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LSU 2021 Schedule Preview: Florida

“Unsportsmanlike conduct, throwing the LSU player’s shoe 20 yards down the field.”

NCAA Football: LSU at Florida The Gainesville Sun-USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida Gators

2020: 8-4 (8-2 SEC)

2021 S&P+ Projections: 12th

2021 Recruiting Class: 12th

Head Coach: Dan Mullen (29-9, fifth year)

Offensive Coordinator: Billy Gonzales (passing game coordinator), John Hevesy (running game coordinator)

Defensive Coordinator: Todd Grantham

About a month ago Sporting News put out a list of best coaches in college football and had Dan Mullen ranked eighth while Ed Orgeron was ranked 14th. And that’s fine, just because one particular platform puts out a list doesn’t make its word law—heck we do SEC positional breakdowns every summer that doesn’t mean we’re the definitive voice of college football.

But I will quibble with this in regards to Mullen vs. Orgeron. Coach O is 2-1 against Mullen since Dan the Man became the Gator’s coach and if Mullen really is a superior coach then his team, as a 24-point home favorite, should have beaten the breaks off LSU’s JV roster that barely had enough kids to play in the first place last December. Mullen purposefully—and I’d argue arrogantly—held out Kyle Pitts to save him for the following week’s SEC Championship game against Alabama thinking he wouldn’t need him against what was supposed to have been an LSU team that was going through the motions.

We know what happened. LSU went into Florida and, if I can be perfectly blunt, fucked the Gators’ season. Florida probably wasn’t going to beat Alabama even if they had taken care of business against LSU’s second and third stringers, but the fact that Orgeron and company made sure Florida wouldn’t make the playoff is hilarious and Mullen will never live that down.

Anyway, last year Florida had themselves an X-Men at tight end and a Heisman finalist at quarterback and all they have to show for it is a six-point loss against Bama in the SEC Championship game and a beatdown at the hands of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

Now both those guys are gone and in to replace Kyle Trask is Emory Jones and apparently scouts are really high on his upside. That’s all well and good but Jones has thrown 55 passes in three years. For comparison, Max Johnson threw 51 passes in the Ole Miss game alone.

Dan Mullen can develop quarterbacks with the best of them, but he’ll have his work cut out for him considering how much Florida is losing out wide. Not only is Pitts gone, but so too is Kadarius Toney and Treveon Grimes. That’s 153 catches, 2,343 yards and 31 touchdowns out the door. Even tougher for Florida is the Gators didn’t really offset those losses through recruiting or the transfer portal; Florida signed five receivers with Marcus Burke, a low four-star, being the highest rated of the bunch and didn’t add any transfer pass catchers.

What Florida does bring back is an experienced offensive line, including center Stewart Reese, left guard Ethan White, and left tackle Richard Gouraige and that should help ease Jones into the starting role.

Defensively Florida had nearly as rough a time as LSU did last season, but Mullen is standing by Todd Grantham. Whether that is advised remains to be seen as Grantham’s defense gave up 30 points a game and allowed the most passing touchdowns in the conference.

Up front Florida has some serious dudes, including a pair of fifth-year seniors Zachary Carter, a preseason First-Team All-SEC selection at defensive end, and linebacker Ventrell Miller who was on the second-team and is viewed as a second round pick in next April’s draft.

But Florida’s best player is future first round pick Kaiir Elam. Elam would be the best corner in America if Derek Stingley Jr. were to vanish in a Thanos-like snap of the Infinity Gauntlet. Elam will help mentor five-star freshman corner Jason Marshall who looks to be the next great Florida defensive back. The Gators did a pretty good job keeping the cupboard stocked with talent on the defensive side of the ball as edge rusher Jeremiah Williams and safety Corey Collier, both mid-four star players headline the Gators No. 12 recruiting class.

Florida’s special teams lost a massive piece with kicker Evan McPherson graduating. For his career McPherson scored 302 points, made 51 of 60 field goals and made all but one of his 150 career PATs. To fill the void, Mullen brings in a familiar face Jace Christmann who was his kicker at Mississippi State in 2017. For his career, Christman is 32-40 on field goals and has knocked down 127 PATs.

Florida’s season comes down to three games: home against Alabama in week three, the trip to Baton Rouge in week seven, and the annual Cocktail Party against Georgia. If Florida wants to get back to Atlanta they’ll have to beat the Dawgs and one of Bama or LSU. Two losses—especially one to Georgia—more than likely won’t cut it. If Florida goes 1-2 but takes care of business in the other nine games, they’ll be looking at a fourth straight New Year’s Six bowl.

Florida Schedule

September 4 vs. Florida Atlantic

September 11 @ South Florida

September 18 vs. Alabama

September 25 vs. Tennessee

October 2 @ Kentucky

October 9 vs. Vanderbilt

October 16 @ LSU

October 23 BYE

October 30 vs. Georgia (In Jacksonville)

November 6 @ South Carolina

November 13 vs. Samford

November 20 @ Missouri

November 27 vs. Florida State