wjxt logo

Chomp: Are AR15 and the Gators ready for the biggest game in The Swamp in years?

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) gets past South Florida linebacker Brian Norris (29) on an 80-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) gets past South Florida linebacker Brian Norris (29) on an 80-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

This story first appeared in Chomp, our Gators football newsletter. Subscribe here.

It’s the game we’ve been waiting for since last December and the biggest game in The Swamp in years.

A raucous environment is expected on Saturday when No. 11 Florida (2-0) hosts defending national champion and top-ranked Alabama (2-0) in front of a sellout crowd.

It’s the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. It’s also the SEC on CBS game of the week, with kickoff at 3:30 p.m. (Cue that iconic theme song. 🎶)

SEC Network’s “SEC Nation,” including Gators Tim Tebow and Laura Rutledge, will also broadcast live on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in Gainesville.

Before we get to all the hype and preview the juggernaut that is Alabama football, let’s take a quick look back at last week’s game.

🌟 AR shines again in 42-20 win over USF

Both Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson performed well in the first half of Florida’s 42-20 win over South Florida in Tampa, but Jones, the redshirt junior from LaGrange, Georgia, had two interceptions in the second half.

Richardson, the redshirt freshman from Gainesville, was dynamic throughout and even had an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. But after that, he sat out the rest of the game after his right hamstring tightened on the run, Dan Mullen said.

In this episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters dives into the performance of both quarterbacks and why Richardson should be the starter going forward. In another episode, David also hears from listeners about their thoughts on the victory over the Bulls.

🏈 Bama to face dual-threat QBs in sold out Swamp

Now, the Gators will have their first real test when the Crimson Tide come to town. Mullen said the game is a good “measuring stick” for his team at this point of the season.

Florida played Alabama close in a 52-46 loss in the SEC championship game last year, but both teams are missing key players from that game — including their quarterbacks.

With Mac Jones and Kyle Trask both in the NFL, quarterback Bryce Young has led the Tide, while Florida has Jones and Richardson. It’s unclear how much Richardson will play. Mullen has stuck with Jones as the starter for the last two games, and Richardson is dealing with the strained hamstring.

“He’s still practiced every day. He’s getting treatment, making sure that he’s healthy, ready to go. But he’s had a pretty good week of practice,” Mullen said Wednesday of Richardson.

READ MORE: Mullen ignoring QB calls for Richardson over Jones | Florida welcomes Alabama to The Swamp

Dual-threat quarterbacks have given Alabama some trouble over the years, and The Swamp could give Young, who is making his first road start, some trouble.

“We’re certainly looking forward to the challenge because it will kind of tell us a little bit about who we are, where we are, where we got to go, what we need to do to get there,” Nick Saban said.

Both teams will be without starting linebackers due to injuries. Florida will be without Ventrell Miller, who had surgery this week to repair a torn biceps tendon. The Tide are without starter Chris Allen, who suffered a football injury in the opener. Saban expects Will Anderson to play despite suffering a knee injury last week.

In a Gators Breakdown episode, David and Will Miles dive into Richardson’s status for the game and the other storylines surrounding the huge matchup. In a different episode, David previews the Crimson Tide with Alabama insider Kevin Hagan.

💭 Is Mullen being overlooked?

Bruce Llewellyn sent us this comment: “Hey Guys! “Experts” overlooking Mullen again, I think they will be surprised. Wouldn’t be surprised if they beat Alabama or lose close and finish 11-1.”

Here’s what David has to say:

“I do think this can be a close game for Mullen… if Anthony Richardson plays, a huge factor. Emory Jones has shown mistakes the first couple of weeks that keep me from fully buying into an upset. One thing I know for sure is Mullen will have a great game plan ready to go, but the hope has to be it is not limited by QB play.

“This is a game that can turn the narrative on Dan Mullen from the ‘experts.’ This is the roster he has built in Year Four where the majority of players and contributors are players he recruited. A quarterback he recruited that hasn’t shown early promise this season, but with an opportunity to silence the critics himself with a turnaround performance. A loss doesn’t really hurt Dan Mullen here, but a win can be monumental. It would be another, and best, sign the Gators program is trending even more in the right direction. Even a close loss can show that.

