Preview: Florida determined to bounce back against comeback-prone Colorado State
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The “Buyout Bowl” between Colorado State and Florida was expected to be a blowout — until last week.
Then Colorado State rallied to upset Arkansas , and Florida got manhandled on both lines of scrimmage in the program’s first loss to Kentucky since 1986 .
Now, not even former Rams and Gators coach Jim McElwain could accurately predict what will happen in the Swamp on Saturday.
Will Colorado State (1-2) knock off another Southeastern Conference team? Or will Florida (1-1) find more physicality in a week and avoid matching the program’s worst start since 1992?
Either way, the one-off game is a seemingly awkward affair and an expensive reminder of McElwain’s success at Colorado State and his failure at Florida .
The Gators are paying the Rams a staggering $2 million to come to Gainesville, part of McElwain’s $7 million buyout to leave Colorado State late in the 2014 season. And McElwain’s not even around for the game against his former team.
“I’ll be honest. I look at who we got to play and let’s go find a way to go play them,” first-year Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “So I never really thought of it that way. I think they’re just coming here, right? We don’t return the favor?”
Nope, the Gators don’t.
Florida agreed to pay Colorado State $3 million over six years in annual installments of $500,000 from 2015 through 2020. McElwain agreed to kick in $2 million out of his own pocket in annual installments of $333,333 over the same span.
The other $2 million will be paid to the Rams for the game at Florida Field. It’s the largest single-game guarantee that any one school has ever paid to another.
“We’re getting paid $2 million?” Rams coach Mike Bobo said. “That’s good.”
It would feel even better if CSU wins.
The Rams trailed 27-9 late in the third quarter against the Razorbacks last week before scoring the final 25 points. They also mounted a furious comeback in the opener against Hawaii, but ultimately lost 43-34.
“They have the confidence that they can come in and try and do it again,” Florida receiver Josh Hammond said. “We definitely have to be on our toes, and we definitely have to put in the work this week and treat it like it’s an SEC game or any other game. Every game is going to be big for us this year, and I think the biggest thing for us is our progression and how we attack it this week.”
The Gators have vowed to respond after last week’s humbling, 27-16 loss to the Wildcats that ended a 31-game winning streak in the series.
Florida was overmatched in the trenches, a problem that started during McElwain’s tenure. The current Michigan receivers coach left the program with holes on offense, defense and, teams and the recruiting trail. Kentucky took advantage.
The Gators are hoping the Rams won’t do the same.
“Everybody in the world’s got problems,” Mullen said. “Successful people have solutions, and our guys, we’ve got to go out on the field and find solution and fix our problem.”
Here are some other things to know about Colorado State and Florida:
Bobo has faced Florida 18 times in his career, four as a player and 14 as a coach. Bobo is 6-12 in those contests, including 1-3 as Georgia’s quarterback (1994-97) and 5-9 as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs. He has played just once at Florida Field, a 52-14 loss as a freshman in 1994.
Florida expects to get two defensive players back on the field against the Rams. Linebacker David Reese, who led the team in tackles in 2017, and senior defensive end CeCe Jefferson missed the first two games. Reese was recovering from a knee injury, and Jefferson was dealing with academic issues. They could be significant additions for a unit that allowed 303 yards rushing against Kentucky.
The Gators have won 17 consecutive games against first-time opponents like Colorado State, a streak that started after Michigan beat Florida in the 2003 Outback Bowl.