Florida Gators Non-Conference Matchup Previews
Looking into the 2023 season, UF will play four non-conference games. Three out of those four games will be played in the first four weeks of the season. The last non-conference matchup will be the last game of the season for the Gators. These four non-conference games are Florida vs Utah (8/31), McNeese St. vs Florida (9/9), Charlotte vs Florida (9/23), and Florida State vs Florida (11/25).
Florida vs Utah 8/31
The first game of the season for the Gators will be against a tough opponent in Utah. The two teams met last year in the Swamp, and the game ended with an Amari Burney interception as time ticked down. Despite some recent history, this game will be a big test for the Gators. Coming off a losing season and having lost some seniors will make this game harder than last year.
Additionally, Utah standout quarterback Cameron Rising will be returning for his senior year. Rising played a big role in leading Utah to a 10-4 season record in 2022. Furthermore, the Utes will have home field advantage this time around. To say the least, Florida’s toughness will be heavily challenged. No matter the outcome, the Gators will surely learn a lot from this opening week battle.
McNeese St. vs Florida 9/9
Following an opening week date with Utah, the Gators will head back home to play their home opener. The home opener will consist of a matchup against the McNeese St. Cowboys. Despite McNeese St being a lower-level division one team, this game will be a good brush-up before having to take on the Volunteers.
This game should be an opportunity for Florida to further evaluate the quarterback situation. Billy Napier will name a starting quarterback before the Utah game, but don’t be surprised if that name changes before Southeastern Conference (SEC) play starts. Hopefully, the Gators will play multiple different quarterbacks in this game to make their decision easier come week three.
Charlotte vs Florida 9/23
The fourth game on the Gators’ schedule will be against the Charlotte 49ers. Charlotte, who is coming off a 3-9 season, will be another brush-up game for the Gators. The 49ers struggled a lot last year in Conference USA (CUSA) and are moving up to the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
Nonetheless, Florida will get another opportunity to gain confidence before continuing in SEC play. This season the Gators have a tough schedule, which means any “freebee” games to boost the team’s morale will be important. Considering the Gators failed to finish with a winning record last season, Napier will hope to change that his second time around.
Florida State vs Florida 11/25
The last non-conference matchup happens to be the last and arguably the biggest game of the season: Florida State. One of college football’s biggest rivalries continues to live up to the hype year in and year out. Last year the Gators were unable to get it done after a failed 4th down attempt on the game’s final drive. This year Florida will be looking for a different outcome at the Swamp.
Returning star and Heisman hopeful Jordan Travis will likely be a big factor for the Seminoles. Florida State, who had a very good balanced offensive attack will look to maintain that once again throughout the 2023 season. Even though Florida State might look like the better team on paper when it comes to rivalry games anything can happen.
By this time in the season, the Gators could look a lot different. A fully functional offense with a starting quarterback behind them would be ideal. Regardless, ending the regular season off with a win against your biggest rival would be a huge boost to the whole team. Like the Utah game, though, Florida State will be a tough opponent no matter where the game is played.
Expectations Following Non-Conference Play
Besides the Florida State game being the last regular season game, you can expect to see a big difference in the team’s play. Ultimately, the shift in offensive schemes could be different from week one to four. Depending on the quarterback under center, two types of playstyles could be used.
Nonetheless, Florida just hopes to look much better overall by the time week five rolls around. SEC play won’t be easy this year considering how many seniors have left and new people were brought in. This coming 2023 season as a whole will portray more of what Billy Napier’s era as the Gators head coach will look like.