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Previewing Florida-Ole Miss, FSU-Miami and the rest of the college football weekend

Malik Davis seems ready to roll for the Gators, Feleipe Franks is starting at Arkansas and FSU is in danger of doing something it hasn’t done in three-plus decades.
Florida Gators running back Malik Davis will try to look like his old self when his season opens at Ole Miss.
Florida Gators running back Malik Davis will try to look like his old self when his season opens at Ole Miss. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Sep. 25, 2020|Updated Sep. 25, 2020

Viewing guide

Lamest time window: Late. Aside from Florida State-Miami, the prime-time slate doesn’t have much sizzle.

Noon: Flip around between No. 5 Florida’s opener at Ole Miss and a pair of ranked matchups (No. 23 Kentucky at No. 8 Auburn and No. 24 Louisville at No. 21 Pitt).

Related: A brief history of Florida coach Dan Mullen trolling Ole Miss

1:30: TCU finally gets to play a game, against Iowa State (last seen losing at home to Louisiana-Lafayette).

3:30: No. 22 Army at No. 14 Cincinnati is a matchup of two of the best teams outside the Power Five.

7:30: No. 12 Miami will try to beat FSU for the fourth consecutive year.

Local of the week

Jesuit High alumnus Malik Davis looked great in 2017 until he suffered a season-ending injury.
Jesuit High alumnus Malik Davis looked great in 2017 until he suffered a season-ending injury. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Florida running back Malik Davis (Jesuit High)

The Gators have been saying for weeks that Davis has finally recovered from the season-ending knee and foot injuries he suffered in 2017-18. Hillsborough County’s all-time leading rusher can prove it in the opener and help UF’s run game move on from the La’Mical Perine era.

GameDay breakdown

Marvin Wilson and the rest of FSU's defensive front will need to star if the Seminoles hope to upset No. 12 Miami.
Marvin Wilson and the rest of FSU's defensive front will need to star if the Seminoles hope to upset No. 12 Miami. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

The biggest surprise of FSU’s season-opening loss to Georgia Tech was the mediocre play of its defensive line. That has to change. Miami’s top-10 offense can run (337 yards against Alabama-Birmingham) and pass (D’Eriq King threw for 325 yards at Louisville). To upset the Hurricanes, FSU’s defensive front needs to pressure King into bad decisions and clog rushing lanes. Otherwise, the 'Noles could be headed for their second 0-2 start in the last three decades.

Related: Is Miami finally back? The case for and against UM, heading into the Florida State matchup

Stat of the week

A Florida State loss would be the Seminoles' fifth in a row to in-state rivals Florida and Miami. That hasn't happened since 1984-87, a streak that includes an epic '87 game that ended on a failed two-point conversion attempt.
A Florida State loss would be the Seminoles' fifth in a row to in-state rivals Florida and Miami. That hasn't happened since 1984-87, a streak that includes an epic '87 game that ended on a failed two-point conversion attempt. [ TAMPA BAY TIMES | Tampa Bay Times ]

A loss at Miami would give Florida State five consecutive defeats against the rival Hurricanes and Gators. The last time that happened: 1984-87, when Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles dropped six in a row. The final loss was a top-five showdown with Miami — a 26-25 heartbreaker that catapulted the rivalry onto the national stage.

Acting history

Tracy Claeys (left) was the acting head coach at Minnesota when Jerry Kill (right) had health problems in 2013.
Tracy Claeys (left) was the acting head coach at Minnesota when Jerry Kill (right) had health problems in 2013. [ ANN HEISENFELT | AP ]

FSU coach Mike Norvell’s absence because of a positive coronavirus test is at least the fourth recent instance of a head coach missing a game for health reasons:

Bob Davie, New Mexico: Missed a game at his former school, Notre Dame, last year after being hospitalized following a Week 1 win over Sam Houston State. The No. 7 Irish blew out acting head coach Saga Tuitele and the Lobos 66-14.

