double their win total. UF hasn't yet closed the big gap with Georgia but it's easy to see a scenario where the Gators finish second in the East.

Antwan Staley (@antwanstaley)

Last season was a nightmare for the Gators as no one could have seen a 4-7 season coming. But already during his short time in Gainesville, Mullen has energized their fan base and the program. Whether that translates into wins this fall remains to be seen. 

What should help is the schedule as the Gators could be 3-0 before traveling to play a Tennessee team that is in transition. There's a possibility the Gators could be 4-0 before they head to Starkville to play Mississippi State in an emotional game.

It wouldn't surprise me to see the Gators have a bounce-back season as they could win eight or nine games. Will they win the SEC East? Absolutely not as the Georgia Bulldogs could win the conference for the second consecutive year. But Florida could be a top 20 team with all the talent the Gators have returning.

(Dan Mullen photo by Carly Mackler/UAA Communications, courtesy of floridagators.com)