College football’s long, awful offseason is finally over.
Game day has arrived.
A few final thoughts before No. 8 Florida takes the field against Miami tonight at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium:
• Perhaps the most important player on the field will be Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams. It’s the redshirt freshman’s first career start, and he’s making it behind a shaky offensive line and against a good defense with a great secondary. That doesn’t sound promising.
• But my vote for most interesting player for Miami is Ohio State transfer Tate Martell. The ’Canes are tinkering with him at receiver because of his athleticism. That, obviously, is not his natural position, and I’m not sure a week or two is enough time to get him acclimated there. But if the move comes to fruition, I want to see how Manny Diaz’s staff uses him. Trick play/double pass, anyone?
• On the other side, the play of UF’s secondary will be pivotal. How does Marco Wilson look in his return from a torn ACL? How (if at all) do the three true freshmen contribute? The defensive backfield has suffered a lot of attrition this offseason, including the loss of blue-chip recruit Chris Steele and backup John Huggins. The Gators should be OK … unless there’s an injury or targeting ejection. If that happens, UF’s lack of depth could be exposed.
• Given how iffy both offensive lines are —and how strong both defensive fronts should be — I think this one could be ugly. I expect lots of pressure and a few sacks on both sides in a low-scoring game.
• After watching both teams’ spring games, I left Camping World Stadium thinking the Gators would win by two scores. I’m less confident in that now. The spread (seven points, last I looked) seems about right to me. Prediction: Florida 21, Miami 13
Some links from our coverage throughout the week
In other historical news, our Ernest Hooper remembers his trip to a Florida-Miami game. Like all good football stories, it involves The Karate Kid.
We’ve got a lot more game day nuggets here, including why Calvary Christian product Amari Burney is pivotal for the Gators.
Another local product, ex-Freedom High standout Scott Patchan, is finally in position to start for Miami ... on his seventh different position coach.
One estimate expects a 50-50 crowd split between UF and Miami.
Playing in Orlando allows Gators edge rusher Jonathan Greenard to come full circle. The wrist injury he suffered there last year is what ended up getting him to Gainesville.
Miami’s awesome-looking Aussie punter, Louis Hedley, will get some screen time tonight. I asked him about his tattoos.