The Florida Gators had a sluggish opening game against the Florida Atlantic Owls. They will try to improve a lot on the offensive side of the ball when they face the South Florida Bulls in this in-state matchup. South Florida stumbled out of the gate and faces considerable limitations in the early years of new coach Jeff Scott’s tenure. Those limitations will be explained in greater detail below, and they form part of the basis for the against the spread (ATS) lock of the week in Week 2 of the college football season.
Lock of the Week
Florida Gators at South Florida Bulls
Odds: Florida -28½
The Florida Gators are going to be very different compared to 2020. Last year, quarterback Kyle Trask threw the ball a lot, featuring favored target Kyle Pitts, his reliable tight end who played the game like a wide receiver. Pitts was not a lumbering, beefy tight end who mainly stayed in to block and caught short, safe possession passes on third down-and-three.
He destroyed defenses on vertical routes and was a speedy downfield threat. Florida was able to spread the field thanks to Pitts, who drew so much attention from defenses that the other half of the field was wide open and always had one-on-one matchups. The Gators didn’t win the SEC title but they definitely came close, scoring 46 points against eventual national champion Alabama but falling just short 52-46 in the SEC Championship Game.
Why is Florida not a bigger favorite in this game? The Gators’ offense doesn’t have nearly the same amount of firepower it had last year with Pitts and Trask gone. The Gators are now a running team. They ran for 400 yards in the season opener in a 35-14 win against Florida Atlantic, coming up with a much slower and less potent form of offense.
They controlled the clock, which could serve them well in future games against SEC opponents, but against Florida Atlantic, it didn’t run up a huge score. Florida posted only 35 points, which, against a smaller-conference opponent, rates as a disappointment.
Emory Jones, a running quarterback, is the new signal-caller for the Gators. His speed is his best asset. His throwing arm is suspect, and head coach Dan Mullen needs to develop him over the course of the season. Florida is not expected to score 50 points. That would likely cover the spread here. Many people have their doubts.
Why pick Florida against the spread if you bet online, then? South Florida is really bad and, more precisely, it is in a rebuilding mode. Scott did take over the team last year, but the pandemic hurt many first-year coaches in terms of limiting practice time and making it hard for coaches to fully install new systems and schemes. Scott is essentially in his first season, even though he is technically in his second year at the school.
South Florida is playing catch-up and facing Florida earlier in the year is more of a hardship for the Bulls than the Gators. South Florida lost 45-0 to North Carolina State in Week 1. If N.C. State is 45 points better than South Florida, the Gators are at least 30 points better, if not more. Take Florida in the lock of the week.