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Florida vs. Idaho: The Field Survey

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Our first preview of the Florida Gators' opening game of the 2014 season is finally here.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 College Football Guide

Field Survey is back. It will run Mondays at 8 a.m. on game weeks this fall.

The Main Course: Florida vs. Idaho

The Vital Information

Opponent Idaho Vandals
Date August 30, 2014
Kickoff Time 7:00 p.m. Eastern
TV ESPNU
Radio Gator Radio Network
Streaming WatchESPN
Location Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville
Opposing Coach Paul Petrino
2013 Record 1-11
Conference Sun Belt
Series History 0-0
Last Meeting None

The Situation Report

The last two years, Florida has welcomed better-than-usual openers as sacrifices to The Swamp. 2012 opener opponent Bowling Green tied the Gators in the second half, though that tie lasted for only a possession, and went 8-5, dropping all five losses to winning teams; Toledo, Florida's first foe in 2013, went 7-5, losing two of those games to Florida and Missouri, while scoring 33 points per game. Add in the 34-12 thumping Florida eventually gave Miami of Ohio (final record: 10-4) in 2010, after all those Mike Pouncey snaps sailed over John Brantley's arms, and the Gators have played three MAC teams that ended up with winning records in their openers.

Idaho is not in the MAC, and is coming off a 1-11 season. Idaho, now an affiliate member of the Sun Belt in football after a year spent without a conference, resembles Florida's 2011 opening foe, Sun Belt bottom-dweller Florida Atlantic, which got brained 41-3 in Gainesville, then finished its 2011 season 1-11, taking just one of its losses by single digits and scoring its only win in a November game against UAB ... by a field goal. Those Owls scored 155 points and allowed 416, losing its games by an average of 21.75 points per game.

Idaho's 1-11 mark in 2013 was the result of the Vandals scoring 218 points and allowing 561. Their losses came by an average of 28.58 points per game. Their only win came against a 2-10 Temple squad, and the Vandals still nearly blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter; a failed two-point conversion proved to be the difference.

Idaho finished dead last in the nation in scoring defense in 2013, but "just" fourth from last in total defense. It allowed 24 points in every game, 37 or more in 10 games, and 59 or more an incredible four times. Florida State hosted Idaho late in the year, and dismantled the Vandals by an 80-14 count. (It was 80-7 before Idaho scored in the final minute1.)

And things haven't really gotten better for the Vandals. Here is the third paragraph of Paul Petrino's bio in the 2014 Idaho media guide:

While the Vandals didn't finish with the win-loss mark he would have liked, his first class of recruits showed it can provide the base for a bright Vandal future. Dezmon Epps, who came to Idaho from City College of San Francisco, finished the season tied for 24th nationally in receptions per game and was 42nd in receiving yards per game. Epps added almost 500 more yards on punt and kickoff returns to have the third-best all-purpose rushing season by a Vandal since 2000 and the 50th best in the nation on 2013.

Here are the first two paragraphs of a July 2014 story about Dezmon Epps:

On a team in need of playmakers, the Idaho Vandals football team won't have its best one next season.

Coach Paul Petrino announced Sunday that senior receiver Dezmon Epps has been dismissed from the Vandals for violating team rules. Epps was arrested on a DUI charge in April and was sentenced to one day in jail and two years' probation after pleading guilty in June.

So, uh, that's not good for Petrino, the younger brother of Louisville coach Bobby and former Illinois offensive coordinator under Ron Zook. (It happened long after the publication of Bill Connelly's Idaho preview, which mentions Epps more than his Florida preview does Demarcus Robinson.) (I kid because I love, Bill.)

Surely there's something more promising in the fourth paragraph of Petrino's bio!

Petrino also had his first Vandal All-American in punter Austin Rehkow, whose record-setting season earned him a spot on the Walter Camp All-American team. A true freshman, Rehkow’s average of 47.8 yards per kick is an NCAA record for a freshman as well as the overall record for a player who punted at least 75 times in one season.

...yep, Idaho led the nation in punting average in 2013. That might be easier to do when you get the full field to punt. Repeatedly.

