Florida Football: Gators Midseason Review and Second Half Preview

Jonathan Greenard has been the defensive anchor for the Gators during their 6-0 start

For the first time since 2015, the Florida Gators are 6-0 as they reach the halfway point of the season. The latest being a 24-13 win over then-No. 7 and previously undefeated Auburn.

 

Florida has not only won its first six games to begin the 2019 season, but it's 10 in a row dating back to last season. This stretch includes convincing victories over Florida State, Michigan (in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl) last season, as well as wins over Miami, Kentucky, Tennessee and now Auburn.

 

One of just 16 remaining undefeated teams in FBS, the work is just starting for the No. 7 Gators. The good news is that Dan Mullen appears to have Florida headed in the right direction as this team is very much in the hunt for an SEC East title and will stay in the College Football Playoff conversation as long it keeps winning.

 

Offensive MVP: QB Kyle Trask

Sure, Trask has started in only three games this season, but it is hard to imagine where the Gators would be without him. Trask came in for the injured Feleipe Franks and helped guide Florida to a 29-21 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats. Since then, Trask has been pretty efficient with the football.

 

Trask has thrown for 881 yards, seven touchdowns, and only two interceptions. Would the Gators be 6-0 with Franks under center? That's hard to say. But what's indisputable is that Trask is 3-0 as the starter (and played a big part in the come-from-behind win over Kentucky) and will have plenty of more chances to prove he's capable of leading this team.

 

Defensive MVP: LB Jonathan Greenard

Before transferring from Louisville, Greenard suffered a wrist injury at the beginning of the 2018 season, but he hasn't demonstrated any kind of rust early on this year after joining the Gators.

 

In six games, Greenard has recorded 28 tackles, four sacks, and 6.5 tackles for a loss. He was recruited to Louisville by Todd Grantham, now the defensive coordinator at Florida, and Greenard looks like the same player that he was with the Cardinals.

 

Best Moment of First Half: Comeback Win at Kentucky

After being down 11 points late in the third quarter, Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending ankle injury. That's when Kyle Trask came in and helped rallied the Gators to three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including his go-ahead rushing touchdown for the emotional 29-21 win. The Gators' victory helped set the tone for the team's 6-0 start.

 

Best Newcomer: CB Kaiir Elam

While it would have been easy to choose Jonathan Greenard here again, Elam also deserves some love. In three games this season, Elam has five tackles, two interceptions, and two pass breakups. When CJ Henderson was out due to injury, Elam, a true freshman, did more than a serviceable job filling in for him.

 

Biggest Surprise: Lack of a Running Game

Florida hasn't run the football the way many expected entering the season. Lamical Perine has rushed for just 328 yards, four touchdowns and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry through six games. Dameon Pierce has only 161 yards and two touchdowns on the year. This is something the Gators will need to improve given their remaining schedule.

 

Three Things to Watch in the Second Half

 

1. Can Trask continue to play well against tougher competition?

Trask had his struggles against a tough Auburn defense but was still able to throw for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. The Gators are set to take on LSU, and later Georgia. Will Trask be able to continue his magic?

 

2. The return of Kadarius Toney

Toney has played in only two games as he has been dealing with a shoulder injury. He is expected to return sometime soon, so what type of effect will Toney, who can be used as a runner or receiver, have on the offense once he does play?

 

3. Is Florida's defense good enough to lead them to an SEC East title?

Not everything will fall at Trask's feet as Florida's defense has proven it is elite once again. The question is, how good is their unit? LSU has averaged 54.4 points per game, which is the best in the FBS, so Florida is about to find out.

 

Ranking the Toughest Remaining Games on the Schedule

 

1. Oct. 12 at LSU

Georgia may be ranked higher, but the Gators' matchup against LSU at night in Death Valley gets the nod here. The Tigers' offense led by Joe Burrow has been arguably the best in college football during the first half of the season. Florida's defense will need to play its best game of the season to win.

 

2. Nov. 2 vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.)

The annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville will likely be for the SEC East title. The Bulldogs are still trying to find consistency with its downfield passing game. However, Georgia has relied on D'Andre Swift and their deep stable of running backs. The Bulldogs have won the last two games in the series by double digits.

 

3. Nov. 30 vs. Florida State

Sure, the Seminoles on paper aren't nearly the power that they were even three years ago. But rivalry games are tricky, and Florida State would love nothing more than to upset the Gators in Gainesville after getting embarrassed at home a year ago.

 

4. Nov. 16 at Missouri

Florida has had its fair share of problems with Missouri for the last couple of years. The Tigers have won the previous two games in the series, including last year in the Swamp. Quietly, Missouri is 4-1, but no one knows how good the Tigers really are.

 

5. Oct. 19 at South Carolina

Will Muschamp could use a signature win. In a game in Columbia, don't be surprised if South Carolina plays hard for its head coach, especially knowing how he was let go by the Gators five years ago.

 

6. Nov. 9 vs. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt has struggled this year and is off to a 1-4 start. But Derek Mason's teams are always well-coached and give maximum effort. Although this is a game the Gators should win easily, this is also one they cannot take lightly.

 

— 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.

Event Sport: 
College Football
Event Location: 
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, 157 Gale Lemerand Drive, Gainesville, Florida 32611
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