“A loss won’t doom the program, but just keeps the same questions about the direction of the program out there. If he is able to finish the season 11-1 or 10-2, then that sets up for some big expectations for 2022.”

👀 Gators going with traditional look

Orange helmets. Blue jerseys. White pants.

For the first time this season, the Gators will be going with a traditional look for Saturday’s home game.

I know you know what it looks like already, but you can see the pics released on the Gators Football Twitter account here.

📈 Florida rises in AP Poll, stays put in Coaches Poll

The Gators rose from No. 13 to No. 11 in The Associated Press Top 25 Poll. This week, the Gators jumped Notre Dame, which had a come-from-behind 32-29 victory over Toledo and fell from No. 8 to No. 12, while Iowa State fell from No. 9 to No. 14 after losing 27-17 to Iowa in the Cy-Hawk Trophy game. The Hawkeyes’ road win pushed them from No. 10 to No. 5.

But the biggest takeaway from the new poll was Oregon’s jump from No. 12 to No. 4 after its 35-28 road win over Ohio State, which dropped from No. 3 to No. 9.

Here’s the full AP Poll released Sunday.

In the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, the Gators stayed put at No. 9. You can see the new Coaches Poll in its entirety here.

🏟️ Look at other intriguing Week 3 matchups

While there will be tens of thousands of Gators fans in Gainesville for the matchup between two ranked SEC teams on Saturday, if you’re cheering on Florida from home or just tailgating, here are some of the other notable Week 3 matchups to watch.

There’s another Top 25 matchup involving an SEC team. ESPN’s “College GameDay” is heading to State College, where No. 10 Penn State (2-0) is hosting No. 22 Auburn (2-0) at 6:30 p.m. in its annual “Whiteout” game. It’s Bryan Harsin’s first road game as the Tigers coach and Auburn’s first regular-season road game against a Big Ten team since 1931 at Wisconsin.

At noon, No. 3 Oklahoma (2-0) hosts Nebraska (2-1) in a nostalgic but unlikely-to-be-competitive matchup. It’s the first meeting between the teams since the 2010 Big 12 championship game. The best-known game in the series was the “Game of the Century” 50 years ago when No. 1 Nebraska beat No. 2 Oklahoma in 1971.

South Carolina (2-0) will be at No. 2 Georgia (2-0) for a 7 p.m. kickoff in the SEC opener for both teams. While the Bulldogs are big favorites, their quarterback situation will be an interesting aspect to watch: Will JT Daniels return from his oblique injury or will former walk-on Stetson Bennett get the start? Former Gators and Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp, now part of Kirby Smart’s staff, also has the chance to face his old South Carolina team after being fired midway through last season and eventually replaced by Shane Beamer.

And Florida State (0-2) is at Wake Forest (2-0), trying to avoid its first 0-3 start since 1976. ICYMI: FCS Jacksonville State had a walk-off Hail Mary to defeat the Seminoles 20-17 last week.

🎠 Coaching carousel spinning

We barely made it through two weeks of this college football season before the first firing of a Power Five head coach.

In a move that has seemed inevitable for the last few years, Southern California fired Clay Helton, who was in his seventh season in charge.

As former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said: “What should be done eventually, must be done immediately.”

🕖 Kickoff time announced for Tennessee

While we didn’t get a night game for the matchup against Bama, the Gators will be hosting Volunteers under the lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium next week.

The Tennessee-Florida game on Sept. 26 will kick off at 7 p.m.

It will be broadcast on ESPN.

Here’s the full list of kickoff times for the Week 4 SEC games.

✉️ Send us your Gators thoughts & questions

With the season underway (not to mention lots of questions about Florida’s quarterback situation), David and I want to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the Gators football program? Agree or disagree with something we’ve said? Let us know here and we’ll share our responses to your questions.

🎙️ Listen to more Gators Breakdown

You can catch up on previous episodes of Gators Breakdown at news4jax.com/gatorsbreakdown. Or click one of the following to tune in: Megaphone | Apple Podcasts | YouTube | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

About the Author:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4Jax in March 2016.