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Thursday, October 06, 2022
<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-863b1fd6-7fff-6f94-2779-4b8f6a5733e8"><span>No. 3 Georgia opens its season with a conference matchup at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs were the preseason favorite to win the SEC East and are a popular College Football Playoff pick.</span></span></p>

No. 3 Georgia opens its season with a conference matchup at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs were the preseason favorite to win the SEC East and are a popular College Football Playoff pick.

A bye week is long and tedious for college football fans. While Florida’s Week 0 battle with Miami on Aug. 24 was entertaining, it left a hole for the UF faithful this week while the rest of the country gets to watch their team play.

Here are five Saturday matchups for Florida fans to keep an eye on as previews for future games:

Toledo vs. Kentucky, Noon

While Kentucky is not UF’s next opponent, it will be Florida’s first conference matchup of the season. And it will be a big one.

Kentucky ended its 31-year losing streak against Florida in 2018 using running back Benny Snell Jr.’s 175 yards on the ground to pave the way for a 27-16 victory at The Swamp.

The Wildcats still pose a threat on offense, returning four starters from last year's 10-3 season, despite losing Snell Jr.

Junior wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. is expected to have a breakout season as Kentucky comes into 2019 looking to duplicate last season’s success. Bowden Jr. led both teams in receiving as a sophomore against Florida with four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

Kentucky’s first test against Toledo should give Florida fans a good idea of what to expect for the Sept. 14 meet up between the two teams.

No. 3 Georgia vs. Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m.

While players and coaches should be taking it week by week, it’s never too early for fans to start looking ahead.

Florida and Georgia’s annual rendezvous in Jacksonville is still a long way off, but the Nov. 2 matchup is anticipated to be momentous given the possible conference championship implications.

The Gators are looking for their first win over the Bulldogs since 2016, and this may be their best chance to do it. After a 42-7 shellacking in 2017, Florida showed more promise in 2018, keeping it close for most of the game until its inability to pass the ball derailed a late surge.

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With a ton of talent on both teams, both Georgia and Florida expect to front the SEC East in the yearly race to Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

UGA opening its season against an SEC opponent should offer meaningful insight into how the Gators could get over that hump.

Georgia Southern vs. No. 6 LSU, 7:30 p.m.

Clashes between Florida and LSU always result in close, emotional battles with crazy endings. The Gators shocked then-No. 5 LSU last year with a pick-six by safety Brad Stewart to thwart the Tigers’ shot at the College Football Playoff.

LSU’s revenge game in Baton Rouge is expected to be one of Florida’s toughest matchups of the year. The two teams played back-to-back games in Gainesville due to a location change in 2016 caused by Hurricane Matthew, but this year the Gators head to Death Valley. The Tigers saw many talented defensive players leave for the draft, including corner Greedy Williams and linebacker Devin White. Still, they’re strong contenders with a skillful offense led by quarterback Joe Burrow and a tough defense backed by safety Grant Delpit.

The Week 1 duel with Georgia Southern may tell the tale to come.

No. 16 Auburn vs. No. 11 Oregon, 7:30

Amid Florida’s tough 2019 schedule lies a strong opponent on the other side of the SEC.

Auburn enters the season with expectations higher than its rank suggests. AU’s senior-laden defensive front is led by ends Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson and the Tigers just need some semblance of an offense to be a top team this year.

It could also be a make-or-break year for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn after a disappointing 8-5 season in 2018.

AU's clash with Oregon will be the only top-25 matchup in Week 1 in the AP Top 25. Florida fans should watch with a keen eye to see how the Tigers respond to their first big test and see if they pose an obstacle come Oct. 5 when both teams meet in Gainesville.

Honorable Mention: Florida State vs. Boise State, Noon

Though Florida State will pose the last obstacle of the regular season for Florida — as it does every year — it’s never too early to start scouting for weaknesses.

FSU is expected to have a revamped offense with newly hired offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and more experience on an offensive line that was a massive hindrance a year ago.

If the Gators live up to their own expectations, the playoffs will be well within grasp by Nov. 30, and the Seminoles will be its last trial.

Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph. Contact him at drudolph@alligator.org.

No. 3 Georgia opens its season with a conference matchup at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs were the preseason favorite to win the SEC East and are a popular College Football Playoff pick.

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