CFB Opening Day Picks: Florida vs. Miami
Our long national nightmare of a summer without college football will finally end on Saturday night as Miami and Florida lock horns in the season opener. This is more than just a non-conference exhibition filled with pageantry. This is a match-up with legitimate stakes. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a game featuring two schools that hate one another. That is a recipe for an intriguing game.
The Gators come into this season flying high after a surprisingly successful 2018 campaign. There was little doubt that Dan Mullen would breathe life into the Florida program upon his return to Gainesville, but it’s safe to say he’s ahead of schedule.
Mullen’s biggest accomplishment is turning Feleipe Franks into a top of the line starting quarterback in the SEC. His physical talent has never been a question mark, but his decision making was excellent last year. Franks did a terrific job taking care of the football as evidenced by his final stat line of 24 passing touchdowns against only six interceptions. It’s also worth noting that he got better for the Gators each week. Franks isn’t necessarily a Heisman candidate coming into the year, but he could find himself on that national stage with a big opening weekend game against the Hurricanes.
While Florida has enjoyed a relatively smooth offseason, things have been tumultuous for their South Florida neighbors. Mark Richt’s decision to abruptly retire caught his team off guard. School officials did a nice job pivoting to Manny Diaz, but there will still be an adjustment period. To put it bluntly, Florida are catching Miami at a perfect time.
The ’Canes don’t have the advantage of continuity at the quarterback position. Redshirt freshman Jarren Williams, somewhat surprisingly, beat out Tate Martell and N’Kosi Perry to earn the start against Florida. Don’t be surprised if several signal callers play for Miami in an effort to keep Florida’s defense guessing in the opener.
When you consider the state of both programs it shouldn’t be any surprise that Florida currently stands as a 5.5 to 7 point favorite. Miami is certainly getting the benefit of the doubt due to their program’s name recognition though. When you look at the two rosters it’s pretty clear that the Gators should be well-positioned for a comfortable victory.
The danger in backing the Gators big is two-fold. First, you never know exactly what you’re going to get in Week 1. Everyone looks good in the preseason, but strange things can happen under the bright lights of national television. That tends to make scores more unpredictable. It also could lead to a slow start for both offenses. Banging the under at 47 points also seems like a tasty way to make some quick cash on opening weekend.
1u - Under 47 @-110
The second concern on betting big in this one is the fact that it is a rivalry game. A ton of kids on both sidelines know each other from their days battling on high school fields all over the state of Florida. Playing for pride and bragging rights doesn’t really effect NFL outcomes, but those sorts of motivations must be accounted for when betting on college games. When kickoff arrives there will be sky-high emotions at play.
Despite those concerns, the Gators are still clearly the right play here. They have a clear and significant advantage at quarterback and with their head coach. Diaz may get the Miami program headed in the right direction, but he’s way behind where Mullen already has things in Gainesville.
Expect both teams to feel each other out in a cagey first quarter, but after that the sheer talent advantage Florida has will start to win out. National TV officials want to sell this as a game that will be tight all the way down to the wire. Don’t buy the hype. Any opportunity to back the Gators without giving away more than seven points is a terrific chance for you to make some money.
Florida will suffer some sterner tests when they enter SEC play, but don’t look for them to stumble against an ACC opponent in the opener. There will be some spicy moments early, but look for the Gators to make a statement with a convincing win over Miami this weekend.
1u - Florida -7 @-110