Florida Football: Gators Midseason Review and Second Half Preview

Feleipe Franks and the Gators have already surpassed last season's win total

Back on Sept. 8, the unthinkable finally happened and Kentucky defeated Florida for the first time since the 1986 college football season. However, since then, the Gators have been an entirely different team.

 

Florida has won four straight games, including victories wins over then-No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 5 LSU. Now at the halfway point, the Gators have a 5-1 record as they enter the second part of their schedule.

 

Now the Gators will look to keep their winning ways going against rivals such as Georgia and Florida State.

 

Offensive MVP: QB Feleipe Franks
In his first season as the Gators' starter, Franks threw for only 1,438 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. After coming over from Mississippi State, head coach Dan Mullen has done wonders with Franks.

 

In six games, Franks has 1,122 yards, 13 touchdowns with just four interceptions. While Franks' completion percentage is about the same as last season (54.9), but he has been much more careful with the football.

 

Franks also has been using his legs when he hasn't been able to find the open receiver. If Franks can continue his solid play, 10 wins aren't out of the question for the Gators. 

 

Defensive MVP: DL Jachai Polite
Polite has registered an impressive six sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss and 22 quarterback pressures in just six games. He has been so impressive that LSU actually changed their formations with the hopes of slowing Polite down.

 

Polite is on pace to become the first Gator to record double-digit sacks since Derrick Harvey's 11 in 2006. He also could be receiving his fair share of accolades after this season is over.

 

Best Moment of the First Half: Gators' 27-19 Win vs. LSU
Florida uses some trickery and great defense to defeat LSU, 27-19 in The Swamp on Oct. 7. During the game, tight end Lucas Krull threw a pass to Feleipe Franks that set up the Gators' game-winning touchdown in the victory.

 

Best Newcomer: WR Van Jefferson
After transferring from Ole Miss, Jefferson has been a big addition to the Gators' wide receiver group. He currently leads the team in receptions (16) and touchdowns (three) in the first six games. Jefferson's presence has been huge for a receiving corps that entered this season with a lot of questions.

 

Biggest Surprise: LB Vosean Joseph
Joseph is the biggest surprise on the Gators' stout defense. Against LSU, he recorded a career-high 14 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He also leads the team in tackles (42) to go along with 6.5 TFLs and three sacks.

 

Three Things to Watch in the Second Half

 

1. Can Florida give Georgia a game? 
The annual Florida-Georgia rivalry will be renewed on Oct. 27. While the Bulldogs are favorites to return to the SEC Championship Game, the Gators will have a chance to ruin their path to Atlanta.

 

2. How much better can the Gators get?
After a 4-7 season a year ago, Florida already has more wins than last year. With Feleipe Franks playing as well as he has, can their offense improve even more? Credit should also be given to Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and the Gators' running game as well, but several tough challenges remain.

 

3. Will Florida finally beat Florida State for the first time since 2012? 
With the Seminoles having a down season, this year will be the perfect opportunity for the Gators to end their five-game losing streak against them. The game will be in Tallahassee, so that won't be an easy win by any means. 

 

Ranking the Toughest Remaining Games on the Schedule

 

1. Oct. 27 vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.)
It is going to be hard to dethrone Georgia in the SEC East, but that's exactly what Florida will have a chance to do. If the Gators can pull off the upset, they could enter the College Football Playoff discussion.

 

2. Nov. 24 at Florida State
On the surface, the Gators are much better than the Seminoles. However, rivalry games are always tricky and Florida State gave everything they had against Miami in a 28-27 loss. So this game will not be as easy as many predict.

 

3. Nov. 10 South Carolina
The Gamecocks defeated the Gators 28-20 last season, but both teams are in different places this season. While South Carolina is still likely a bowl team, they're not as good as many predicted.

 

4. Nov. 3 Missouri
Florida will look for revenge against Missouri as they were embarrassed 45-16 in Columbia last year. The Gators' defense will be challenged by quarterback Drew Lock and the Tigers' offense.

 

5. Oct. 13 at Vanderbilt
Derek Mason's Commodores played Notre Dame tough on the road a couple of weeks ago, but are still searching for that signature win. Vanderbilt's defense has been solid for the most part but gave up a total of 78 points in losses to Georgia and South Carolina.

 

5. Nov. 11 Idaho
This will be the Gators' typical tune-up before their game against the Seminoles. So Idaho shouldn't be much of a challenge.

 

— 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 Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 10:00
Event Location: 
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, 157 Gale Lemerand Drive, Gainesville, Florida 32611
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