No. 13 Florida opens season at Swamp against in-state FAU

Florida Atlantic (0-0) at No. 13 Florida (0-0), Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EDT (SEC Network).

Line: Florida by 23 ½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

Series record: Florida leads 3-0

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Florida begins life without Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask, All-American tight end Kyle Pitts and dynamic receiver Kadarius Toney. The trio made the Gators hum offensively last season, when they averaged 39.8 points a game. Quarterback Emory Jones, tight end Kemore Gamble and receiver Jacob Copeland have huge cleats to fill in Gainesville and will get a chance to shine against Florida Atlantic, which enters its second season under ex-Florida State coach Willie Taggart and its first with Miami graduate transfer N’Kosi Perry at quarterback.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida’s defensive front vs FAU’s experienced offensive line. The Gators have a seemingly endless rotation of pass rushers led by Zach Carter, Brenton Cox, Jeremiah Moon and Khris Bogle. They could be challenged against a FAU unit that has combined 123 collegiate starts, including 35 for center Nick Weber and 33 for right tackle BJ Etienne.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida Atlantic: Perry grew up about 40 miles south of Gainesville in Ocala. He spent three years at Miami, playing in 24 games and starting nine. His best outing came in the 2020 Cheez-It Bowl, where he completed 19 of 34 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State.

Florida: Senior Trey Dean returns to a prominent role, this time at safety. He’s played just about every spot in the defensive backfield, recording 16 starts, 86 tackles and three interceptions. He had six pass breakups as a freshman and just two since.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Gators have won the three previous meetings by a combined score 120-37, but only two of them were routs. Florida needed overtime to beat the Owls 20-14 in 2015. … Florida will recognize Leonard George and Willie Jackson Sr. before the opening kickoff. George and Jackson, who became the first Black scholarship football players at Florida when they signed in 1968, will serve as honorary captains. … Florida’s last game in the Swamp was memorable: a 37-34 loss to unranked LSU in a dense fog. CB Marco Wilson threw an opponent’s cleat to keep the winning drive alive, and Cade York drilled a 57-yarder with 23 seconds remaining that proved to be the difference.

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