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Florida Football: Gators' 2019 Schedule Analysis

Florida Football: Gators' 2019 Schedule Analysis

Florida Football: Gators' 2019 Schedule Analysis

After a 4-7 season in 2017, the Florida Gators put together an impressive bounce-back campaign in 2018. In head coach Dan Mullen's first season back in Gainesville, Florida went 10-3, including a 41-15 win over the Michigan Wolverines in the Sugar Bowl.

Now the Gators will hope for greater success in 2019 as they will have a lot returning starters, including quarterback Feleipe Franks. Usually, Florida begins their season against a lower-tier school at home. But this year, the Gators will have just their second season opener since 1987 away from Gainesville as they will play the Miami Hurricanes in Orlando.

Florida also will have an unusual three byes this year because they will start their season on Aug. 24. Their SEC schedule will feature the usual suspects with the exception of Auburn, who will travel to The Swamp in early October.

If the Gators can win 10-plus games, they could be in the mix for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Florida Gators 2019 Schedule

Byes: Week 1, Week 9, Week 13

Week 0 — Aug. 24 vs. Miami (Orlando, Fla.)

Florida will play two neutral-site games in 2019. The first one is against the Hurricanes and the Gators will make the annual pilgrimage to Jacksonville, Florida, to face SEC East rival Georgia. This is Florida's first matchup with Miami since 2013 and is arguably one of the most anticipated games of the 2019 season. This early-season tilt could set the tone for both teams.

Week 2 — Sept. 7 vs. UT Martin (Gainesville, Fla.)

After their season opener against the Hurricanes, the Gators will have their home opener against the Skyhawks from the FCS ranks. This will be a good tune-up for Florida's SEC opener. So expect to see a lot of reserves during the second half.

Week 3 — Sept. 14 at Kentucky (Lexington, Ky.)

Last year, Kentucky snapped its 31-game losing streak to Florida. A year later, the Wildcats will be looking to do something they haven't since 1976-77 — beat the Gators in consecutive games. Kentucky is coming off a 10-3 season but will have to replace two All-SEC performers — linebacker (and SEC Defensive Player of the Year) Josh Allen and running back Benny Snell Jr. Mark Stoops' team still returns enough talent to remain a threat in the SEC.

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Week 4 — Sept. 21 vs. Tennessee (Gainesville, Fla.)

Florida demolished Tennessee 47-21 last year in Knoxville as the Gators have won 13 out of 14 games in the series. After a 5-7 debut, Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt is hoping to turn things around in 2019. Tennessee does return several key contributors from last season, including quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.

Week 5 — Sept. 28 vs. Towson (Gainesville, Fla.)

Florida will host a second FCS opponent in the month of September when Towson comes to the Swamp. Last season, the Tigers posted a 7-5 mark. This will be another opportunity to give some younger players snaps before the Gators host Auburn.

Week 6 — Oct. 5 vs. Auburn (Gainesville, Fla.)

Believe or not, this will be Auburn's first matchup against Florida since 2011. The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 season as a lot of questions surround head coach Gus Malzahn these days. Auburn will need to find a new quarterback to replace two-year starter Jarrett Stidham.

Week 7 — Oct. 12 at LSU (Baton Rouge, La.)

The annual game between the Gators and Tigers is usually a tightly contested one. Somewhat quietly, LSU recorded its first 10-win season since 2013. With head coach Ed Orgeron signing a top-10 recruiting class, the Tigers could potentially field their best team in years. In last year's game, the Gators defeated the Tigers 27-19 in Gainesville.

Week 8 — Oct. 19 at South Carolina (Columbia, S.C.)

After finishing with nine wins in 2017, the Gamecocks took a slight step back, finishing with just seven victories last season. South Carolina will look to establish itself in an SEC East that appears to be getting better on the whole. The Gamecocks narrowly lost to the Gators last season (35-31), so don't be surprised if this year's meeting is just as competitive.

Week 10 — Nov. 2 vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.)

The Florida-Georgia game could determine the winner of the SEC East in 2019. While the Gators are returning a bulk of their starters, the Bulldogs have some new faces in key spots. Georgia also has a new offensive (James Coley) and defensive (Dan Lanning) coordinator but Kirby Smart still has plenty of talent throughout his roster. The Bulldogs have won two straight in this series, including last season's 36-17 victory.

Week 11 — Nov. 9 vs. Vanderbilt (Gainesville, Fla.)

A year ago, the Gators rallied from a from an 18-point deficit to beat Vanderbilt 37-27 in Nashville. That comeback matched the largest on the road in school history. The hope is that this year's encounter won't be as close. But head coach Derek Mason's Commodores are usually sound on defense. Vanderbilt will be counting on a new quarterback this season, which will be a huge key to its season as Kyle Shurmur was one of the underrated quarterbacks in the SEC the last few seasons.

Week 12 — Nov. 16 at Missouri (Columbia, Mo.)

Missouri has had Florida's number in recent years. The Tigers have not only defeated the Gators in consecutive seasons but dominated them in the process. Last season, it was a 38-17 victory for Mizzou in the Swamp as Drew Lock passed for 250 yards and three touchdowns. The good news for Florida is that Lock has used up his eligibility, but this game shouldn't be taken lightly by the Gators (or their fans).

Week 14 — Nov. 30 vs. Florida State (Gainesville, Fla.)

Florida finally snapped their five-game losing streak to Florida State last year with a resounding 41-14 victory in Tallahassee. Although the Seminoles are going through some tough times, don't expect them to be down for too long. In this game, it is all about pride, but you have to give the Gators the edge at this point considering the present state of both programs.

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.