Tonight’s storylines: Florida vs. Miami

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Miami coach Manny Diaz, left, and Florida coach Dan Mullen have the college football stage to themselves for 3 ½ hours Saturday, a new chapter in their once-heated and forever-storied rivalry.(AP Photo/File)

NO. 8 FLORIDA VS. MIAMI

TV: 7 p.m., ESPN. Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850. Favorite: Gators by 7. Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando

Series record: Miami leads 29-26.

South Florida flavor

With seven Florida players from either Miami or Miami Gardens, some former high school teammates are going to be on opposite sides of the rivalry tonight. Cornerback CJ Henderson played with UM defensive back Trajan Brandy at Miami Columbus, while safety Shawn Davis was teammates with UM offensive guard DJ Scaife Jr. and wide receiver Dee Wiggins at Miami Southridge. Cornerback Marco Wilson and defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton were on the same Plantation American Heritage team with Miami sophomore defensive lineman Nesta Jade Silvera, while Trevon Grimes and UM’s Mike Harley both played wide receiver at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. It’s situations like these that can really add juice to a rivalry.

Prepping for a new QB

Florida’s defense spent the week preparing for a quarterback — redshirt freshman Jarren Williams — the Gators know very little about, other than he was a highly rated four-star prospect coming out of high school that UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham recruited. There’s really no tape on him, at least on the college level. He played only nine snaps and attempted only three passes last season before taking a redshirt. So, the Gators don’t know exactly what to expect. “It’s tough preparing for a guy you’ve never seen play,” UF cornerback Marco Wilson said. “I heard he’s a pretty good quarterback, but he’s also young so we can try to use that to our advantage. I know as a young person it might be tough to play, and definitely at quarterback. So that’s something. We’re going to try to put some pressure on him.”

Gators to go fast

UF’s practices have been closed, but the word from the players is to expect the offense to be in hurry-up mode throughout the game. Now that quarterback Feleipe Franks and everyone else is comfortable in the offense in the second year, the Gators apparently are ready to go up-tempo. All the time. The offense was getting plays off so fast in camp that the defense had trouble keeping up at times, linebacker James Houston said. “Oh my gosh, yes, they go too fast. I feel bad for all the other defenses they got to play against,” he said.

Series record: Miami leads 29-26.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

A chance to set the tone for the 2019 season and secure bragging rights for the next five years. The next matchup in this once-heated rivalry is scheduled for 2024 in Gainesville, the front-end of a home-and-home series.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida: Quarterback Feleipe Franks is the team’s X-factor. He played well down the stretch last season , accounting for 12 touchdowns and no interceptions over the final four games — all wins. But he’s also been benched five times in two years. Coach Dan Mullen says Franks has made more progress this summer than he did all of last season.

Miami: Linebacker Shaq Quarterman will start his 40th consecutive game at Miami. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior is one of the leaders of a unit that ranked fourth nationally last season.

FACTS & FIGURES

Miami has won seven of the last eight against Florida and 12 of 16. The teams played every year between 1938-87, with a brief hiatus during World War II. The Gators ended the series in 1988 because they wanted to play a “more national schedule.” Florida then replaced Miami with Montana State. … Former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson spoke to the Hurricanes this week. Florida brought in former quarterback and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow for a pep talk. … Miami is opening with a neutral-site matchup for the second straight season. Last year, the Canes lost 33-17 to LSU in Arlington, Texas. … Florida is making its 39th appearance on College GameDay, the third most in show history and is 24-14 with the show at its games. … The Gators won their final three games last season by 26 or more points. The last time they won three consecutive games by at least 25 points was an eight-game stretch in 2008. … Miami hasn’t beaten a top-10 team away from home since 2005 (at No. 3 Virginia Tech). … UF is 28-1 in openers dating to 1989, with the only loss coming on the national stage against Michigan in 2017. …

KEY MATCHUP

Florida’s offensive front vs. Miami’s defensive front seven: Without a doubt, this is the most crucial matchup of the game. The Gators can only hope it doesn’t turn into a mismatch. The potential is there for that to happen. While the Gators are young and mostly untested on the offensive line, the UM defensive front, led by dominant defensive end Jonathan Garvin, is a team strength and one of the best in the ACC. It’s a disruptive group. Last season, the Hurricanes averaged 3.08 sacks and 10.46 tackles for losses per game, while holding opposing offenses to just 143.3 yards rushing a game. It’s an attacking, aggressive UM defense, and the ‘Canes are certain to test the young UF front early and often with blitzes and stunts. If the big guys on the O-line get overwhelmed it’s going to be a long night for Feleipe Franks and the Florida offense. If they hold their own, Franks and the skill players will have a chance to make a bunch of plays.

Florida has four new starters up front, including tackles Stone Forsythe and Jean Delance. Miami is even younger on its line, with tackles Zion Nelson and John Campbell making their first career starts.

Game questions

• Will the attacking Florida defense be able to force redshirt freshman quarterback Jarren Williams into making some critical mistakes, or does he take care of the football?

• How will the inexperienced Florida offensive line hold up against a fast and athletic Miami front seven?

• Can the Florida passing game produce some explosive plays.

• Who wins the matchup between speedy UM wide receiver Jeff Thomas and Florida cornerbacks Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson?

• Everyone in the Florida camp has been saying how much quarterback Feleipe Franks has improved since the end of last season. Will that improvement be evident tonight?

Click back Monday for Andreu’s answers

Andreu’s pick

Florida 35, Miami 21

(Last season’s record: 6-7)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

2 COMMENTS

  1. At least this article acknowledges that the UF defense is pretty darn good – they will prove it against Miami tonight, and this may turn into which defense whips the opposing offense better, though I do expect that the Gator offensive line will be able to forestall Miami’s defense long enough for Franks to execute some very important plays – GO GATORS!!!