Bowling Green (0-0) at (23) Florida (0-0)|
Saturday, September 1, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 23rd-ranked Florida Gators come into this new season with high
expectations despite a modest 2011 campaign, and they attempt to start the year
off strong in Saturday's opener against the visiting Bowling Green Falcons.
On the surface, Bowling Green's 5-7 record in 2011 (3-5 in Mid-American
Conference) may seem like a disappointment, but considering the team was
hampered with injuries all year long, the three-game improvement over the 2010
campaign should be considered a mild success. However, third-year head coach
Dave Clawson has a much bigger goal in mind, and finishing below .500 is not
"Going 2-10 two years ago and last year going 5-7 really takes a toll on you,"
defensive tackle Chris Jones said. "Losing is not anybody's favorite thing.
It's probably my least favorite thing. This year being my senior year I really
want that MAC Championship."
Florida got off to a hot start in Will Muschamp's first year as its new head
coach, opening the season at 4-0, but then the wheels came off as the team
would go winless in the month of October and finished the regular season at
just 6-6. The Gators did not fare well against the cream of the crop in the
SEC, going 0-5 against ranked opponents, with losses at LSU (41-11), Auburn
(17-6) and South Carolina (17-12), and at home versus Alabama (38-10) and
Georgia (24-20). The Gators accepted a bid to play in the Gator Bowl, where
they defeated Ohio State, 24-17. The win brought their overall record to 7-6,
thus avoiding their first losing season since 1979.
Saturday's game marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
Leading the Bowling Green offensive attack once again will be quarterback Matt
Schilz, and he showed plenty of great things in his sophomore season with 3,024
passing years and 28 touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero plans to let Schilz air it out once again
this season, but the Falcons don't have much in the cupboard at wide receiver
after graduating six players at the position a year ago. Between Shaun Joplin,
Chris Gallon, Heath Jackson, and Michigan transfer Je'Ron Stokes, someone will
need to step up as Schilz's new go-to guy.
Anthon Samuel was impressive in his rookie season, rushing for 884 yards at 5.9
yards per carry en route to being named the MAC Freshman of the Year. If Samuel
can stay healthy - he missed three games last season - he should be in for an
even better year behind a veteran offensive line.
The Bowling Green defense appears to be an even more cohesive unit than the
offense, with seven starters returning to the fold.
Though all four starters return in the secondary, safety Jerry Gates is the
only senior in the bunch. After making the full-time switch to the defensive
backfield a year ago (73 tackles, 2 INTs), the team expects Gates to be one of
the leaders of the unit.
Jones (47 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 11 TFL) is perhaps the best interior lineman in
the MAC, and he is able to make big plays in both the passing and running game.
Linebacker Dwayne Woods (111 tackles, 4.5 sacks) is as solid as they come in
The Florida offense was not up to snuff in 2011, as the unit ranked eighth in
the SEC in scoring (25.5 ppg) and 10th in total offense (328.7 ypg). With last
season's quarterback John Brantley now graduated, the team will turn to a pair
of sophomores in Jacoby Brisset and Jeff Driskel to try and fill the void.
Muschamp is keeping his quarterback situation under wraps until game time.
While he's stated that both signal-callers will see action, he's still mum
about who will get the start.
"I met with both quarterbacks (last Friday) morning," Muschamp said. "Both
guys will play in the first game. They both deserved the right to play. They
have earned that. They both have had really good camps. I told both of them
that the last position I'm worried about is the quarterback. I feel very
comfortable about both guys."
No Florida receiver amassed more than 400 yards last season, but whichever
young QB lines up under center, he will have a number of experienced pass
catchers to aid him, including returning starters Quinton Dunbar (216 yards, 2
TDs) and Frankie Hammond (181 yards), and tight end Jordan Reed (307 yards, 2
With the top two rushers from 2011 gone, senior Mike Gillislee will have his
chance to make an impact this year after rushing for 328 yards (5.9 ypc) a
season ago. It will help that a veteran offensive line will be blocking for
him, with tackle Chaz Green, guard John Halapio and center Jonotthan Harrison
all returning as starters.
In an league chock full of stout defenses, the Gators managed to hold their own
last year, ranking sixth in scoring defense (20.6 ppg) and fifth in total
defense (299.6 ypg).
The strength of the unit lies in the linebacking corps, where all three
starters return. Jon Bostic (team-best 94 tackles, 10 TFL, 3 sacks), Jelani
Jenkins (75 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 interception) and Lerentee McCray (7.5 TFL)
should all benefit from playing together for an entire season.
The secondary remains largely intact as well, with safeties Matt Elam (78
tackles, 11 TFL, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries) and Josh Evans (51
tackles) hoping to improve upon stellar seasons.
Only one member of the defensive line returns (Ronald Powell, who had a team-
high 6 sacks in 2011), but Muschamp likes what he sees in his defensive unit
as a whole.
"I feel comfortable with our leadership where it is," Muschamp said. "(The
defense) has a high expectation level of themselves of what they need to do to
The Gators have a lot to live up to this season given their questionable
national ranking. Bowling Green has showed marked improvement over the past few
seasons, and with a solid core of leaders, the Falcons should be in the mix in
the MAC all season long, but even with an unknown quarterback situation on the
Florida side, the Gators possess way too much talent to stumble out of the
blocks at home against an inferior opponent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 31, Bowling Green 10
08/31 10:30:22 ET