Game Date & Time: Saturday, September 17th 6:30 PM
Venue: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
2015 Record: 10-4
Senior Starters: 7
% of Letterman Returning: 69.4%
% of Offensive Yards Returning: 53.6%
% of Tackles Returning: 58.7%
OL Career Starts:43
Previous Match-ups: North Texas won 20-12 in 1947
What you Need Know
Offense: Florida was rolling last year before QB Will Grier was suspended. They were undefeated under new HC Jim McElwain, and many thought they could challenge to win the SEC title. Florida went 4-4 the last 8 games, including a bowl game blowout at the hands of Michigan. In those 8 games Florida was only able to score 16.5 ppg which is 15 points less than they were averaging in the previous 6 games. Florida bolstered their QB position by adding 2 transfers, Austin Appleby (Purdue) and Luke Del Rio Jr. (Oregon St.). The OL in 2015 was one of the youngest in the nation. They allowed 3.1 sacks per game. That OL should be much improved this year, and should help contribute to a more successful offense. At RB Florida is looking to replace their leading rusher from 2015. They should see better production from the RB’s though with the improved OL. The Gators signed a very talented JUCO RB Mark Thompson (6-2, 242) who will be a thumper with speed. Florida doesn’t have a whole lot of production or explosiveness at the WR position. They lost 2 of their top 4 receiving targets.
Defense: Florida has always been known for their stingy defense. That will be no different this year. The defense is loaded with future NFL talent. They did lose a few stars from the 2015 team (Vernon Hargraves, Antonio Morrison and Alex McCalister), but the Gators may have the best secondary in the SEC. Florida lost its best LB and may have some depth issues. They signed 3 as part of the 2016 recruiting class. Its safe to assume that a couple of those guys will be playing against North Texas. On the DL Florida lost their top 2 sack guys, but have plenty of depth and talent to replace them.
Overall: This Gator team will once again be relying on their defense to carry the team. If Del Rio or Appleby can improve play dramatically for the QB position this team could easily challenge Georgia and Tennessee for the SEC East title.
Players to Watch for
FS Marcus Maye & CB Jalen Tabor: Maye and Tabor are two outstanding pieces to an extremely talented Gator secondary. Both of these guys are All-Americans and could eventually be first round picks in the NFL Draft. Maye elected to return to Florida for his final season. Tabor is junior, and he recorded 4 INTs last year, returning 2 of those for TDs.
WR Antonio Callaway: Callaway set a true freshman school record with 3 100 yard games, and he led the team with 648 receiving yards. He also showed his skill as a dangerous return man, where he racked up 514 return yards and 2 TDs.
What are the Chances?
10% for Win
25% for a Game Within 10 Points
Some of y’all may say that’s too high, but Florida has one of most inexperienced teams in the country. They aren’t a juggernaut on offense with play makers lining up all over the field. I think you also have to consider when North Texas plays the Gators. They get them before a huge rivalry game. Florida plays Tennessee the following week. Last year Florida nearly lost to FAU in overtime a week before the Gators were to play their instate rivals Florida St. This will be Littrell’s first road game and what a doozy it will be. Having a guy like Alec Morris at the helm could really calm the nerves of the offense. While not actually getting game time in The Swamp, he has been to plenty of SEC venues as a part of Alabama. He knows what the SEC is all about, and the stage shouldn’t rattle Morris at all. The North Texas defense will likely struggle with the physical Florida running, and the offensive line will likely struggle with the good Florida DL. NT’s best chance to win or keep this game close is Alec Morris and the WR’s. The Air Raid passing game can be a great equalizer in games like this.