Florida Betting Odds Preview
The Gators are coming off their worst season in nearly 35 years, losing their last seven games to finish 4-8, missing a bowl for the first time in over 20 years.
But much of last season's struggles can be attributed to the nasty toll injuries took; three different Gators started at quarterback, the offensive line turned patchwork and a defense that held its first six opponents to 78 points got banged up and gave up 175 points over its last six contests. This year Florida hopes to take advantage of the experience gained because of those injuries, and jump back into contention in the SEC East.
Florida started 4-1 last year, and could have been 5-0, but for five turnovers at Miami. But then the injuries began to hit, and the Gators lost their last seven games, the first five coming against bowl-bound squads, then an embarrassing upset (as 28-point favorites) at the hands of Georgia Southern at the Swamp, and finally a 30-point blowout against Florida State. Still, while finishing four games under .500, Florida was only outscored by a total of 27 points.
The Gators went just 3-8-1 ATS last year, 1-5-1 ATS during their season-ending skid.
This year the Gators return 14 starters, seven on each side of the ball. QB Jeff Driskel is back for his junior season, after missing most of last year with a broken leg, as are three along the offensive line. And three starters return on what should be one of the best defensive lines in the nation.
This year's schedule calls for games at Alabama, Tennessee, Vandy and Florida State, home dates with LSU, Missouri and South Carolina and the annual Cocktail Party against Georgia in Jacksonville. To have a shot at winning the SEC East this year the Gators will have to take care of business at home – win 'em all – and keep the road losses to an absolute minimum, two at the most. Against that schedule, that might be asking a lot.
Florida can't have any worse luck than it did last season, so the Gators should be considered candidates to bounce back to at least bowl status.
SEC Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
South Carolina 5/1
Ole Miss 14/1
Texas A&M 25/1
Mississippi State 40/1
The Florida Gators almost got back to the top of the SEC last year, missing out on a berth in the conference championship game because of a bad day at the big party in Jacksonville vs. Georgia. But just how good was Florida? The Gators won several close games last year, and after beating rival Florida State in the regular-season finale they got upset in the Sugar Bowl as 14-point favorites by Louisville. It will be interesting to see whether Florida can back up its 11-2 record of last season, or if it will take a step back.
Florida had 16 starters back last year from a 7-6 team of coach Will Muschamp's first season in 2011. The Gators then started 7-0, with wins over Texas A&M, LSU, and South Carolina, climbing to No. 3 in the polls. But then came that game against UGA in which Florida turned the ball over six times and lost 17-9. The Gators then won their last three games, including an upset of the 'Noles in Tallahassee, but fell completely flat in that Sugar Bowl loss to underdog Louisville.
Florida finished 7-6 ATS on the season, which is a bit hard to figure considering its +15 turnover ratio. The Gators went 6-2 ATS in conference play but only 1-4 ATS outside of the SEC. They were also just 1-4 ATS when favored by double digits, which says something. This year UF returns six starters on offense, including QB Jeff Driskel and three along the offensive line, but only four starters are back on defense, as they lose five of last year's top six tacklers from a unit that held foes to less than 15 PPG.
This year's schedule isn't exactly kind, considering the Gators have to play at Miami, at LSU, and at South Carolina, Georgia in Jacksonville, and Florida State at home. They do manage to miss Alabama and Texas A&M, though, at least until a possible SEC championship game matchup. So while Florida has seven very winnable games on its slate, it's also got five very tough ones. While the offense could improve upon its 26 PPG of last year, with Driskel headed into his second full season as the starter, the defense might find it hard to duplicate last season's numbers.
SEC Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of July 29
South Carolina +500
Texas A&M +850
Mississippi State +10000