The Florida Gators will open their 107th season with a possible “trap game,” as they face the Toledo Rockets at The Swamp in Gainesville, FL this Saturday (12 PM on MSG).
The Gators, and third-year coach Will Muschamp, are looking to make it 24 straight season-opening wins and hope to begin their 2013 season on a winning note en route to challenging Alabama in the SEC.
Toledo - who finished 2012 tied for second in the MAC West at 9-4 with a 6-2 conference record - will play an SEC team for the first time ever and will undoubtedly face the strongest test in recent memory.
Toledo enters the season-opener with a seasoned offense as senior quarterback Terrance Owens (2,707 yards, 61.4 percent completions in 2012) is accompanied by five returning receivers, including standout WR Bernard Reedy (88 catches for 1,113 yards).
The Rockets feature back David Fluellen (1,498 yards with six 100-yard games) and 4/5 of last year’s offensive line returns, which will pace their running game.
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Toledo coach Matt Campbell knows the challenge ahead for his football team.
"When you play opponents like Florida right off the bat, if you don't show up, not only will you get beat, you will get humiliated," said Campbell. "That helps your focus. It's very exciting to play the best of the best. We'll find out a lot about where we are very early in the season."
Meanwhile, the Gators will only have five starters returning on defense, but incoming defensive players are said to be a talented crew, which helped the Gators to a No. 10 preseason Associated Press and USA Today ranking. The Gators completed last season with an 11-2 record, but fell to Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Gators will rely on starting junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who after two years in Gainesville finally gets the chance to lead Florida’s offense without looking over his shoulder.
"It's easier to be more vocal when you're the set quarterback," Driskel said. "When there's a competition, you don't want to step on anyone's toes. I'm a lot more confident because I've played more and (have) gotten a lot more snaps, and played one year as the starting quarterback. I'd say the guys respect me a lot more this year."
The Gators sport great talent on the offensive line and in their group of receivers; however, they will be without sophomore star running back Matt Jones, who is still recovering from a viral infection. As a freshman in 2012, Jones ran for 275 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries.
For the Gators to win, they need to come into the game focused and can’t look past Toledo; something that might be easy to do considering they play the in-state rival Miami Hurricanes next Saturday.
-Florida’s non-conference schedule features four teams that had winning records last season. The Gators are one of three SEC teams in 2013 that will face two nonconference opponents from BCS conferences.
-This year’s Gators return 41 players and 10 starters. On defense, Florida returns just three starters, defensive lineman Dominique Easley, and defensive backs Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins.
-Florida punter Kyle Christy, who was a Ray Guy Award finalist in 2012, returns. He set a school record with a 45.8-yard punting average last season.
-Toledo owned one of the top offenses in the MAC last season, averaging 445.2 ypg and 31.5 ppg, and returns nine starters.
-Defensively, Toledo allowed 473.2 ypg, ranking 11th in the MAC. However, the Rockets were better in the red zone as they ranked fifth in scoring defense (28.4 ppg).