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Weekly Win Shares: Florida starts out 2020 slightly south of eight wins

An eight-win season would be rather disappointing for some Florida fans. Our time-honored method of predicting the year still sees that as possible.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Florida v Michigan Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the several years that I — and we — have done predictions for each Florida Gators football season through the prism of win shares, I’ve tried to link back to every previous year to make note of where we were at those campaigns’ outsets.

This year, with a season starting in late September and running for just 10 games against an all-SEC slate, that doesn’t feel all that useful for comparison or contrast.

So I’ll skip a lot of the prelude, remind you that we’re dealing in percentages that also translate to fractions of a win, and give you my 2020 win shares for Florida as of Week 1.

2020 Florida Gators Win Shares — Week 1

Week Date Team Win Share Total Win Shares
Week Date Team Win Share Total Win Shares
1 September 26 Ole Miss 0.85 0.85
2 October 3 South Carolina 0.9 1.75
3 October 10 Texas A&M 0.7 2.45
4 October 17 LSU 0.75 3.2
5 October 24 Missouri 0.85 4.05
7 November 7 Georgia 0.5 4.55
8 November 14 Arkansas 0.95 5.5
9 November 21 Vanderbilt 0.9 6.4
10 November 28 Kentucky 0.8 7.2
11 December 5 Tennessee 0.7 7.9

My justifications, game-by-game:

  • I don’t fear this Ole Miss team at all, but I currently don’t think it’s fair to put any game on the road in this weird year at a 90 percent threshold, especially with all of these teams sight unseen at present.
  • Similarly, while I don’t fear this South Carolina team, I don’t feel comfortable going past 90 percent even for a home game — except for one instance that we’ll get to later.
  • The back-to-back games against A&M and LSU being in the 70-75 percent range — and making out A&M to be a harder game — might seem odd on first blush, but I do think Florida is likely to be favored by oddsmakers in both contests, and probably favored by more at home over LSU. In a normal year, I’d also probably chop off another five to 10 percent for playing in Kyle Field, but A&M will only have so much home-field advantage; similarly, I might get to 80 percent for the LSU game if it were in front of nearly 90,000 fans rather than just 17,000.
  • Is Missouri likely to be better than South Carolina? I doubt it. But we can have slightly more confidence in lower-entropy situations at the start of a season.
  • The Georgia game is the only one that really makes me want to check previous seasons to see if I ever got to or past a coin flip after 2013. Even this prediction probably has as much to do with my thinking that Georgia is going to take at least a half-step back than my confidence in Florida. But, hell, I’ll stand by it for now — while noting that both teams and Jacksonville are clearly still hoping to have more than just a handful of fans, making it maybe the most volatile number on the board.
  • Florida let a loss to Georgia beat it twice in 2018, coming out flat while licking wounds against Missouri. It didn’t do that last year, pulverizing Vandy by a 56-0 count a week after falling in Jacksonville. It all but can’t do that in 2020, given the potential ignominy of losing to Feleipe Franks at home. And that’s accounting for the worst-case scenario for the Arkansas game; the best-case scenario finds Florida flying high and undefeated, eager to clinch the SEC East at home. That’s why the number there is so high.
  • Frankly, I think Kentucky might be Florida’s hardest SEC East test outside of Georgia. The Wildcats have an established identity under Mark Stoops, and it’s one that is defined partly by a resistance to being the nail in the Florida-Kentucky series: The program has lost just one blowout to Florida in the last five years, and should arguably be 3-2 rather than 1-4 over that span. But when you consider how Kentucky ended up going 1-4 against Florida over the last five years, I think you can also see why Florida — with plenty of players who remember the only Kentucky win of their lifetimes happening in The Swamp two years ago — should still be the comfortable favorite in the series.
  • I don’t buy Tennessee hype as a rule, but this year’s team seems exceptionally well-poised for defrauding its believers: Last year’s Vols sequenced wins and losses well enough that they have “momentum” that no one would have granted them had their loss to Georgia State come in November rather than August, secured three of their season-closing six straight wins by less than a touchdown, and ended the year not far from where they began it on defense and at quarterback. I think that Eric Gray emerging — or convincing coaches via his play that he was always that team’s best bet at running back — was a good thing, and it would be unfair to not acknowledge that Jarrett Guarantano had some fine games down the stretch, but Guarantano’s far from reliable and won’t have his two top receivers from 2019 this fall. One factor that could affect this prediction considerably: I certainly wouldn’t put it past Tennessee to roll back restrictions on attendance by December.
  • Overall, I’m a bit surprised that I ended up under eight wins — I thought I’d be just above that mark — but I think that number is pretty fair given the chaos of this year. And I think starting 4-0, which would be tough, pretty clearly raises the bar to nine wins.

Now, it’s your turn.