Prediction time

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In what will be a weekly deal, I’ll offer some predictions heading into every game, including the final score.

So, let’s get it started.

Tebow time: Quarterback Tim Tebow is making his much-anticipated debut at quarterback. Everyone, of course, wants to check out his passing ability and see how different the offense is going to be from a year ago. Tebow’s teammates are pumped about his passing potential and he should put up some impressive numbers against outmanned Western Kentucky. But I have a feeling he’s going to get off to a slow start because he’s going to be a little too pumped about his first start at UF, something he’s dreamed about since he was a little kid. He’ll throw some high balls and some balls in the dirt early, but then he’ll settle down and pick apart the WKU defense. If Tebow plays well and the Gators build a good lead heading into the second half, true freshman Cameron Newton will have a chance to operate the offense. So, look for Newton in the second half.

The Trautwein effect: The offensive line is supposed to be a strength this season, but it becomes somewhat of a question mark with All-SEC tackle Phil Trautwein out indefinitely with a fractured foot. To make up for the loss of Trautwein, the Gators have had to shuffle their front, moving Carlton from guard back to tackle and inserting true freshman Maurkice Pouncey in as a starting guard. Pouncey has loads of potential, but it’s a risky deal when a true freshman has to start on the offensive line. Given the shake-up, Western Kentucky is going to throw a variety of blitzes at the line to see how it responds. Tebow expressed concern early in the week about all the Hilltoppers’ blitz packages, and that was before Trautwein was injured. The prediction here is Tebow is going to be scrambling around some early in the game, then the offense will settle down be fine as the front makes the proper adjustments.

The young ‘D’: With starting cornerback Markihe Anderson out with a sprained knee, the Gators are probably going to give up a big play or two in the passing game. That’s OK. That’s almost expected. What the coaches don’t want to see is WKU establishing a running game and keeping the ball away from the explosive UF offense. The Gators are young up front (well, actually, they’re young all over), but have enough athletes to stop the run (at least in this game) and dictate the tempo of the game. This first game should give the young defense a nice boost with Tennessee looming in a couple of weeks.

The score: This will turn out to be a typical opener for UF. WKU will have some early success, but the Gators will take control of the game before the end of the half and cruise to a comfortable (and expected) victory in the first of two “preseason” games. Florida 51, Western Kentucky 23.