Ding dong, The Streak is dead. Kentucky finally removed the proverbial monkey from its back by defeating Florida in The Swamp.
The loss to Kentucky was one of only three the Gators’ suffered in their first year under Dan Mullen. The return of the prodigal offensive coordinator was praised throughout the Sunshine State, but few expected him to be that successful right away. Entering his second season the expectations are even higher, all thanks to their rivals along the northern border.
The Best Thing Dan Mullen Said — Florida and Georgia are currently in a war of words over the future of the artist formerly known as The World’s Largest Cocktail Party. The contract for the neutral-site game in Jacksonville expires in 2021. Mullen skated completely around making any sort of affirmative statement.
“I think you can make arguments on both sides of why it should stay in Jacksonville, why it should leave Jacksonville, and be a home and home. Then it’s interesting, I think it will be an interesting discussion the next couple years of when the contract runs up of what the future is going to be for that game.”
Kirby Smart was the first to lobby for a change to a home-and-home for recruiting purposes. Even though he was not too adamant during his SEC Media Days address, you can tell where his intentions lie.
“I don’t get caught up in the emotion of this decision or that decision,” Smart said. “I look at it from a perspective of 10,000 feet where I say: What is best for our program? And it’s that simple. And we’ll make that decision as I group and go with it.”
The Best Thing Dan Mullen Said (Out of Context) — “If there’s someone better than Brian Johnson, let me know, I’ll hire them to be our quarterback coach.”
Coach Speak 101 — On three different occasions during his opening statement, Mullen mentioned the “Gator Standard.” What exactly is the Gator Standard? Allow me piece together his explanations:
“It’s about competing for championships every single year…The University of Florida goes beyond football, goes to all sports. Every sport on campus is expected to compete for and win championships, both SEC and national championships…it’s about being the absolute best that you can be at whatever it is you are doing.”
Same Face, New Place — Florida has lost 11 players to the transfer portal. The one player they added came from the University of Louisville. Defensive end Jonathan Greenard followed his former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Florida a year after he was named UofL’s team captain. The Cardinals’ best pass rusher in 2017 (15.5 TFLs and 7 sacks) suffered a season-ending injury in last year’s opener. He’s tasked to replace Jachai Polite, the Florida defensive end who finished third in the SEC in sacks in 2018.
Florida’s Scariest Player — Greenard’s pass-rushing counterpart is a future first round draft pick. Jabari Zuniga opted to return for one more year of school after recording 45 tackles, 11 for a loss and 6.5 sacks last season. For those who prefer run-stopping linebackers over pass rushers, David Reese is your guy. If an injury did not sideline Reese vs. Kentucky, I doubt UK runs for more than 300 yards in The Swamp.
Stick to Baseball: Florida’s quarterback could take his talents to the diamond. After four years away from baseball, the Boston Red Sox drafted Feleipe Franks in the 31st round of this year’s MLB Draft.
“Well, as a Red Sox fan, they do need a lot of help in the bullpen,” said Mullen. “I think he can throw. He’s got a lot of heat. He said he threw at 95 in the workout for him. I’ve seen, though, he’s still working on his accuracy. I don’t know if I’d want to get in the batter’s box if he’s throwing 95. But I think it’s great. I think it’s a great honor for him to have that opportunity.”
Franks would not be the first Florida quarterback he’s coached to turn to baseball after football didn’t work.
“I don’t know if anybody’s heard of him, he’s kind of a Minor League ballplayer right now, played for the AAA Mets in Tim Tebow, and he’s managing to try to pick up baseball. So maybe when football is done, maybe he has a future in baseball. That’d be really exciting for him. I’d be really happy for him.”
Good News for UK — In the third game of the year, Kroger Field will be rocking under the lights. Along with home field advantage, The Streak is no longer hanging over the Wildcats’ heads. They know they can beat Florida. They did it last on the road.
Bad News for UK — Before they make the trip to Lexington, Florida will have already undergone one test away from home. The Gators open the season in week zero, the week before Labor Day, with a neutral-site game in Orlando against Miami. The experience should pay dividends regardless, but if they somehow slip up and lose, the Gators will have a greater sense of urgency a few weeks later.
Fear Factor — 6.4
Florida’s offense has plenty of weapons in the backfield and Franks showed significant improvements throughout the season, but he only has one returning starter on the offensive line to protect him. On defense the Gators have eight returning starters. If UK can stop the run, this has the potential to be a nasty 13-10 kind of game, one that transforms this series into a rivalry that will annually determine who can contend with Georgia atop the SEC East.