The Florida Gators will kick off their 2015 season Saturday against the New Mexico State Aggies. Head coach Jim McElwain will be coaching in his first game as Gators head coach in the Swamp as he replaces Will Muschamp.
Last season, Florida finished with a 7-5 record and they will be looking to improve on that. New Mexico State will begin the season on a 10-game losing streak. The Aggies' last win came against Georgia State in Week 2 of the 2014 season.
This will be the first time New Mexico State and Florida have played each other since the 1994 season. In that game, the Gators destroyed the Aggies 70-21.
New Mexico State at Florida
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Florida -38
Three Things to Watch For
1. Will Grier or Treon Harris, Who Will Perform Better?
Both Will Grier and last year’s starter Treon Harris are expected to see playing time against the Aggies. Grier redshirted in 2014 but was impressive in spring and fall camps.
As a freshman last season, Harris went 4-2 in his six starts at quarterback. He threw for 1,010 yards, nine touchdowns against four interceptions.
If either Grier or Harris can stand out against New Mexico State, that should provide more clarity on who starts against East Carolina in Week 2
2. The Return of Antonio Morrison
Eight months after knee surgery, Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison will play on Saturday against New Mexico State. The seniors’ timetable to return was initially scheduled for 10-12 months, but he completed his rehabilitation in just six months.
“It is unbelievable what he has done,” McElwain said in a press conference with the media on Monday. “I am really proud of what he has done and to see him recover like this. It won't be one of those deals where he is playing 80 or 90 plays. At the same time, he has prepared himself and we will plan for that."
It will be interesting to see how much Morrison plays against the Aggies. He is listed as the starting middle linebacker on the Gators first depth chart of the season. In 2014, Morrison led Florida in tackles with 101.
3. Can New Mexico State Make Things Interesting?
The Aggies like to spread teams out to open up their running game. They also like to throw a lot of short passes to keep defenses on their toes.
New Mexico State has a junior quarterback in Tyler Rodgers, who threw 19 touchdowns against 23 interceptions in 2014. The Aggies receivers Larry Rose and Teldrick Morgan that will test the Gators defense.
Defensively, New Mexico State’s defense struggled in 2014. They ranked 113th in the total defense, 118th in scoring defense and were the worst team in the country against the run.
Florida should be able to run the ball effectively against the Aggies’ defense with Kelvin Taylor and Jordan Scarlett. With questions at quarterback, the rushing game should open things up in the passing game.
While the Gators are in a bit of transition with McElwain as their new head coach, they easily have enough talent to blowout the Aggies. New Mexico State’s defense was one of the nations’ worst and they return eight of those same players on that side of the ball.
New Mexico State’s defense just doesn’t have the talent to keep up with Florida’s players and they should be the big difference in the game. Expect Taylor, freshman Jordan Scarlett and receiver Demarcus Robinson to have big games in the Gators’ opener.
Prediction: Florida 48, New Mexico State 10
— 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, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.