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2018 Opponent Preview: Florida

The Gators are hoping their prodigal son can take them back to the promised land.

Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The South Carolina Gamecocks continue a two-game road swing and close out their SEC slate against the Florida Gators on Nov. 10. At that point in the season, it will be very interesting indeed to see where Gators are in the division standings. Florida has been a quick beneficiary of offseason hype, with the return of prodigal son and new head coach Dan Mullen, and so we’ll see if this year’s contest features slightly more attractive football than we’ve seen in previous editions. Because whew, have these games been a sight to behold lately.

Last meeting: The Gamecocks whiteknuckled their way through a 28-20 victory against the Gators in a sloppy showing that set the sport back decades. This early game possession, which we can laugh at because South Carolina a) got a first down and b) won the game, sums it up:

(Not pictured: The three [3] more turnovers in this sequence that took place over the course of about one minute of game time.)

Quarterback Jake Bentley turned in his worst performance of the season, tossing three interceptions, and South Carolina’s problems with special teams loomed large with a muffed punt and missed field goal. Fortunately, Jamyest Williams saved the day with a game-clinching interception after it looked like Florida might mount a miracle drive. The Gamecocks’ rushing offense enjoyed a good day, with strong performances from A.J. Turner and Mon Denson, and Will Muschamp certainly enjoyed getting his first win against the Gators.

Last season: Florida limped to a 4-7 (3-5 SEC) record, finishing fifth in the SEC East and parting ways with coach Jim McElwain, whose alleged offensive mastery never materialized in Gainesville. The season got off to an inauspicious start for the Gators, who entered a high-profile matchup against Michigan with a No. 17 ranking and left with a sound 33-17 loss. The Gators did improbably keep their insane winning streak over Kentucky alive, but otherwise only notched conference victories against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Most galling to the Florida faithful, UF suffered a crushing 42-7 defeat to rival Georgia and took another tough loss to Florida State.

Player to watch out for: Will the Gators ever have a productive quarterback again in this post-Tebow timeline? Feleipe Franks didn’t light the world on fire last season, but he was clearly Florida’s best option in the quarterback carousel they spun through. I feel like a broken record at this point, but multiple teams on the Gamecocks’ schedule are dealing with questions at this position, and that’s kind of a big deal. If Franks, only a sophomore, is able to build on the experience he got last season and gets some more help along the offensive line, Mullen will have a little more to work with.

Prognosis: The talking heads are already expecting big things out of the Dan Mullen era in Gainesville, as the Gators have been a bit of a trendy dark horse pick in the SEC East (and someone even picked them as a College Football Playoff participant). While Dan Mullen certainly has more a proven track record than Jim McElwain and accomplished incredible things at Mississippi State, he’s probably going to need more than just an offseason to turn this program around. That being said, the Gators do have a schedule that could allow them to reach and even surpass the .500 mark. There’s just a lot of unknowns right now.