OPINION: What are the realistic expectations for the rest of the Gators’ season?

Now that we know who the Gators are, what are realistic expectations for the rest of the season?

Florida’s victory over the Utah Utes was an incredible way to start the Billy Napier era. The Gators were going into a rebuilding year, and Utah, as the defending Pac-12 champions, were seen as a legitimate playoff contender, building off their successful 2021 campaign.

The 29-26 home win gave fans a flashback to the 2018 season. Florida wasn’t expected to do much that year, yet they went 10-3 and won the Peach Bowl in [autotag]Dan Mullen[/autotag]’s first season in charge. The energy was palpable throughout the fan base, with calls for [autotag]Anthony Richardson[/autotag] to win the Heisman.

While there are similarities between the 2018 and 2022 seasons, including home losses to Kentucky, I think Florida fans would be better off setting realistic expectations for what this season will ultimately look like, now that we’ve seen this Florida team in action.

Go back and think of what we thought this season would look like before the win against Utah. I would venture to say that an 8-4 season would have been fantastic in the eyes of Florida fans. But with Billy Napier in his first season, the entire program being overhauled from the top to the bottom and the lack of depth on the current roster are not overnight fixes. They take time and require years of work to create a new standard.

Despite the grim talk of what needs to be fixed, there is still optimism for this current Gators team. I wouldn’t call the win against Utah a fluke, I would say it was this team playing at its absolute best. The thing is, we can’t reasonably expect this team to play at their absolute best for every single game this season.

I argued in my column before the season started that, no matter what happened this year, the season was a success. I still believe that to be true. What I’m saying in this piece is that our expectations need to come down to reality.

Is this team as good as they were against Utah? No. Well, not consistently at least. Is this team as bad as they were in their loss against Kentucky and in their close win against USF in the weeks after? No, and their performances in their loss against Tennessee and tune-up victory over Eastern Washington proved as much.

LSU at home next week, Georgia in Jacksonville after the bye week, on the road at Texas A&M the week after, and a Black Friday matchup in Tallahassee against Florida State are up ahead for the Gators.

Those four games will ultimately “decide” the season, and set the narrative for if the Gators’ season was a success or a failure. Assuming that the Gators get victories over Missouri, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt (all teams that this Gators team should beat), they will be bowl-eligible. If they can win two of the four games mentioned before, they’ll finish 8-4 before the postseason.

I think that’s a reasonable expectation for a first-year head coach dealing with a roster made up of young players he brought in, and players from the previous regime. This is still the University of Florida. Napier understands that the standard is to contend for championships. Pairing an 8-4 record with a stellar recruiting class would be a reasonable expectation for Napier in his first season in charge.

Next season, however, next season is a different story.

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CBS Sports makes its pick for Florida homecoming game vs Missouri

CBS Sports has released their SEC picks for Week 6 of the college football season, with Barrett Sallee giving his thoughts on UF vs Missouri

CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee has released his SEC picks for Week 6 of the college football season. For Saturday’s Florida vs Missouri game, he projects a close game with the Gators ultimately coming out victorious in their Homecoming game.

Missouri is coming off a close loss to Georgia, leading through much of the game and giving the Bulldogs their toughest test of the season so far. The Tigers’ defensive front looked good against the defending national champions, stifling the Georgia rushing attack through most of the game.

The Gators are coming off a dominant 52-17 victory over Eastern Washington. Before that, they lost a close game to Tennessee that saw the Gators’ offense breakthrough for 594 yards of total offense. [autotag]Anthony Richarson[/autotag] bounced back from two lackluster performances against Kentucky and USF with 453 passing yards, a career-high.

Here is what Sallee had to say about Saturday’s matchup.

Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson has thrown for over 200 yards in each of his last two games, including a 240-yard performance on just 8-of-10 passing in the 52-17 win over Eastern Washington on Sunday. He suffered a slight leg injury and limped off in that game but should be good to go this week vs. the Tigers. He will have to deal with a Tigers defensive front that is playing with confidence after notching 21 tackles for loss over the last two weeks, including nine last week against reigning national champion Georgia. That pressure will force Richardson into enough mistakes to make it a single-digit game, but not enough for Missouri to spring the upset.

