Bowling Green-Florida Preview
Florida heads into this season determined to rebound from last
year’s lackluster performance, but it will have to overcome some
absences in the early going.
The No. 23 Gators seek a 23rd consecutive season-opening win
Saturday against visiting Bowling Green.
Florida (7-6) began the 2011 season with four straight victories
but ultimately needed a win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl to
avoid its first losing campaign since 1979. The Gators’ troubles
began in October when they faced four consecutive Top 25 teams –
including eventual BCS title game participants Alabama and LSU –
and lost all four games.
They suffered another defeat to then-No. 15 South Carolina in
November and fell to rival Florida State two weeks later, souring
coach Will Muschamp’s first season in Gainesville.
“You never put last season behind you. It is what it is and you
have to learn from it and move forward and let it motivate you.
That’s what we’ve done as a staff,” Muschamp said. “I’m really
pleased with what we’ve done as a football team and look forward to
seeing us play on Sept. 1.”
He should immediately find out how much depth the Gators
Linebacker and 2011 sack leader Ronald Powell is out for at
least the first month of the season as he continues to recover from
a torn right ACL. Defensive lineman Nick Alajajian is gone for the
year after fracturing his right knee and Kedric Johnson is out
indefinitely because of a knee injury.
Safety De’Ante Saunders won’t play in the first two games for an
unspecified reason. It’s unclear if he was suspended, but he might
have missed those contests anyway because of a hamstring
On offense, freshman tight end Colin Thompson, who was expected
to play a key role, is out for at least two months after undergoing
surgery on his right foot, and offensive linemen Matt Patchan
(pectoral) and Tommy Jordan (shoulder) will also miss this
The Gators haven’t settled on a quarterback and plan to
alternate between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel
through at least the first half of Saturday’s game and perhaps
“They both deserve the right to play,” Muschamp said. “Both guys
are very even, and our football team’s got great confidence in both
of them. I told both of them today: The last position I’m worried
about is quarterback. I feel very comfortable about both guys.”
Florida is also trying to replace its two top rushers from a
year ago, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.
That’s now part of Brent Pease’s job. The former Boise State
assistant is the team’s new offensive coordinator after Charlie
Weis left to become the head coach at Kansas.
He’ll be looking to improve a unit that gained 328.7 yards per
game last year – 105th in the FBS. The Gators’ 25.5-point average
“That’s not what we came here for, to go 7-6. We want to get
back on top,” wide receiver Frankie Hammond said. “We came here to
win championships and get rings. That’s the standard here. We
definitely have a chip on our shoulders.”
Florida’s first step is to continue one of the nation’s longest
streaks of season-opening wins. Only Nebraska’s is longer at 26 in
“(The game against Bowling Green) is very important,” Hammond
said. “It’s the first game of the year, and we want to get things
Bowling Green returns 20 starters, including 3,000-yard passer
Matt Schilz, from a team that went 5-7 in 2011. The Falcons also
bring back leading rusher Anthon Samuel (844 yards), but will have
to find replacements for top receivers Kamar Jorden and Eugene
Linebacker Dwayne Woods (111 tackles in 2011) and defensive
tackle Chris Jones (8 1/2 sacks) anchor the defense.
Bowling Green is 1-3 all-time against SEC opponents but has
never faced Florida. The Falcons are 3-9 in their last 12 matchups
with ranked opponents and recorded their most recent upset Aug. 30,
2008, at then-No. 25 Pittsburgh.