2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - FAU at Florida
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Sept. 3 at Florida 45 … Florida Atlantic 3
CFN Analysis: Blowing out Florida Atlantic isn't like blowing away Florida State, but considering the problems offensively last year, and with the problems in the opener against Miami University, 41-3 with 468 yards of offense looks great. John Brantley threw two picks, and he was shaky at times, but he did a nice job of spreading the ball around and getting the passing game going like last year's coaching staff would've liked. Again, though, like last year, the ground game waited for the Jeff Demps home run a bit too much. The Jeff Driskel era got the chance to get going with the superstar recruit competing 4-of-6 passes for 42 yards and a pick. There's still a lot of tuning to be done, and UAB is in huge trouble next week, but this was a strong debut.
The Owls didn't have a prayer against a pumped up Florida team looking to make a big statement, and life isn't going to get much easier with dates at Michigan State and Auburn as part of the brutal five-game road stretch to start the season. Graham Wilbert never got time to operate, but he did the best he could with what he had to work with completing 14-of-26 passes for 107 yards. The Will Muschamp defense wasn't going to let FAU's running game breathe, giving up just 30 yards with Alfred Morris having a nightmare of a day gaining 16 yards on 14 carries. The one positive was the punting game with Mickey Groody having a typical Mickey Groody day, averaging 43.5 yards per bomb.
(AP) GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Will Muschamp was the first guy off Florida's bus Saturday and the first one in the locker room.
He was the last one off the field, soaking up every second of his head-coaching debut.
And why not? After all, it was a rousing success.
John Brantley looked comfortable leading Florida's revamped offense, Chris Rainey scored three different ways and the 22nd-ranked Gators opened the Muschamp era with a 41-3 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday night.
"It was exciting," Muschamp said. "I was excited for our players. It's about players to me, about seeing those guys see their work come to a conclusion."
Brantley completed 21 of 30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown, showing marked improvement in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense. He threw two interceptions, but the first was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Rainey touched the ball 18 times, scoring on a 14-yard reception and a 14-yard run. He also scooped a blocked punt and sprinted 22 yards for a score that made it 31-3 early in the third quarter.
Trying to rebuild his image after last year's arrest and suspension, Rainey became the third player in the nation since 1996 to have a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a return for a touchdown in the same game.
"It's a God-given gift, so you have to ask God," Rainey said.
Rainey finished with 79 yards rushing and 67 yards receiving. Jeff Demps was just as dynamic, running 12 times for 105 yards and two scores. He also caught three passes for 21 yards.
"They are very special with the ball in their hands," Muschamp said.
With Rainey and Demps leading the way, Florida's offense racked up 468 yards. It was a considerably better showing than the team's last opener, which set the tone for a disappointing 2010 season. The Gators had botched snaps, penalties and turnovers against Miami, Ohio, finishing with 212 yards and hearing more jeers than cheers.
Little went wrong against the Owls.
The Gators scored on their first four possessions and led 24-0 before Florida Atlantic even got a first down.
Florida's defense dominated the Owls, controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing four consecutive three-and-outs to start the game. FAU finished with 137 yards, a rough start for coach Howard Schnellenberger's retirement tour.
Schnellenberger, who is calling it quits at the end of this season, watched the game from an upstairs coaching box following a hospital trip Friday.
The 77-year-old coach experienced severe discomfort in his surgically repaired hip during a bus ride to Gainesville. He said the trouble began when he started doing some hip rehabilitation exercises while the bus was stopped for repairs. Schnellenberger got a leg cramp he couldn't knock and ended up calling for medical help.
He was transported by ambulance to a hospital near Port St. Lucie. X-rays were negative, and Schnellenberger eventually rejoined the team in Gainesville.
"No damage done; it's in great shape," said Schnellenberger, who had hip replacement surgery three weeks ago. "I'll be out there. Not going on the field today. I'm going upstairs because only an idiot would take two chances in two days. From then on we'll be on the sideline."
His team's performance wouldn't have looked good from any vantage point.
Demps took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. That was a minor setback, though.
Brantley, Demps and Rainey quickly moved the Gators into FAU territory. Brantley repeatedly hit Demps and Rainey with swing passes. A snap over Brantley's head stalled the opening drive, and Florida settled for a field goal.
But the fast start was just what the Gators needed after last year's confidence-crushing season. Florida failed to score points in the first quarter in six of the team's first seven games in 2010.