Non-Essential Information

  • GatorZone's pregame notes are available in PDF form here.
  • Florida's 24 straight season-opening wins is the best streak in the SEC by a full decade (South Carolina has 14 straight wins) and is second nationally to Nebraska's 28 straight victories2.
  • Florida led Nebraska for the best home winning percentage in college football since 1990 by one hundreth of a percent entering 2013, having won 87.75 percent of their games in The Swamp to the Cornhuskers' 87.74 percent of their games in Lincoln. But Florida went 3-3 at home in 2013, while Nebraska went 5-2 before the Sea of Red, and the Gators ceded that distinction.
  • Idaho quarterback Chad Chalich threw for 310 yards and ran for 106 more against Temple. He later got hurt and missed the final five games of Idaho's season.
  • Chalich and Matt Linehan are competing for the starting job at QB. Linehan is the son of Scott Linehan, who was a quarterback at Idaho before becoming a college and NFL coach, most notably spending three seasons as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Scott Linehan also succeeded Bobby Petrino as Louisville's offensive coordinator in 1999, after Petrino left to coach quarterbacks for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Florida holds a 9-1 record3 against members of the current Sun Belt.
  • Idaho has seven players from Florida on its roster; I would bet $20 that Florida hasn't had a player from Idaho on its roster in my lifetime.
  • Two of those Floridian Vandals, cornerback Jordan Grabski (what a name for a cornerback) and wide receiver Jacob Sannon, went to Southeast High in Bradenton — the school that produced Florida cornerback Brian Poole. Poole could actually cover someone he covered in practice in high school on Saturday.
  • Notable names on Idaho's coaching staff: Cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose, who had the most 90210 name of any 1990s NFL player; receivers coach Charley Molnar, shown the door at UMass last fall after two consecutive 1-11 seasons; quarterbacks coach Bryce Erickson, son of Dennis; and, most importantly for us, former Florida linebacker Bam Hardmon. After the end of his professional playing career, Hardmon followed Zook, his college coach, to Illinois, and joined Petrino's Idaho staff last year as the defensive line coach.
  • Notable names on Idaho's roster: Quayshawne Buckley, Marius Burgsmueller, Maxx Forde, Kristoffer Olugbode, Marek Spooner-LeDuff, and, last but certainly not least, kicker Ben Worst. (Punter Rehkow also handled kicking duties in 2013, so there's a good chance Worst will never get to show his best at Idaho.)

The Least Essential Information

Will Muschamp is still unbeaten in August. Here's the updated table:

Muschamp's Team Date Opponent Score
Florida (HC) August 31, 2013 Toledo 24-6
Texas (DC) August 30, 2008 Florida Atlantic 52-10
LSU (DC) August 30, 2003 Louisiana-Monroe 49-7
Valdosta State (DC) August 26, 2000 Albany State 42-6
West Georga (DB) August 29, 1998 Presbyterian 24-21 (OT)
Auburn (GA) August 31, 1996 UAB 29-0

The Stakes

Florida's long winning streak in season openers is one of the safest bets in college sports for good reason, and there's no reason to expect Idaho to break it.

These Gators, though, could use a little bit of the confidence that is said to come from seeing the ball fall through the hoop, or seeing a putt drop. And that's especially true on offense: Florida didn't have a single 40-point game in 2013, while Idaho yielded nine on the way to allowing 46.8 points per game, the most by an FBS team since 2010.

Florida will win this game, obviously. (If the unfathomable happens, and Florida loses, Will Muschamp should really be fired on the spot.) But Florida winning this game by crooked numbers after putting up crooked numbers is probably the ideal outcome, and if that requires keeping Kurt Roper's offense revved all night, so be it.

Other Theaters of Operations

If all goes well, Florida is likely to compete with Georgia and South Carolina for the SEC East title in 2014, with Missouri looming as a spoiler, though the Tigers lost a lot of the talent that carried them to the 2013 SEC Championship Game.

And just as in 2013, the possibility exists that Florida could breeze to a 1-0 record while the Dawgs and Cocks falter: South Carolina hosts Texas A&M in the Aggies' first post-Johnny Manziel game on Thursday in the first FBS game of the 2014 college football season, while Georgia hosts Clemson on Saturday in maybe the best game of the week.

Georgia and South Carolina are rightly favored in both games, and I expect both teams to win, but the Gamecocks dropping an SEC game to A&M out of the gate would be a huge help to Florida's SEC East title hopes, and Georgia losing to Clemson is Georgia losing, so I know what I'm rooting for in those contests.

Elsewhere, Florida State will play an emaciated Oklahoma State team that every 'Noles fan will try to pass off as a credit to their strength of schedule in November, and LSU and Wisconsin will meet in what promises to be a slobberknocker of a kickoff classic.

Saturday's most interesting game, though, has to be Appalachian State's return trip to the scene of its 2007 assault on the sensibilities of Michigan Men far and wide. If you want to see Florida someday get revenge on Georgia Southern, watch that game, and hope the Wolverines handle the Mountaineers.

Star-divide


  1. That touchdown was scored by Najee Lovett, which amuses me: Given that Florida's track team had Najee Glass and Eddie Lovett on it at the same time for a couple years, you could convince me either one was "Najee Lovett" on that day.

  2. Florida's not taking possession of the "longest opener win streak" distinction this fall: In its home opener, Nebraska hosts Florida Atlantic, in a game that would have pitted Pelini against Pelini had Carl not resigned as the Owls' head man amid suspicions of drug abuse in 2013.

  3. Take a wild guess.