Dan Mullen and the Gators look to maintain the momentum from last season's 10-win campaign
All in all, Dan Mullen's first season with the Florida Gators was a huge success. After going 4-7 the previous year, the Gators finished 10-3, including a 41-15 drubbing of the Michigan Wolverines in the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl.
Sure, there were some down moments for the Gators including losing to the Kentucky Wildcats for the first time in 31 years along with their loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, but expectations are high in Gainesville these days. And with high expectations comes high recruiting classes as Florida finished with a top-10 class per most recruiting websites.
The biggest question is can Mullen and the Gators take the next step and contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff? Florida fans would point to Urban Meyer, who led the Gators to a national championship in just his second season on campus. But Florida will have some significant hurdles if the Gators are going to be in the conversation of being one of the top four teams in the country.
As always, playing in the SEC is no picnic, and although the Gators won't have to play Alabama as one of their crossover matchups, they will go against both LSU and Auburn. Then there are tough games against Georgia, Missouri, and South Carolina in their own division.
Florida will also begin the 2019 season against the Miami Hurricanes, and season openers as always toss-ups. And while the Florida State Seminoles finished with a subpar 5-7 record a year ago, the Gators should never discount a team in a rivalry game.
So, what are the expectations for the Gators this upcoming season? Athlon Sports asked a few editors and one of its college football contributors to share their win/loss projections for Florida in 2019.
Florida Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2019
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Florida has experienced some offseason attrition in the secondary, and the offensive line remains a work in progress late in the fall. Despite those concerns, I’m banking on Dan Mullen getting the most out of this roster once again. Feleipe Franks was one of the most improved quarterbacks in the nation last fall and should take another step forward in 2019. Franks also returns a talented supporting cast, including running back Lamical Perine and one of the SEC’s top receiving corps. As usual, Florida’s defense will rank among the best in the SEC. LSU and Georgia are the obvious candidates for losses, but a home date versus Auburn or road trips at South Carolina could easily drop this team to 9-3 or 8-4.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Florida was one of the most improved teams in college football last season and is once again relevant on the national scene. Being relevant is nice, but the Gators are still a year or two away from becoming a serious threat to reach the College Football Playoff. The 2019 schedule is tough — with the opener against Miami and crossover games against Auburn and LSU — but this looks like a 10-win team. The loss to Georgia is predictable, but I also included a couple of upsets — a win at LSU and a loss at Missouri. Florida has struggled against Missouri, with consecutive losses by a combined score of 88-33, and the weather could be a factor in Columbia in mid-November.
Antwan Staley (@antwanstaley)
Although the Gators are expected to be one of the top 10 teams ranked in the preseason polls, I'm not sure they're quite ready to contend with Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia for the College Football Playoff. Florida has a demanding schedule, and there's very little room for error if the Gators are going to be part of college football's final four.
Everyone will mention their games against LSU and Georgia, but matchups against Miami, Kentucky, Auburn, South Carolina, and Missouri won't be easy either as three of the games mentioned above are on the road. Florida has lost three of its last four games against the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. And the Gators have lost two consecutive games against the Missouri Tigers, including last year's 38-17 defeat in Gainesville.
Florida's biggest test of the season will begin in October as the Gators host Auburn, followed by playing LSU and South Carolina before a bye prior to the annual meeting with Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 2.
Schedule aside, the Gators still have some questions to address as they lost several key starters on their offensive line. Also, can Feleipe Franks' game continue to progress? If it can, and if the Gators defense can continue their strong play, they certainly have an opportunity to be a playoff contender.
It might be a lot to ask for Florida to make that jump in Dan Mullen's second season in Gainesville. It isn't impossible, but unless Florida can pull off the upset against Georgia and/or LSU, it's probably unlikely in 2019. But a 10-2 season with the possibility of 11 wins in a major bowl game could set the Gators up for contending for a playoff spot in 2020.