If the Gators are going to beat Missouri, their offensive line needs to win the line of scrimmage against the Missouri defensive front. It’s important that Florida focus on the task at hand, and not on the looming games against LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M, the next three opponents on the Gators’ schedule.

Florida’s game against Missouri will be played at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Kickoff is scheduled for noon EDT. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

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5-star edge rusher is planning on visiting Florida for LSU game

Florida is packing the Swamp with five-star recruits on Oct. 15 when LSU comes to town. Elijah Rushing, one of the top edge rushers in the class of 2024, is the latest to confirm his plans.

Florida will host five-star legacy edge rusher [autotag]Elijah Rushing[/autotag] on Oct. 15 for the LSU game, according to a report from 247Sports.

It will be his first trip to the Swamp since April, but the Rushing family has close ties with the Gators. George Rushing, Elijah’s father, played tight end for Florida during the early 90s, and Cruz Rushing is currently a walk-on safety with the team.

“It was surreal,” Rushing said after his visit in April. “Just coming to a place where my dad played and where there is a legacy, it was truly a blessing. To me the offer shows belief in my abilities and it was just a lot of love coming from everyone we met this weekend on campus. Obviously, for me it’s big to be getting attention from schools down south and having these options from the SEC is something I don’t take for granted.”

The On3 consensus has him at No. 22 nationally and No. 2 among players at his position. Florida’s 5.4% odds are good for a six-way tie of fourth place behind Arizona (24.4%), Oregon (21.3%) and Notre Dame (12.3%). Arizona State, Clemson, Georgia and Michigan State are the programs tied with UF, but things are still up in the air.

Giving rushing a taste of what an SEC game day in the Swamp is really like could help improve Florida’s odds, but there’s plenty of time for the high-school junior to weigh his options.

The 247Sports composite ranks Rushing No. 17 overall and No. 3 among edge rushers in the class of 2024. Rushing still ranks high among his peers despite the On3 consensus being more conservative with five-star ratings.

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Priority defensive lineman target visiting Florida for Missouri game

The Gators have already hosted four-star defensive linemen Kayden McDonald three times this year, but now he gets to see what a game day in the Swamp is really like.

Four-star defensive tackle [autotag]Kayden McDonald[/autotag] has already been to the Swamp three times this season, and now he’s planning a fourth visit, according to 247Sports.

McDonald made his way down to Gainesville twice in June, including an official visit, and again in July. Still, he hasn’t experienced a game day at the University of Florida, but that should change on Saturday when he visits to see the Gators take on the Missouri Tigers.

Michigan and Ohio State have also hosted him on official visits, and he has a trip to Oklahoma lined up in a few weeks. Clemson could get the fifth and final visit, but McDonald hasn’t committed to anything just yet. Although that competition may seem fierce, Florida’s got the advantage of being a tenured member of the SEC.

“It’s Florida and I want to play in the SEC,” McDonald said to 247Sports. “(Billy) Napier, he ran the Sun Belt, so he’s going to win some games. If I come here or not, they’re going to win. He’s going to get a Natty in possibly three to four years, so he’s just trying to build this 2023 class. He’s already got the new facilities and academics. You’re going to get a great degree here and just come and work.”

McDonald plans on committing at the end of the month, so he must have some idea of where he wants to go among the five programs. Interestingly, Clemson leads the On3 recruiting prediction machine with 61.7% odds to land McDonald, and Florida is a distant third Michigan with a 2.3% shot. A visit to Florida could change things, but there’s clearly plenty of work to be done over the weekend.

The 247Sports composite ranks McDonald at No. 243 overall in the class of 2023 and No. 35 among defensive linemen. He’s a bit lower on the composite rankings at No. 302 nationally and No. 44 among those in his position group.

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Another 5-star 2024 WR plans visit to Florida for LSU game

Florida will host the top two receivers in the class of 2024 on Oct. 15 when the LSU Tigers come to town, per reports.

For those who aren’t caught up to speed on the class of 2024 yet, two of the top receivers in the group hail from Chaminade-Madonna Preparatory School in Hollywood, Florida. Their names are [autotag]Joshisa Trader[/autotag] and [autotag]Jeremiah Smith[/autotag]. Each has received a five-star designation on the On3 consensus and is ranked within the top five regardless of position.

