Entering the 2020 football season, there’s a consensus top two in the SEC East between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs. Whether either of those two teams has the firepower to take down the champion out of the SEC West remains to be seen, but do the Gators have a chance at wrestling the division crown away from the Bulldogs? Let’s see what they have to offer this fall.
Top Returners: Kyle Trask, Shawn Davis
Trask will definitely be the key to Florida’s success in 2020. After an impressive first year under center for the Gators, his experience will be crucial, especially considering Georgia having landed two former starters in the transfer portal during the offseason. After tossing for nearly 3000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, Trask should be one of the best quarterbacks, both in the SEC and in the country.
Defensively, Shawn Davis is just one of many lethal assets that could be pulled out of Florida’s secondary and listed as a key returner. Davis had three interceptions, which he returned at an average of 37 yards per pick, while coming up with 3 passes defended and 51 tackles on the year. Florida likes to make their DBU claim, and this year, they do seem to boast one of the best secondaries in the nation with Davis leading the way.
Biggest Concerns: Replacing Lamical Perine
Leading rusher Lamical Perine is off to the NFL, and he led Florida’s ground game with 676 rushing yards. After that, it’s a fairly significant drop off to their top returning back Dameon Pierce, who finished with 305 yards on the ground. Pierce will be counted on to be the workhorse in the Florida backfield, but replacing Perine will be a bigger task than that. Perine also caught 40 passes for 262 yards and 5 touchdowns, so he was a true dual-threat back that will be a very difficult player to replace. Pierce will need to step up and handle a workload he hasn’t had to bear before, and Florida will hope between him and a few other returners, they can at least mitigate the loss of Perine.
X-Factors: Dameon Pierce, Jeremiah Moon
Offensively, Pierce is the clear-cut choice for Florida’s X-Factor. Although the Gators also lost leading receiver Van Jefferson, last year’s receiving corps was one of the most talented in recent program history, so they’ll have the ability to replace that production. Pierce will most definitely be the make-or-break point for the Florida offense as returning experience at quarterback will only do so much if you can’t run the ball.
Defensively, I’m going with Jeremiah Moon to be the X-Factor for the Gators. He’ll be coming off a season-ending injury, but when he was active he but up very solid numbers for Florida, including 3 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He also chipped in with 31 tackles and 2 passes defended, and if he can stay healthy and be a versatile asset to the Gator’s defense, that will be a huge win for Dan Mullen’s squad.
SEC Record Prediction: 5-3
This isn’t nearly as good as many people expect for Florida, but I’m not sold on the Gators just yet. That running game is very worrying to me, and their inability to beat Georgia recently has been frustrating. I’m seeing losses to Georgia and LSU, with a road upset suffered at the hands of Lane Kiffin, John Rhys Plumlee, and the young and promising Ole Miss offense. It’ll be a tricky trap game sandwiched between those LSU and Georgia match-ups, and I think Trask and Co. overlooks the Rebels and ultimately ends their hopes at a SEC Championship berth.