CFB GAME PREVIEW: FLORIDA VS MIAMI
By Rory Daniels
As is tradition for College Football they will kick off this weekend with Week 0 of the season. In the 150th year of CFB, it rightly starts with a bang. Only 350 miles separate these in-state rivals and a loss for either will see them on the back foot immediately. Rory Daniels gives you everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s clash:
THE TWO TEAMS:
Florida come into the game ranked 8th in the AP pre-season poll. They will seek to build on the 10-3 record they achieved last year. Quarterback Feleipe Franks showed promise after an underwhelming 2017 and he will look to develop further under Dan Mullen.
It was a season of regression for the Miami Hurricanes last year. After a dominant defense was inspired by the turnover chain in 2017, they came down to earth with a bump. They faltered heavily mid-season with four in-conference losses leading to a 7-6 record and a heavy bowl loss at the hands of Wisconsin.
Dan Mullen can consider 2018 as a success. His first season in charge of the Gators saw them finish within the top 10. After nearly nine years at Mississippi State, Mullen returned to Florida where he served as QB coach and offensive coordinator. Mullen helped to develop Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott and will hope he can help Feleipe Franks take the next step under his tutelage.
It was a hectic offseason for Miami head coach Manny Diaz. After being coordinator of a dominant Hurricanes defense between 2016-2018, Diaz took his first head coach gig at Temple. His tenure lasted 17 days. Mark Richt’s surprise retirement led to Diaz being offered the Miami job and the son of the city’s former Mayor, couldn’t refuse. He will make sure the ‘Canes are a defensive force but question marks over the QB situation will need resolving early for them to crack the top 25.
THE KEY MATCHUP:
C.J Henderson vs Jeff Thomas
Jeff Thomas has been brought back into the fold at Miami having been dismissed from the program last season. His talent is undeniable and he is an excellent receiver when he applies himself. His pure speed will be a great test for Gators cornerback C.J. Henderson. Henderson heads into 2019 as a top prospect for next year’s draft. If he can keep Thomas under wraps it will be difficult for Miami’s offense to get a foothold in the game.
THE DRAFT PROSPECTS:
Lamical Perine, Running Back – Perine returns for his senior season having led the Gators in rushing yards in 2018. A shifty back with a great change of direction, he will keep the Miami LB’s honest.
Jabari Zuniga, Defensive End – Having lost Jachai Polite to the NFL the pressure is on Jabari Zuniga to produce. He flashes plenty of ability but needs to improve his consistency to be a legitimate NFL prospect.
Navaughan Donaldson, Guard – Donaldson was an All-American as a freshman and remains a dominant force on the ‘Canes line. An imposing 6’6, 340lbs he has all the hallmarks to make it at the next level, pay special attention to him on running downs.
Trajan Bandy, Cornerback – Despite his diminutive size Trajan Bandy has shown great promise at Miami. The cornerback is 5’9 but showed off elite ball skills with 3 picks and 8 pass deflections last year. He projects as a nickel corner in the NFL but will have more responsibility than that on Saturday.
Florida 23 – 17 Miami
A tight game to start the season. It could come down to the QB’s. Having ousted Ohio State transfer Tate Martell, the season opener might be slightly too much for redshirt freshman Jarren Williams against an experienced Florida defense.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com