Last Updated: 2019-08-16
Villanova vs. Colgate and Youngstown State vs. Samford actually kick off the 2019 college football season on Saturday August 24, but bettors are eagerly awaiting the two night games that will open up the new year for FBS. Florida and Miami Florida meet in a neutral setting in Orlando to kick off the Division I-A portion of the schedule. The Gators are favored by a touchdown with some extra juice at most shops across the market with a total of 47.5.
Florida was one of the country’s most improved teams last season, as Dan Mullen took over and the Gators went from 4-7 to 10-3. UF also went from 3-8 ATS to 9-4 ATS, so bettors were plenty happy with the improvements in Gainesville. The development of Feleipe Franks was huge and the Gators returned to normal on the defensive side of the equation. They were 6-3 ATS as a favorite, which they are in this game.
There are a lot of questions for the Hurricanes heading into the season opener. How will first-time head coach Manny Diaz do in his transition from defensive coordinator to HMFIC. The quarterback position, which seems to annually be in a state of flux in Coral Gables, is still a question, as redshirt freshman Jarren Williams will get the nod. The Hurricanes were 7-6 last season after going 19-7 the previous two seasons. Mark Richt’s bunch was 5-8 against the spread for the second straight year.
The idea of facing the vaunted Gators defense in a debut start can’t have Hurricanes fans or bettors excited. The line hasn’t really moved all that much, an indication that Tate Martell wasn’t expected to be much of an upgrade had he won the job. The total, however, has gone down. That makes sense, as these teams combined to allow just 39.5 points per game last season. Florida returns eight starters on defense and second-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Miami returns only six starters on defense, but Diaz came back to the program once Richt announced his retirement, so the Hurricanes have their DC back as well.
As mentioned, the development of Franks was huge for the Gators last season. He posted a 24/6 TD/INT ratio and completed over 58 percent of his passes. The Gators were +12 in turnover margin because of how well Franks took care of the ball and because of 14 interceptions from the defense. Franks is back and more experienced in his junior season and all of his skill position weapons are back as well. Considering Franks had a 9/8 TD/INT ratio as a redshirt freshman two years ago, and factoring in Mullen’s career success working with QBs, the Gators offense looks ripe for another big year.
Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce both scampered for over six yards per carry, as Florida had its best rushing season since the Urban Meyer era with 5.3 yards per carry. The top seven pass catchers from 2018 are back as well. The only question on offense is in the trenches, where the Gators only have one returning starter. But, this is Florida and there are highly-touted recruits on the two-deep year in and year out just waiting for a chance.
Defensively, the Gators did lose a couple of game-changers in Vosean Joseph and Jachai Polite, who led the team with 11 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. Grantham did wonders with this unit last season. After allowing 27 points per game in Florida’s worst defensive season in quite some time in 2017, the team went from 5.7 yards per play allowed to 5.1. The Gators went from 23 sacks to 37 sacks. Every level improved and Grantham’s second year could go even better.
Miami opens the season with a lot more questions than answers. Maybe Jarren Williams can be the guy. New offensive coordinator Dan Enos sure hopes so. Enos left Central Michigan to be the offensive coordinator at Arkansas and then found himself on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama last year. He has to have picked up a thing or two from his time about Mullen and about SEC life, so we’ll see if that helps with all summer to prepare for the season opener.
It won’t take much to surpass last year’s passing numbers, as the ‘Canes completed 51.1 percent of their passes as a team with a 19/14 TD/INT ratio. It was the running game that allowed the Miami offense to move the chains, as Travis Homer headlined a group that rushed for 5.2 yards per carry. Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry ranked third and fourth, respectively, in rushing yards, however, and Homer is gone. That puts a lot of pressure on true sophomore Cam’Ron Harris and last year’s #2 RB recruit Lorenzo Lingard. Miami also replaces three starters on the offensive line.
If you look at the offenses on paper, it looks like Florida by a mile. That may be true, but this is a spread of a touchdown with a total in the mid-to-upper 40s. The Hurricanes defense should give The U a chance at hanging around or maybe even stealing the game. The losses are fairly heavy from last year, as leading tackler and sixth-round pick Jaquan Johnson, fourth-round pick Sheldrick Redwine, Gerald Willis, who led the team with 14 TFL and four sacks, and top sack man Joe Jackson are all gone.
Miami’s depth chart is littered with top recruits, but a lot of playmakers from last year’s team have moved on. All of the starting linebackers return, though, and those second-level guys are the most important when it comes to stopping Florida’s rushing attack. Shaq Quarterman turned down a trip to the NFL Draft to play out his senior season as the unquestioned leader of the defense.
I’ll be tweaking my power ratings over the next week, but I don’t anticipate any big adjustments to either of these teams. My line for the opener is 7.5 with the neutral-site game in Orlando, so I’m very close to the number.
Pick: Florida -7
But, I’ve got a lean to the Florida side in this one. Jarren Williams could very well be a superstar in the making. It doesn’t take much to look like a superstar with what the Hurricanes had last season. I just can’t back Miami against this Gators defense when single digits or fewer than 14 points is a real possibility.
The Gators offense should be even more efficient with Mullen for a second year and the defense should be the same way under Grantham. Florida did pad its numbers against bad teams last year, averaging 6.9 yards per play against losing teams, but only 5.6 yards per play against winning teams at the FBS level. That’s why this is only a lean in the opening game.
As far as the total goes, I’d lean slightly to the under, as I would expect a lot of safe plays for Miami at the outset and a lot of Perine and Pierce for the Gators to open up some play-action later in the game for Franks to take some shots.
A good game for the kickoff of the 2019 college football season, but not a great game for betting purposes.
<< Previous PostNext Post >>