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Opponent Q&A: Florida

Talkin’ Gators.

Syndication: Gainesville Sun Doug Engle / USA TODAY NETWORK

Welcome back to the Opponent Q&A, where this week we had a chat with the fine folks over at Alligator Army about what we can expect for tomorrow’s big game. Many thanks to Topher Adams for sharing his insights and letting us behind enemy lines.

Dan Mullen made headlines this week for an ill-advised comment about recruiting, and that’s cranked up the negativity around him in general. How are Gators fans feeling about him right now?

It’s bad. Like late-stage Jim McElwain bad. Ever since his comments after the Kentucky loss it’s been a downward spiral for Mullen’s standing with the fanbase. Four losses AND the NINTH ranked recruiting class in the SEC is just unacceptable at Florida. Mullen’s probably safe, especially given his relationship with the AD (who should also be on the hot seat), but things are bad right now.

Related to the previous question, Florida will likely be double-digit favorites in each of its remaining games. Sitting at 4-4, are the Gators in must-win territory, both in terms of Mullen’s job security and the overall perception of the program?

For everything I just said about Mullen being safe, he might be done if Florida drops one or more of these remaining games. This was always a rebuilding year, so losses to Alabama, Georgia, and even Kentucky aren’t the end of the world. If the Gators stumble against the bottom of the division or even Florida State, I can’t see Mullen coming back from that. He needs to prove to the fans and even the administration that he can right the ship, and that means winning out.

There was some see-sawing between quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson earlier in the season, with Richardson finally supplanting Jones as UF’s starter. However, his status for Saturday is iffy because of a concussion. Do you expect Richardson to miss this game? If so, how do folks feel about Jones being back in the saddle?

I really doubt Richardson plays this week and he most likely won’t even be an option off the bench. I was really hoping to see Richardson get extensive time against teams that don’t have an all-time great defense, but his long-term health is priority number one, so Emory Jones is back and that’s fine. Jones hasn’t been bad — except the turnovers — and runs the offense pretty well. He’s just not as explosive as Richardson. If Florida doesn’t execute offensively, Jones can’t pull something out of his hat and break the game open. I think fans are, or at least should be, ok with Jones starting Saturday night.

The Gamecock defense has been opportunistic, and the Gators have been plagued by turnovers. Are there other weak spots that South Carolina could potentially exploit?

That terrifies me about this game. Florida has one of the worst turnover differentials in the country and will almost certainly make some bad mistakes on Saturday. If this game plays out like Kentucky, LSU, or even the first half against Vanderbilt, Florida will make enough mistakes and play lackluster enough to keep the Gamecocks in the game. Motivation is really the crux of the issue. If Florida comes out like it did in the first half against Georgia or the second half of Alabama, South Carolina has no shot. But if Florida comes out flat and the Gamecocks play disciplined and just wait for Florida to shoot itself in the foot, that’s the path to an upset.

Finally, care to make a prediction?

Florida is strong in the trenches and I think they’ll show up with enough energy to handle this game. I don’t know if the Gators cover the spread but something like a comfortable 34-17 sounds about right.