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What to watch for tonight: FAU at UF

Offensive line: The Gators will need an unproven group of offensive linemen to come together in a big way this season. Charlie Weis' offense is built on the ability to pound the ball in the running game, and the line must be able to provide adequate time for quarterback John Brantley in pass protection. If Florida is going to have a chance at bettering last season's 8-5 record, it starts up front with Xavier Nixon, Dan Wenger, Jonotthan Harrison, Jon Halapio and Matt Patchan. While they shouldn't have much trouble against FAU, you should be looking for cohesion across the board and solid play at the tackle spots, where Nixon and Patchan are trying to stay healthy for the first time in their careers. 

The quarterback: Much has been made this offseason about Brantley's renewed confidence and how Weis' pro-style offense is a much better fit than the spread. Now we'll see if all that hype was justified. Brantley has gone on record as saying he's always nervous in games. He'll need to shed that to have success this season. 

Underclassmen in the secondary: The Gators will likely start two freshmen in the secondary for the first time in school history today. After switching to safety from corner in camp, freshman De'Ante Saunders has impressed and will make the start at safety alongside sophomore Matt Elam. At corner, freshman Marcus Roberson appears to be the favorite to start opposite senior Moses Jenkins. But sophomores Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins will also see the field extensively. FAU's weakness is at quarterback and receiver, so this should be a good coming out party for the secondary. If the unit struggles against the Owls, coaches should start worrying.

Wide receiver and running back: It's senior Deonte Thompson's last chance to prove himself. All accounts from camp have Thompson primed for a break-out type season. I'm not buying it. But Florida will need someone to emerge as a go-to guy for Brantley. Will it be redshirt freshman Quinton DunbarFrankie Hammond? Can Andre Debose get on the field? At running back, it will be interesting to see how Weis utilizes Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, who Weis has called the fastest running backs he's ever coached. But neither fit the prototypical pro-style mold, and Mike Gillislee could be in line for some short-yardage carries. 

Muschamp and his staff: The Gators have closed practices and been extremely secretive with any information released pertaining to their new schemes. FAU coaches have admitted it's been difficult to gameplan for UF because they don't know what to expect. Will Muschamp must be thrilled. But this is Week 1 against a team Florida paid half a million dollars to come to Gainesville. Don't expect much to be revealed, especially on defense. Unless the Owls can keep it close, Florida will likely keep things very vanilla today. 

Prediction: UF 34 - FAU 10

 

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Great "preview" Matt. Keep up the good work. I like what you said about Deonte Thompson. I think everybody shares your doubts on him. I'm excited as hell, even if it is only FAU. The way I see it, it's almost - almost - impossible for us to be as crappy as we were last season. At least we won't have to hear Coach Meyer tell us, week after week, that the offense has been "tweaked" only to see the same garbage "Three-bow" project (Brantley + Burton + Reed) fail us again and again. Leave Brantley under center for the whole game and let's see what the man can do, good or bad. GO GATORS!!!!

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