Will Florida be Tigers’ new challenger from the SEC?

Will Florida be Tigers’ new challenger from the SEC?

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Will Florida be Tigers’ new challenger from the SEC?

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Clemson will once again be the team to beat when the 2020 football season begins. At least that is what some preseason polls think, such as Athlon Magazine, which has the Tigers ranked No. 1 in its rankings.

It is a good place to start a season. However, Clemson will have a few teams it will have to keep an eye on that potentially could keep its dreams of winning another national championship from coming true.

The Clemson Insider has already taken a look at North Carolina, Notre Dame, LSU and Georgia as potential challengers. Only Notre Dame is on Clemson’s 2020 schedule. The Tigers and the Irish clash in South Bend on Nov. 7. However, there is a possibility Clemson could face the Tar Heels, the Bulldogs and LSU in the College Football Playoff.

Outside of Alabama, perhaps the Tigers’ biggest challenger from the SEC is the University of Florida. Clemson and Florida face off on the recruiting trail quite often. Clemson has had a ton of success plucking four-and five-star athletes away from the Gators, starting with former Clemson great C.J. Spiller.

However, the Tigers and Gators have not met often on the football field. In fact, the two have not played against each other since 1961, a 21-17 Florida win in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators lead the all-time series 9-3-1.

What are the chances Clemson could face the Gators in the CFP? There is a decent chance it could happen.

Florida will likely be the favorite to win the SEC East this season, especially with Georgia having so many question marks on offense. The Gators are ranked No. 6 in Athlon’s preseason top 25, which is about where many expect them to be at the start of the year.

The big game, besides its annual grudge match with Georgia in Jacksonville, will be a showdown with LSU in the Swamp. They also have a tough date at Tennessee on Sept. 26. If they can survive those three games, the rest of the year seems very favorable for a return trip to the SEC Championship Game and a possible date with Alabama.

It helps that the Gators return quarterback Kyle Trask. Florida averaged 31.1 points per game against SEC competition in 2019 with Trask leading the way. The Orange Bowl Champions also return receivers Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney and Jacob Copeland on offense, as well as one of the SEC’s top tight ends in Kyle Pitts.

The offensive line returns three starters, while Charles Reese, who transferred in from Mississippi State, is a big get for the Florida offense. Last year, the Gators allowed 25 sacks. They were also next to last in rushing in the SEC, averaging just 129.8 yards per game.

Florida has a few holes to fill on defense, but it should still be strong due to its talent depth on that side of the ball. Last year, the Gators were second in the SEC and seventh nationally in scoring defense, yielding just 15.5 points per game. They were also second in the conference in total defense and ninth nationally.

The secondary should be the Gators strength especially with talented players Kaiir Elam and Marco Wilson playing corner.

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