Miami vs Florida (-7)
It’s no secret that second year Head Coaches are at an advantage over their rookie counterparts. They’ve had a year to implement their system, transmit their culture, and recruit the guys who fit within that system and culture. This concept alone favors Florida in their season-opening rivalry match with Miami (Fl) on August 24th in Orlando. But upon further reading, it’s the overall coaching track record, as well as on-field personnel, that give Florida the significant edge.
From Alex Smith, to Tim Tebow, to the soon-to-be minted $40M man, Dak Prescott– Dan Mullen has a track record for facilitating elite QB play. Once again this was apparent his first season in Gainesville with Felipe Franks. Franks improved his TD:INT ratio from 9:8 (2017) to 24:6 (2018), all while taking half the sacks (29-15) and boosting his YPA from 6.3 to 7.6. The result for the Gators: more wins. A nightmarish 4-7 2017 that saw Jim McElwain out the door was promptly turned into 10-3, a top-10 finish, and a Peach Bowl romp over a Michigan team who earlier that year had realistic playoff aspirations.
A quick personnel survey indicates that Florida at -7 is, in fact, a bargain price. Miami return just 5 starters on offense, and 6 on defense. 3/4th of last year’s secondary has either gone pro or graduated, creating an appealing matchup for Florida’s experienced WR corps. Jarren Williams winning the job under center can also be viewed as a negative, since Ohio State transfer Tate Martell was widely viewed to have the highest upside in Miami’s QB room. Franks, on the other hand, should continue progressing in the right direction. All 6 WR’s who surpassed 200 yards receiving are back; and starting RB LaMichael Perine provides pop, both as a runner and a pass catcher. That’s simply too much continuity to anticipate a step backwards.
None of this is to say that Manny Diaz is lined up for failure in his tenure with the Hurricanes. After all, Mullen himself was able to come into UF and make an immediate impact. Unfortunately, the situations are drastically different. McElwain gifted coach Mullen with a full chest of players who already had starting experience. In Coral Gables, that simply isn’t the case. For each ‘Mullen-esque’ turnaround that occurs, we have the ‘tear it down to build it back up’ situations in Lincoln, Nebraska; Pasadena, California; and (closest to home) Tallassee, Florida. These lessons of warning should remind us to air on the side of caution with 1st year head coaches.
The pick: Florida (-7)
The score: Florida 34-19
*Bonus pick: Tease Florida (-1) & OVER 41.5