NCAA FB

Sat, Aug 31, 2013 - 12:21 PM ET
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Toledo-Florida Preview

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Florida has hopes of surpassing its 11-victory total from a year ago. It will have to rely on its depth to earn its first win this season.

The 10th-ranked Gators will be missing at least five starters for Saturday's opener against Toledo.

Florida's 2012 win total was its highest in three years, and the Gators earned four victories by eight or fewer points. They won't have a couple of key players for any more tight games this season.

Right tackle Chaz Green is out for the year with a torn labrum and record-setting kick returner Andre Debose is also gone. Debose, who has four career kickoff returns for touchdowns, tore his left ACL in the preseason.

The Gators will also play without right guard Jon Halapio for at least two games as he recovers from a torn left pectoral, and starting running back Matt Jones and linebacker Antonio Morrison will miss this game as well.

Jones has been dealing with an illness since July and Morrison is suspended after a pair of arrests in the offseason. Mack Brown, who has totaled 167 yards in three seasons, is expected to take Jones' place in the starting lineup.

"It's unfortunate that injuries are part of the game, but one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. So we'll have some guys step up and play well," coach Will Muschamp said.

The Gators, who had 10 returning starters before those injuries, do have dual-threat quarterback Jeff Driskel back as well as second-leading receiver Quinton Dunbar. They'll try to extend their 23-game win streak in season openers, the longest in the SEC and second to Nebraska's 27-game run.

Driskel, who had an appendectomy in the offseason, is the Gators' top returning rusher (408 yards) after Mike Gillislee graduated following a 1,152-yard year. Florida is also trying to replace three of its top four receivers.

The Gators' defense returns just three starters but should have plenty of contributors on its line with Dominique Easley, Jonathan Bullard, Dante Fowler Jr. and Ronald Powell back.

Florida finished fifth in the nation last season with 287.5 yards and 14.5 points allowed per game, but managed just 30 sacks.

"I think those guys have been productive in camp," Muschamp said. "We need to continue to rush well inside, which I think we've done."

Toledo has won 26 games over the past three seasons, reaching a bowl game each time. The Rockets (9-4) return three of their best playmakers from last year.

The top one is arguably senior running back David Fluellen, who rushed for 1,498 yards last season. Receiver Bernard Reedy is back after a 1,113-yard effort and will have Terrance Owens throwing to him once again.

Owens had 2,707 passing yards and 14 TDs in his second full season as a starter, rushing for another 395.

"What I love about these guys is that they are great competitors. They love football and they love to win," coach Matt Campbell said. "They are all about winning. When your best players have that mentality, especially at those key positions, you have a great chance to be successful."

Toledo is seeking its second upset of a Top 25 team in as many seasons. It knocked off then-No. 21 Cincinnati 29-23 on Oct. 20 as part of an eight-game win streak.

The Rockets, though, are 1-8 in their last nine matchups with ranked teams, including a 41-15 loss to then-No. 18 Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last year.

Toledo is facing an SEC opponent for the first time.

Tagged: Toledo, Florida, Jon Halapio

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