As one might expect, the Florida Gators are looking to keep the in-state talents in-state, and the next step is an unofficial visit from the dynamic duo on Oct. 15, according to Gators Online.

LSU comes into town that day, and the list of blue-chip visitors is growing by the hour. Extending Trader an invitation is smart for a few reasons. First, getting him and Smith on campus at the same time could help amplify the impact of the visit. Wide receivers coach [autotag]Keary Colbert[/autotag] has put together a strong class of pass catchers for 2023, but he’s looking to land the best of the best in 2024.

The second and perhaps more important reason is that Trader has been vocal recently about Florida’s lack of effort when it comes to recruiting him. He flat-out said Florida could do more, and this is an appropriate response if Colbert is serious about landing five-star recruits. Chaminade-Madonna has arguably the top receiving core in the country, and a little more effort could help bring that group to Gainesville.

UF still has Ohio State, Miami and Texas A&M to beat out for Trader’s services, and the Buckeyes are heavy favorites as the top wide receiver destination in the country right now, but the door is certainly open with well over a year until the class of 2024 puts pen to paper.

It’ll be interesting to see what Trader and Smith think about UF after experiencing a game day in the Swamp, especially an LSU game day.

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Texans opponents taking notice of rookie RB Dameon Pierce’s hot start

“Dameon is a player who I loved watching his college tape and I just love the way he runs,” said #Jaguars first-year head coach Doug Pederson.

After his breakout performance against the Los Angeles Chargers, Houston Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce is showing the rest of the league that he has no intentions of slowing down.

His 131 yards rushing last Sunday caught the attention of the NFL head coaches and defensive coordinators that will face him this season, including this week’s opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Dameon is a player who I loved watching his college tape and I just love the way he runs,” said Jacksonville first-year head coach Doug Pederson. “This guy is a no-nonsense downhill guy. He is a load.”

Pierce has been a major bright spot for the Texans and has increased production each week. Two weeks ago, against the Chicago Bears, the former Florida Gator running back rushed for 89 yards and recorded his first NFL career touchdown.

Against the Chargers last week, his 75-yard touchdown run in the second quarter helped propel him to the first 100-yard game of his career.

“Our division (AFC South) is full of good physical running backs,” Pederson said he expressed to the Jacksonville media earlier in the day. “He (Pierce) is the type of guy that is going to take two, three, four guys to bring him down. What a tremendous run he had last week.”

“That’s the type of explosiveness that he has, that he possesses,” Pederson said. “Good back. I know he’s learning the game, the run schemes and all that. But when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s definitely electric.”

Texans quarterback Davis Mills has witnessed Pierce’s production first-hand and knows that he is the future for Houston.

“Developing the run game and really him (Dameon Pierce) just doing his job and running behind those offensive linemen is huge, especially on first and second down, even third-and-short,” said Mills during his weekly press conference.

“If we can get to a lot of third-and-manageable and we can increase our conversion rate on third downs and keep the drives alive, I think the run game is very effective in that regard. If we can keep running the ball better, it opens everything else up on offense.”

Pierce leads all rookies in rushing yards with 313 and is currently tenth in rushing in the NFL.

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Florida vs. Missouri: Thursday betting odds for homecoming matchup

Take a look at where BetMGM’s odds are in as the weekend quickly creeps closer.

Game day draws near as Florida football prepares to host the Missouri Tigers in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this Saturday for its 2022 homecoming game. It is the third time Mizzou has served as the opponent for the school’s annual alumni event, with the previous pair split with a Gators loss in 2014 and a win in 2016.

Speaking of splitting, since Missouri joined the Southeastern Conference, the two teams have halved the 10 games they have faced against each other. However, the visitors hold the all-time edge in this series, 6-5, when including the 1966 Sugar Bowl which Florida lost, 20-18.

Last season, the Tigers’ overtime home win over the Gators was the final straw on the camel that was carrying [autotag]Dan Mullen[/autotag] on its back. After trolling the press the year prior in a Darth Vader mask, the tables were turned when Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz came out dressed as a Jedi to put an end to Mullen’s empire.

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Expert Predictions: Will Florida prevail over Missouri in its homecoming game?

Mizzou has given the Gators some fits in their recent history. Will the Orange and Blue prevail in front of a homecoming crowd?

