There are truths and untruths in the world of sports. And there are also opinions that are worth discussing. You may agree or disagree. Just do it with decorum. So begins this occasional feature as Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun embrace the debate:
Item No. 1
Florida will open its season against Eastern Washington on Sept. 5 in front of a limited crowd.
Andreu: Just a few weeks ago, the 2020 college football season seemed in serious jeopardy. A lot has changed since then. America is opening up and bringing sports with it. For UF, the players are going to gradually start returning June 8 and the whole team should be good to go for the start of preseason practice. So it’s very much looking like we will have football this fall. The question is when will it start and will there be fans in the stands? The Gators will open their season on schedule, but The Swamp likely will be at least half empty. FACT.
Dooley:If we could go back in time, this game would not have been scheduled. It was a favor to Jim McElwain, then the Florida coach. How’d that turn out? In a perfect world, you’d rather have a team that could bus in here because of the situation we are in. And that could still happen. It’s impossible to know where we are going to be in a week, let alone three months. If this game is played, there is no doubt it will be in front of the smallest crowd to see a UF football game since they played at Fleming Field. I just don’t see it.FICTION.
Item No. 2
Florida will make the College Football Playoffs this season.
Andreu: There’s been a lot of talk since the end of ast season that the Gators are going to be playoff contenders in 2020. A lot of that optimism has been coming from the players, who seem to think they’re ready to make the next step under Dan Mullen. This certainly will be a goal heading into the season. But the focus shouldn’t be on that. It should be on Georgia, finding a way to beat the Bulldogs and win the East. Do that and then we’ll all be talking about the Gators and the CFP in the same breath. FICTION.
Dooley: For this one, I’m going to lean on something I’ve been saying for the last several weeks. There’s not a coach I’d rather have getting my team prepared for a bizarre season like we are about to experience than Dan Mullen. The schedule works in Florida’s favor with three games against first-year coaches at their respective schools. If this group can handle all of the expectations, it might be a nervous Selection Sunday, but I can see a path to the playoff. FACT.
Item No. 3
Dan Mullen’s first two teams at UF finished 42nd and 45th in total offense. From 20010-17, UF did not have a team rank higher than 83rd. The Gators will finish this year inside the top 30 for the first time in 11 years.
Andreu: This is going to be the most potent and productive offense Florida has had since 2008, Mullen’s last season as the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer. One of the reasons is we’re going to see a big bump for quarterback Kyle Trask between Year One and Year Two as the starter. What he did last season was impressive, but he was just getting started under Mullen’s tutelage. In taking his game to the next level, he’s going to get a big assist from what should be a much-improved offensive line and running game. The offense is going to have what it didn’t have last season: balance. FACT.
Dooley: Had there been a spring, I think Mullen was going to unleash the full power of his offense on the opposing defenses. Now, I’m not so sure. But you have to think the running game will come to life this year with experience on the offensive line and the talent level at the wide receiver position is big time. I think a lot of it will depend on how effective Mullen is when it comes to putting in Emory Jones at exactly the right times. There is also this — to finish in the top 30 last year, Florida would have needed to average 440.2 yards a game. The last time UF was a top-10 team in total offense in 2009, the 30th ranked team averaged 416 yards a game. That’s how much college football has changed. Still … FACT.