So when Brantley got the ball back, the Gators went on the move again. Frankie Hammond made a nice catch near the sideline, Jordan Reed made a great grab in traffic and then Brantley found Rainey in the flat for the touchdown. Rainey made one cut and slipped across the goal line.
Rainey's TD run was even niftier. He used a spin move to escape a defender in the backfield, picked up two blocks and scampered in to make it 24-0.
The Gators cruised from there.
It was a relatively stress-free night for Muschamp, who was admittedly anxious before his debut. Although the Gators ruled defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd ineligible before the game, the only other negative on this night was an injury to versatile Trey Burton.
"I think we need to be realistic here," Muschamp said. "We'll face better opponents throughout the season. ... We didn't face as much adversity as we had hoped for, but I'm very pleased with the effort and energy of our players."
Atlantic (0-0) vs. Florida (0-0) Sept. 3, 7:00
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Here's The Deal … Last year, Florida opened up the season with a spotty, shaky win over Miami University and followed it up with a few uneven performances on the way to a 4-0 start. And then the wheels came off, the season stunk, and now there's a new regime taking over. There are some games that coaching staffs want to use as scrimmages and stepping stones, and there are others that are used as tone-setters. New head coach Will Muschamp is looking to bring the swagger back to a program that lost it last year, and he's looking to use the first two games of the season against FAU and UAB to show the world that everything is back to normal.
Florida Atlantic, on the other hand, is simply trying to show that 2010 was a distant memory and 2011 should be much stronger.
The Owls went 4-8 last year and got worse as the season went on, but seven starters are back on both sides of the ball and there's enough talent and athleticism among the first teamer to hang around with the Gators for a while. In 2007, Florida blew away FAU 59-20, and anything better than that will be a plus.
Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: There's a chance that Florida
hasn't quite figured out what it's doing yet under
the new coaching staff. Last year the Gators were
the football definition of a square peg trying to
fit into a round hole, and the offense was spotty
and ineffective. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis
isn't exactly starting from scratch, but it might be
a little bit until everyone figures out exactly what
they're doing. The Owls are loaded with speed and
athleticism on the defensive front seven, working
mostly in a 3-4 alignment now, and the chances
should be there to get behind the line enough to
screw things up. Muschamp hasn't been happy with the
way the team has been scrimmaging, and from most
indications - keeping in mind that all the practices
are closed - are that the offense has been a bit
Why Florida Might Win: Be shocked if FAU gets any positive
yards on the ground. There are plenty of good,
veteran backs in the rotation, and the line should
be among the best in the Howard Schnellenberger era,
but it won't matter. For all the problems last year,
the Gator defense did a great job against the pass
and was good enough against the run - one Marcus
Lattimore performance aside. Muschamp's defenses at
Texas were dominant against the run, and he has as
much talent to work with this year as he ever did in
Austin. The defensive front appears to be ready to
reach its potential after all the hype for so many
players coming in as top recruits, while the
linebacking corps might be as fast as any in the
SEC. FAU finished 115th in the nation in rushing,
partly because of so many sacks allowed, and life
isn't going to get any better against a defensive
front that'll be frothing at the mouth.
What To Watch Out For: Can John Brantley be a statistical
superstar under Weis? At 6-3 and 220 pounds he has the right size to go along with an NFL arm that can push the ball all over the place. A pro-style passer, he completed 61% of his passes, he only threw for 2,061 yards and nine touchdowns with ten interceptions, but now he has a better coaching staff for his skills. He has had problems with his back this summer missing plenty of practice time, and while all is expected to be fine for FAU, he has to be great. There are too many good options waiting in the wings to have a bad game against a Sun Belt secondary. On the other side, the Owls need end Jamere Johnson to get past his leg problem to be a regular pass rusher. He's a 4-3 end, and more of a hybrid outside linebacker, but he'll line up as an interior defender at times to utilize his quickness. He needs to be in Brantley's face all game long.
What Will Happen: The Gators aren't going to look like the
Gators of previous years, but the downfield passing
game will be far, far more effective than it was at
any time last year. There will be mistakes, and the
results will be ragged at times, but it'll be
effective. The Owls won't be able to do a thing
offensively, with the Florida D looking like it's in
CFN Prediction: Florida 37 ... Florida Atlantic 7
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Florida -34.5 O/U: 47
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