Despite being the reigning division champions, Georgia was not the consensus choice to win the SEC East when it came time for the league's media to make its preseason order of finish predictions. No. 5 Florida edged out the rival Bulldogs for that honor, led in part by first-team All-SEC preseason picks Kyle Trask at quarterback and Kyle Pitts at tight end. Coming off a strong 2019 that saw both players shine in Dan Mullen's offense, much of the optimism around the Gators has been tied to the ways that side of the ball will stress opponents in 2020.
Saturday's record-setting 51-35 win at Ole Miss confirmed what many of those preseason poll voters must have believed all along: Florida's offense is going to be one of the best units in the entire country.
Trask threw for 416 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions on 30-of-42 passing, setting a new program record for most passing touchdowns in a season-opener, while also tying former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow for most passing touchdowns in an SEC conference-opener. As a team, the Gators' 642 yards -- which was totaled at an absurd 8.7 yards per play rate -- also set a new program record for total offense in an SEC game.
Florida is able to overwhelm opponents with its size and athleticism in the passing attack. Kyle Pitts (eight catches, 170 yards, four touchdowns) and Trevon Grimes (three catches, 64 yards, one touchdown) have size and all-purpose threat Kadarius Tony (five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown) brings the speed, and it's a nightmare to try and keep track of all three as they are frequently shifted around to different receiver positions in the offense.
But the receiving corps does more than stress you with versatility as it showed off impressive depth on Saturday as well, with redshirt sophomore Jacob Copeland, redshirt freshman Trent Whittemore and even Penn State transfer Justin Shorter -- who was just granted immediate eligibility earlier this month -- all showing up as notable pieces in this Trask-led passing attack.
To discuss Pitts solely within the context of this deep receiver group, though, is to do a disservice to the best tight end in the country. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds with range, Pitts has the physical attributes that define much of what the NFL is looking for in the modern tight end. There was already going to be a spotlight on him this year because of the NFL interest, but Saturday showed how much he has developed since the start of his college career and how refined skills has made him nearly unguardable in the college game.
There aren't many defenses in the country who have the kind of skill, size and athleticism at linebacker and in the defensive backfield to handle Pitts and the rest of this Florida offensive attack. Most of those teams aren't on Florida's schedule, so if the Gators have to score 50 points per game to win, it appears like that request can be fulfilled. Unfortunately, one of those defenses is on Florida's schedule, and if it's going to make those voters look smart by winning the SEC East, it's going to need a more balanced team effort to get by the defending division champs.
Here now are three more takeaways from Florida's season-opening win over Ole Miss on Saturday.
1. Ole Miss was able to move the ball effectively
Lane Kiffin has long been celebrated for his acumen as a coach and play-caller on the offensive side of the ball, so it didn't come as a surprise to see the Rebels pulling out all of the stops with a top-five opponent in town. Former Florida quarterback commit Matt Corral threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns with one interception (via a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage) on 22-of-31 passing. Much of that success came thanks to Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore, who absolutely carved the Florida secondary up to the tune of 10 catches for 227 yards on 12 targets. The Rebels were better than 50% on third down (9-for-14) and averaged a very impressive 7.9 yards per play on 613 yards of total offense.
All of this should be a concern for Florida fans, who can take some solace in crediting Ole Miss for its explosiveness and the fact that large chunks of yards and points came in the second half with the result no longer in doubt. But Florida will need a more solid performance defensively to finish teams off when they jump out to big leads, because other teams might not be as easy to score against. Instead of sweating the betting cover, they'll be sweating the win.
2. Some jokes write themselves
Everyone has a turnover gimmick in 2020. We've seen the turnover chain, trash can and shoulder spikes evolve into basketball goals and even sideline thrones. Ole Miss has decided to use a "secure the bag" theme, with the money bag emoji as the inspiration. I guess you could say the player with the turnover gets to be the bag man.
3. Look for more Emory Jones moving forward
The backup Florida quarterback has some specialized packages in the offense that are meant to utilize his dual-threat abilities, but his role on Saturday was fairly limited after an early interception. Jones was back on the field on the following possession after the turnover but finished with just one completion (for 30 yards) on three attempts and 37 rushing yards on four carries. Mullen said after the game the hope is to get him on the field and allow him to add a dynamic aspect to the Gators offense, noting a protection breakdown on his one interception and highlighting some of the ways he was able to contribute in the win.