Head coach: Dan Mullen
Record at school: 10-3
Breaking it down
Location: Gainesville, Fla.
Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)
All-Time record: 722-418-40
Conference affiliation: SEC
Last conference title game appearance: 2008
Returning starters: 13 (5 offense, 8 defense)
1. Experience under center: Redshirt junior Feleipe Franks was the first quarterback since 2010 to start every game of the season last year. He threw for 2,457 yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions while adding a team-high tying seven rushing touchdowns. Franks and Tim Tebow were the only Florida quarterbacks since 2000 to record a passing and a rushing touchdown in a bowl game.
2. Inexperience around center: The only starter returning on the offensive line is center Nick Buchanan. He was part of a line that allowed just 18 sacks last year, which ranked 20th in the country and third in the SEC. The Gators will have to quickly fill the holes left in the line if they are to return to last year’s level of play.
3. DBU as usual: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was the Defensive MVP in the Peach Bowl, and finished the year with 13 interceptions, three returned for touchdowns, and 161 career tackles. He is the only defensive back lost, and players like SEC All-Freshman team member Trey Dean III will be back to uphold Florida’s high standards.
4. We’re No. 1: Coach Dan Mullen faced a choice no coach likes this offseason when receiver Kadarius Toney and defensive back CJ Henderson both asked to wear No. 1 this year. The number is special at Florida; no defensive player has earned it since 2015 and no offensive player has worn it since 2008. Mullen decided both Toney and Henderson had earned the coveted number and both will wear it this year.
Despite starting only one game, Lamical Perine led the Gators with 826 yards and seven touchdowns on 134 carries (6.2 yards per carry). He split time with Jordan Scarlett, and the two became the first duo to gain more than 775 yards each in a season since 1995. Florida rushed for 200-plus yards in nine games, tying the 2008 team for the most 200-yard games in one season since 1996.
Cheer: Georgia. The Bulldogs were picked to finish first in the SEC East at Media Days, with Florida tabbed No. 2, but the Gators could easily pull off the upset in the annual rivalry. Mullen turned around Florida’s program in just one year and with a strong effort against Georgia the Gators could take control of the East.
Jeer; LSU. The Tigers have won four of their last six games against Florida and six of the last nine meetings between the permanent cross-division rivals. Florida leads the series 15-11 since the league was split into two divisions in 1992. The game will be in Baton Rouge for the first time in three years and LSU is 10-8 in games dating back to 2000.
11-1: Florida will have to continue to improve as much as it did last year to reach this lofty record, but a big upset against rival Georgia could hand the Gators the SEC East championship. The Gators can’t afford to take a week off against anyone in the league, but if they show up ready to play, they could be the class of the East.
Did you know?
Franks will have plenty of targets to choose from as Florida returns two of its top receivers from last year, including Van Jefferson, who led the team in receptions (35), receiving yards (503) and receiving touchdowns (six). Trevon Grimes contributed 26 catches for 364 yards and Freddie Swain averaged 18.9 yards per catch. Speedster Tyrie Cleveland started every regular-season game and senior Josh Hammond started all 13 games and was second in receptions and receiving yards.
Gators running back Lamical Perine was asked if he is ever surprised by how much fans care about team-centric issues such as a locker room redesign or game jerseys. "Honestly, Florida probably has the most bipolar fans ever. When we're winning games, everybody is happy but when we lose games, nobody's happy. Everybody gets bashed, from the coaches to the equipment guys to just the kickers. It can be anybody on the team getting bashed when we lose a game. Our goal is to try to win as many games as we can to help fans out, to entertain them."
Florida 53, Charleston Southern 6
Kentucky 27, Florida 16
Florida 48, Colorado State 10
Florida 47, Tennessee 21
Florida 13, Mississippi State 6
Florida 27, LSU 19
Florida 37, Vanderbilt 27
Georgia 36, Florida 17
Missouri 38, Florida 17
Florida 35, South Carolina 31
Florida 63, Idaho 10
Florida 41, Florida State 14
Florida 41, Michigan 15 (Peach Bowl)
Aug. 24 vs. Miami (Orlando)
Sept 7 UT Martin
Sept 14 at Kentucky
Sept. 21 Tennessee
Sept. 28 Towson
Oct. 5 Auburn
Oct. 12 at LSU
Oct. 19 at South Carolina
Nov. 2 Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Nov. 9 Vanderbilt
Nov. 16 at Missouri
Nov. 30 Florida State
— Dennis Tymkiw