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Cole Cubelic believes expectations are too low for Florida Gators

Untitled designby:Nick de la Torre05/02/24


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Coming off of a 5-7 season there aren’t a lot of people buying stock in the Florida Gators football team. Vegas put Florida’s win total at 5.5, the same total from last season and the schedule is once again one of the most difficult in the country.

Despite bringing back starting quarterback Graham Mertz, most outside of Gainesville aren’t expecting the Gators to compete in this coming season. ESPN college football analyst Cole Cubelic has a dissenting opinion. Cubelic broke down the Gators on his podcast, The Cube Show and he’s much higher on Florida than most.

“I think they’re going to surprise some people. This is my opinion coming out of spring,” Cubelic said on his show. “I would love to see them add another receiver. Maybe another DB. But I think that there are a lot of reasons that this team could exceed expectations. Number one, the expectations are too low. Some people are saying three and four wins for this Florida team, you’re out of your mind. It’s the Florida Gators, man. That’s not going to happen. I think the Florida Gators are going to be just fine this year.”

Why Cubelic thinks the Gators can surprise people in 2024

One of the biggest reasons that Cubelic is high on the Gators is Mertz returning for his senior season and how the Gators have added veterans and depth in the offseason.

“I don’t understand why folks can’t get excited about or don’t like or for whatever reason, don’t think Graham Mertz is very good,” Cubelic said. “If you were to put the blinders on and did the old Coke-Pepsi test, the taste test with the blindfold on. If I gave you 73% (completion percentage), 2,903 yards, 20 touchdowns, and three interceptions and said do you think that team is going to be ok with that guy under center this year? You’d say, hell yeah they are. If South Carolina had that guy coming back, totally different conversation. If Payton Thorne had those numbers right now, what are we saying about Auburn this upcoming season? I bet we’re having a different conversation about what those teams might be or could be.”

Mertz proved a lot of critics wrong with his play last season but he can’t do it alone. Cubelic believes the Gators’ offensive line is deeper and should be improved but noted that he would like Florida to add another receiver to complement Eugene Wilson.

But what about the Gators’ schedule?

Florida’s 2024 schedule has been called one of the toughest in history. Florida will play 11 Power 5 opponents, including non-conference games against Florida State and UCF. While Florida’s schedule is daunting on paper, Cubelic isn’t burying Florida just because the schedule looks hard on paper.

“I love how Billy Napier is talking about this schedule. Saying, hey, Miami’s a tough team to play, we get them at home and it’s not Utah on the road. Yeah, seems like a pretty good trade,” Cubelic said. “We don’t have to go to Kentucky. Florida State on the road is tough but look what they lost. Look what LSU’s offense lost. Mississippi State, we talked about their offense last week, but they’re going to be tough. It’s a rebuild. I don’t know what (Texas) A&M’s going to be. I really don’t. I have no idea. They have some talent. They could be tough. Their defense will probably be more sound but I don’t look at that as an unwinnable game.”

The schedule is challenging from top to bottom but the back half of the season is definitely the more daunting stretch. Florida has had trouble finishing in each of the last two seasons. The Gators lost their final three games in Napier’s first season and lost the last five games in 2023. The back half of the 2024 schedule is brutal.

“Georgia is Georgia. At Texas is going to be tough. I can’t talk my way around those,” Cubelic said. “LSU’s offense ain’t going to be what it was last year and is the defense just magically better? What’s weird about the LSU defense and that conversation is you had dudes up front on that defense last year. Not a lot of dudes up front on that defense right now. Maybe the portal changes that before we kick off. I love Blake Baker but Blake Baker’s gotta have some guys. I don’t see the defense taking drastic steps. My point is, there’s a lot on this schedule that is a lot more manageable than people think. There are a lot more toss up games on this schedule than people think. Miami went 7-6 last year. Central Florida went 6-7.”

If the Gators can find a way to navigate that schedule it will be because of Mertz and the defense, which underwent a complete makeover in the offseason. Cubelic is confident the Gators will outperform their low expectations in 2024.

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