Florida football schedule overview: Part 2

The first SEC Saturday of this absurd year has come and gone with an exciting, albeit somewhat turbulent Florida football victory over Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss. Following last week’s look at the first five of Florida’s 10-game slate, let’s look ahead to the second half of the season.

Week 6 @ Georgia

If it is possible for anything to be forecast from a single showing after months of inaction and uncertainty, Saturday provided an indication that an SEC East title is well within Florida’s reach. This Georgia team was always going to be the primary obstacle to that goal. However, with the program’s plans under center essentially thrown out the window via the opt out of Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman, this is not the same Georgia team that’s been a conference title game staple the past few years.

That was glaringly evident Saturday, as Kirby Smart yanked his initial starter D’Wan Mathis in the second quarter for a guy who was Smart’s fourth (fourth!) option at quarterback heading into the season, former walk-on Stetson Bennett. One could argue Florida’s defense looked fairly questionable as well against undermanned Ole Miss, and the standard one-game sample size disclaimer obviously applies, but this is a situation to keep tabs on.

Especially after LSU‘s disastrous start, the stretch culminating in this game looks a great deal more manageable than it did last week. This remains the contest that will define the Gators’ season, but reasons for optimism aren’t hard to find.

Week 7 vs. Arkansas

Oh, Arkansas. This program was nothing short of a tire fire last year, but there is hope for rejuvenation under a new boss, talented recruiter Sam Pittman. This certainly feels like a different Arkansas team than the one that fired Chad Morris after his players quit on him midseason, winners of four games over two campaigns. That being said, the Razorbacks remain at the foot of the hill. Short of a complete disaster, there should be nothing to see here.

Week 8 @ Vanderbilt

Another school coming off a down season, although the Commodores are just a year removed from a six-win campaign and bowl berth under skipper Derek Mason. The key to Vanderbilt‘s season will be sufficient quarterback play and a step forward from a largely contingent defense with 10 starters returning from last year. Play under center was a casualty of Kyle Shurmur’s departure last season with a return to par essential for a young quarterback room this season. Week 1 starter Ken Seals looked adequate against top-10 ranked Texas A&M, an encouraging sign for Vandy, but this is another tilt that should heavily favor Florida football.

Week 9 vs. Kentucky

A word of advice to Florida supporters: DO NOT underestimate this team. After hitting double digit wins a couple years ago, Mark Stoops’ wait-this-isn’t-basketball Wildcats shipped their all-time program leaders in rushing and pass rushing, Benny Snell and Josh Allen, respectively, out to the NFL and saw the complete overturn of their QB room. Didn’t matter for unheralded Kentucky, who piled up eight wins regardless en route to a second consecutive bowl victory.

The Wildcats finally have a restocked QB room after a ridiculous revolving door of injuries the past couple seasons with a sturdy line and quality depth behind starter Terry Wilson, who looked good Saturday against a high tier opponent in Auburn. This is an offense that could take a big step after underperforming badly on a team that still won most of its games. If Florida starts to run out of steam by this point in the season, this game sticks out as a potential unpleasant surprise.

Week 10 @ Tennessee

This is a much different Rocky Top program than the one that endured a nightmare start last year. Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols redeemed themselves by rattling off half a dozen straight W’s to conclude their seesaw season. This is a program on the rise that has taken steps forward at just about every area of the field. Featuring a defense returning every member of last seasons dynamite line and four five stars lining up in the offensive trenches, Tennessee looks to be incredibly sturdy in the guts of the roster. Don’t let the dumpster fire that you might recall last year’s Volunteers as mislead you. The final test for Florida football could be among its toughest of the season.

Photo courtesy of FloridaGators.com