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Friday Forum: What will Florida show against UT-Martin?

The Gators are at least good enough to beat a decent team. What can they prove by devouring a cupcake?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 24 Camping World Kickoff - Florida v Miami Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Florida Gators haven’t been in this position before.

That’s the upshot of beating Miami in their opening game: The Gators are 1-0, with the win coming against a non-cupcake team and away from home, for the first time since 1985, when they went to Miami to defeat a group of Hurricanes that would subsequently win 21 of its next 22 games.

This season’s beginning is thus different from 2017’s, in which Florida got a reality check in its first non-conference game against a non-cupcake in decades against Michigan, and from the starts to 1989 and 1987, when the Gators also opened up with losses against power-conference teams (Ole Miss in 1989, and Miami in 1987).

And while this 2019 start is kind of like the ones in 1992 and 1990, when Florida knocked off SEC foe Kentucky and Big Eight opponent Oklahoma State in openers, the Gators then played SEC teams the next week, surprising Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1990 but falling to Tennessee on Rocky Top in 1992.

And this isn’t even exactly like that aforementioned 1985 start, when Florida downed Miami and then played a Rutgers team that would go 2-8-1 to that one tie, a 28-28 affair that was the only blemish in a 7-0-1 start that was the best in program history and yielded a 9-1-1 finish that matched the Gators’ high-water mark from a year prior. (Florida went 9-1-1 in consecutive years in the ‘80s with ties in its second games in both seasons, kids. I wasn’t alive, either, but I know how to read a history book.)

No, the last time Florida won a game against a team in a current Power Five conference to open its season and then played a team from outside the Power Five in its next matchup happened in 1917, when Florida opened with South Carolina and then met Tulane.

And that, it should not surprise you, is the only other time such a thing has ever happened.

So when Florida takes the field on Saturday against FCS middleweight Tennessee-Martin, it will be in the unique position of having had its mettle tested by a good team and then getting to feast on a lesser one for the first time since World War I.

And perhaps that’s why I really don’t know what I want from this team on Saturday, much less what I expect. I had this team pretty well pegged for that opener, but the weirdness of that game and UT-Martin’s own weird opener — more on this tomorrow in the Preview — plus the week off (and hurricane!) in between have me as baffled by what could be as I ever really get. I’m pretty sure Florida is going to win, but Florida could win 70-0 or 27-10 and I wouldn’t be particularly surprised by either outcome; similarly, I could see Feleipe Franks and the offense continuing to struggle to find rhythm or utterly overwhelming a team that isn’t from its physical paradigm.

So I turn things over to you, faithful readers, at the end of a long week: What do you think the Gators will look like after their fortnight’s layoff on Saturday?