2014 Florida Gators Odds to Win the SEC with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/1/2014
When Will Muschamp was at Florida, most fans knew the team might have some initial struggles, but a 4-8 season in his third year at the program certainly wasn't expected. This was Florida's first losing season since 1979. Muschamp is a good recruiter, and most fans are giving him a little bit of slack, but 4-8 seasons aren't tolerated here, and if things don't turn around quickly he'll be gone quicker than anyone expected.
How bad was it last year for Florida? They were beaten by FCS-level Georgia Southern 26-20 in Gainesville. Georgia Southern's option offense rolled up 429 yards against the Gators defense, and Florida's offense could only muster 279 yards of total offense. Florida finished the season at home against Florida State. While no one could have expected the Gators to win against such a dominating Seminoles team, most would have hoped they could compete a little better than they did. Florida gained just eight first downs all game and lost 37-7 to their rivals.
Florida expects a major turnaround this year, and they have seven returning starters on each side of the ball. Muschamp's seat is a bit hot already, and without some major changes in 2014 he will be on his way out. Let's take a look at Florida on both sides of the ball and see what the oddsmakers think of this team.
2014 Florida Offense
Florida's offense let them down in a big way last year. The Gators ranked 115th in the nation in total offense. They averaged just 316.7 yards per game. The Gators scored only 18.8 points per game. The passing attack was the worst offender, but both the running and passing games were pretty bad. Is there any reason to expect improvement on this side of the ball?
Tyler Murphy transferred out during the offseason, which means Jeff Driskel will be the clear-cut starter at quarterback. Driskel didn't get very far into the season before going down with a season-ending injury last year. He is a mobile quarterback who can keep plays alive with his legs, but I'm worried about Driskel's passing ability. If the Gators are wise, they'll give freshman quarterback Will Grier some opportunities here too. Grier is the future of the program, and he should end up being a much better passer than Driskel. Another major concern is the lack of weapons on the outside. Only senior Quinton Dunbar is a proven commodity at wide receiver. It's been a long time since the Gators had so much inexperience on the outside.
The deepest position on the offense is running back. Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown, and Matt Jones should all get plenty of carries in 2014. This group is much more talented than last year's running backs corps. Florida averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last year, and that was largely because of poor play from the offensive line. The Gators had a ton of injuries on the line, and the guys who were healthy just weren't very good.
It's hard to imagine this offense getting much better this season. It will be another ugly offensive season for Florida.
2014 Florida Defense
Florida's defense was eighth in the nation in total defense last year. Clearly, it wasn't the fault of the defense that this team lost eight games in 2013. I expect the defense to be strong again this year. Florida is excellent along the defensive line, and that's where there success starts. Defensive ends Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler may be the best defensive end combo in the nation. The entire defensive line is among the best in the nation, and this is a very deep group, so they will be able to substitute and stay healthy.
The other area of major strength for this defense is the secondary. Vernon Hargreaves started 10 games as a freshman last year, and he is the leader as a sophomore. You should learn his name, because he'll be an NFL star before too terribly long. Marcus Maye is very solid at the free safety spot, and he's an emotional leader in his senior season. There's plenty of depth here as well.
The one small question mark for the defense is at linebacker. All three starters from last year return, but none of them are stars. Florida is used to having a stud somewhere at linebacker, and I'm not sure any of these guys fit the bill. Still, this isn't a bad unit, and they should hold their own.
Expect Florida to be in the Top 15 or 20 in the nation in total defense again this season.
2014 Florida Odds to Win SEC
Florida is listed at 12/1 to win the SEC by Bovada. The Gators are listed at 13/4 behind both South Carolina and Georgia in the race to win the SEC East Division. Florida is listed at 33/1 to win the national title this season. Oddsmakers have listed the Gators season win total at 7.5 games .
2014 Florida Gators Picks & Predictions
Florida's nonconference schedule couldn't possibly be any easier than it this year. With heavyweights like Idaho, Eastern Michigan, and Eastern Kentucky on the schedule, the Gators are bound to pick up a couple more wins than they did last year. Still, I'm not convinced at all that this will be a good year for the Gators. I think Florida struggles again this year, and I definitely like the season win total "under". This offense just isn't good enough to win many games in the SEC.
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