Jerry Kill, Minnesota: Seizures forced him to take a break in 2013, with Tracy Claeys going 4-3 while Kill’s role was reduced. More health problems caused Kill to retire during the 2015 season, and Claeys took over full time.

Related: Who is Chris Thomsen, Florida State’s acting head coach against No. 12 Miami?

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: A heart attack forced offensive coordinator Don Treadwell to take over for two games in 2010. Treadwell won them both, including a 34-24 win over No. 11 Wisconsin.

Four debuts to watch

Feleipe Franks warmed up before the Orange Bowl but couldn't play as he recovered from an injury. He's getting a fresh start at Arkansas.
Feleipe Franks warmed up before the Orange Bowl but couldn't play as he recovered from an injury. He's getting a fresh start at Arkansas. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]

Feleipe Franks: Florida fans never fully took to Franks (and vice versa), but Franks still led with the 10th-most touchdowns (38) in Gators history. He gets a much-needed fresh start at Arkansas under former FSU assistant Kendal Briles, beginning against No. 4 Georgia.

Todd Monken: Kirby Smart is counting on the former Bucs offensive coordinator to revive Georgia’s offense. This will be our first look at how Monken’s system looks for the Bulldogs.

Brenton Cox: The Georgia transfer was coach Dan Mullen’s first five-star addition. After sitting out last season, he’s starting at defensive end and could be poised to dominate immediately.

Mike Leach: The quirkiest man in college football is taking his Air Raid to the SEC with a brutal opener at No. 6 LSU.

Eye on the NFL draft

Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses is coming off a season-ending knee injury and will try to show his NFL potential immediately.
Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses is coming off a season-ending knee injury and will try to show his NFL potential immediately. [ BUTCH DILL | AP ]

If you believe the ridiculously early mock drafts, No. 2 Alabama could have a handful of first-round picks, including cornerback Patrick Surtain and receiver Jaylen Waddle. The most intriguing one for the Missouri game will be linebacker Dylan Moses. The IMG Academy product is coming off a knee injury that wiped out his junior season, so Game 1 will show us whether he still looks like the phenom who was on the cover of ESPN The Magazine at age 15.

Related: How does Greg Sankey define a successful SEC season in the coronavirus era?

Quotes of the week

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney can console his former assistant Jeff Scott. West Virginia torched Swinney's Tigers in the Orange Bowl.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney can console his former assistant Jeff Scott. West Virginia torched Swinney's Tigers in the Orange Bowl. [ J. PAT CARTER | AP ]

“I gave up 70 early in my career. So he’s off to a better start than me.” — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney about his former assistant (and current USF coach) Jeff Scott giving up 52 to Notre Dame last week. Swinney’s Tigers lost 70-33 to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl after his third full season as head coach.

“I would say that it’s not normal, but it’s 2020 normal.” — FSU tight end Camren McDonald on adjusting without head coach Mike Norvell, who tested positive for coronavirus

By the numbers

The Lane Kiffin era finally opens in Oxford this weekend. It won't be easy.
The Lane Kiffin era finally opens in Oxford this weekend. It won't be easy. [ ROGELIO V. SOLIS | AP ]

3 — Consecutive seasons Lane Kiffin has opened against a top-10 team. His Florida Atlantic Owls lost 45-21 at No. 5 Ohio State last year and at No. 7 Oklahoma 63-14 the year before

2006 – Last time Florida had three teams in the top 15 before this week. The preseason poll had No. 7 Florida, No. 11 Florida State and No. 12 Miami

1987 — Last time the Gators started with a true road game (a 31-4 loss at No. 10 Miami)

Related: Why it’s championship or bust for the Florida Gators

25 — Average margin of victory for UCF in past four games against East Carolina

5 — Houston games that have been called off (Rice, Washington State, Memphis, Baylor and North Texas). The Cougars are now scheduled to open against Tulane on Oct. 8

1-14-1 — Kentucky’s record against ranked Auburn teams. The lone win was a 20-0 triumph in 1964

100 —Career wins for Jimbo Fisher, who will go for No. 101 when No. 10 Texas A&M hosts Vanderbilt

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