Florida football gets set to play its 2022 homecoming game against the Missouri Tigers this Saturday inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the excitement is steadily rising as the week wears on. The Gators are hoping to build some momentum after a blowout win over an FCS opponent while Mizzou has had a pair of straight heart breakers in SEC play.

Both teams are 0-2 so far in their conference schedules but how they arrived at that mark was quite different. The Orange and Blue was shocked at home by the Kentucky Wildcats in Week 2 before being bested on the road against the Tennessee Volunteers in Week 4. Missouri dropped a road match against the Auburn Tigers that same week while losing a late lead against the Georgia Bulldogs at home last weekend.

The two schools have evenly split the series since Missouri joined the SEC over a decade ago at an even 5-5 record — the Tigers holding the overall tie-breaker with a 20-18 win way back in the 1966 Sugar Bowl. It is not a storied rivalry but there has been plenty of back-and-forth, especially in recent years.

The Gators Wire crew converged to give their predictions for Florida’s upcoming homecoming game against Mizzou — the third time they have served as UF’s opponent on the university’s special alumni day. Take a look below at what we think will happen this Saturday in the Swamp.

USA TODAY Sports has Florida playing in this December bowl game

USA TODAY Sports has the Florida Gators playing a Pac-12 program in their latest bowl projections after Week 6 of the football season.

According to USA TODAY Sports’ Erick Smith, the Florida Gators are projected to play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 17, against the Washington Huskies.

Washington shares one big similarity with the Gators. Kalen DeBoer is in his first year as head coach of the Huskies, just like [autotag]Billy Napier[/autotag] is in his first year as head coach for the Gators. DeBoer comes to Washington after a successful two-year stint as Fresno State head coach. He went 12-6 in his time there. Paired with his time as head coach of Division II Sioux Falls, he held a 79-9 career record as a head coach prior to his hiring at Washington.

The Huskies are currently 4-1 and are coming off their lone loss of the season against UCLA. Transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is having a resurgent season, coming off an injury in his time at Indiana. Their hot start is a stark contrast to the 4-8 record they had last season.

The Gators’ first season with Napier at the helm has been up and down so far. The season started with an upset victory over the defending Pac-12 champion Utah Utes. They then lost to Kentucky at home to open up SEC play and snuck out a win against an inferior USF team to get to 2-1. They then lost to Tennessee in a game that saw [autotag]Anthony Richardson[/autotag] throw for over 500 yards.

Last week, the Gators beat Eastern Washington in a game that was moved to Sunday due to the impact of Hurricane Ian. The Gators will continue their SEC schedule this Saturday when they take on the Missouri Tigers in their Homecoming game. Kickoff is scheduled for noon EDT. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

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Gators hosting this 2024 5-star wide receiver for LSU game

The Florida Gators will host one of the top wide receivers in the class of 2024, Jeremiah Smith, when LSU comes to town on Oct. 15.

The Florida Gators have added another five-star recruit to the list of visitors traveling to the Swamp on Saturday, Oct. 15 to see them take on the LSU Tigers. [autotag]Jeremiah Smith[/autotag], an elite receiver out of Chaminade-Madonna Preparatory School in Hollywood, Florida, confirmed his plans to attend the game, according to a report from Gators Online.

Smith has been on Florida’s campus before, but this will be his first game-day experience. He stopped by for the Gators’ Friday Night Lights camp at the end of July, but he’ll get a taste of what playing in front of an SEC crowd is like this time around.

Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, Penn State and USC are the other schools being noticed by Smith. The Buckeyes are considered heavy favorites, according to On3’s recruiting prediction machine with 96.5% odds to land him at this point. There’s still well over a year until Smith can put pen to paper, though, so things could change over time.

Right now, it’s wide receivers coach Keary Colbert that’s spearheading the approach from Florida. Smith says that they are in contact daily.

“He’s on me hard too, recruiting me hard,” Smith said. “Texts me every morning, ‘Good morning.’ He calls me while he’s in the gym working out and stuff like that.”

The On3 consensus ranks Smith at No. 5 overall in the class of 2024 and No. 2 among receivers. Interestingly enough, the only other receiver to outrank Smith in the class is his teammate Joshisa Trader. Florida’s pursuing both players but has plenty of work to do before being considered a favorite.

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