While Florida should have no problem handling New Mexico State, uncertainty at the quarterback spot and freshmen at the skill positions could mean an ‘under’ Saturday.
It could be a relatively low scoring game in The Swamp on Saturday with question marks at the offensive skill positions for the heavily favored SEC team when the New Mexico State Aggies are expected to play the role of sacrificial lamb visiting those Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL at 7:30 ET in a game televised nationally on the SEC Network.
The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 57½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -106.
New Sherriff in Gainesville
The Gators come off of a mediocre 7-5 season that included a 4-4 mark inside the brutal SEC, a season that ended with a less-than-stellar 28-20 win over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. Florida thus made the move of firing former coach Will Muschamp even before that bowl game and then poaching away Jim McElwain from Colorado State, where he did an outstanding job, to take over the reins in Gainesville.
New Mexico State comes out of the far less prestigious Sun Belt Conference, and the Aggies were one of the worst teams even in that conference and thus in the country last year, finishing 2-10 overall and 1-7 in conference, and the only time they were the winning college football pick in Sun Belt play was in a narrow 34-31 victory over a Georgia State team that has yet to defeat an FBS opponent since stepping up to this division two years ago.
Young Gators on Offense
Florida played well on defense last year, but the offense held the team back ranking 107th in the country in passing and 40th in rushing. Yes that rushing rank was respectable, but Matt Jones is now in the NFL, meaning incumbent running back Kelvin Taylor is now backed by a couple of true freshmen that have a chance to see extensive action in Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite.
Speaking of true freshmen that will be on the field a lot, the Gators have another one at wide receiver in Antonio Callaway, as the receive depth was hurt by the suspension of Latroy Pittman. And in addition to being young at running back and receiver, the Gators have not even announced a starting quarterback yet in the unexciting battle between redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris.
In fact, Coach McElwain announced that both quarterbacks will play in a rotation in this season opener, and as the old adage goes, “When you have two quarterbacks, you have none!” At least the news is better on defense with nine returning starters, so look for the Florida defense to again carry this team unless the freshmen on offense develop quickly.
Thanks for the Paycheck!
The Aggies are receiving several million dollars for taking this meeting at Florida, and while that is good news for the New Mexico State budget, it will not do any good when the Aggies try to generate some offense in a hostile SEC environment vs. a quality defense. Sure the Aggies averaged a good 414.9 yards of offense last year, but that still translated to a disappointing 24.5 points per game and most of that was vs. poor Sun Belt defenses.
The good news is that the defense returns 10 starters and that unit can improve as this year goes on under new defensive coordinator Zane Vance, who intends to use more zone blitzes in an attempt to mask the Aggies’ lack of size. Granted that may not work as well vs. an SEC offense, but it is not as if Florida is some offensive juggernaut.
Trending ‘under’ Out of Conference
Finally, the ‘under’ is 11-3 in the last 14 Florida non-conference games overall including 8-2 in the last 10 non-conference games here at home with those games at The Swamp averaging a combined 46.6 points, nearly 11 points less than this posted total.
So with only one team expected to do most of the scoring in this game and with that team not really possessing a potent offense at the moment, expect an ‘under’ when New Mexico State visits Florida in Gainesville on Saturday.
College Football Pick: New Mexico State, Florida ‘under’ 57½ (-106)