Florida kicks off its 2013 season the way it usually does: with a strong mid-major opponent. In season openers, the Gators have faced a bowl-bound, non-BCS opponent eight times in the last 16 years, and Toledo looks like the next in that line. Senior quarterback Jeff Driskel leads the Florida charge, but he'll be without top tailback Matt Jones, who is out with what's being called a "fast and vicious" viral infection, per the Tampa Bay Times. Additionally, starting MLB Antonio Morrison will not play after being suspended for barking at a police dog. Morrison was arrested at the scene, but charges were later dropped after prosecutors realized the entire incident was about a guy barking at a dog.
Fortunately for Florida, Toledo must replace seven of its 2012 starters on the defensive side alone, so news of RG Jon Halapio's torn pectoral muscle, which is expected to keep him out until Week 3, isn't terribly devastating. Still, the mounting injuries this early in the year make this an incrementally tougher game for the Gators and one that should be worth watching if it stays close early.
Rankings and records: Both teams are 0-0, as are all teams in this first week of the season. Florida is ranked No. 10 in both the AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll, while Toledo received one vote in the Coaches Poll.
Vegas: Florida is favored by 23.5 points, according to OddsShark.com. The over-under is 57 points, so the approximation here is a 40-17 Gator victory.
Weather: The Gainesville forecast is a high of 90 with a good chance of thunderstorms. At the 12:21 kickoff, the temperature should be in the low- to mid-80s.
Three names to know
Mack Brown is a name you probably already know, but this time around we're talking about Florida's starting tailback now that Matt Jones is out of the picture for the week. Brown was a top-10 running back recruit in 2010, and he's got the build to be an every-down back for the Gators. Jones shouldn't be out long, but Brown's got a prime opportunity to earn carries for the rest of the year, and going against a rebuilding MAC defense probably won't hurt his cause.
Ronald Powell has gone from the nation's No. 1 high school recruit to a two-time ACL-tear victim, and he's back and healthy for the 2013 season and ready to remake a name for himself. He's starting at the "Buck" position, a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end position, and he should rain terror down upon Toledo's offensive line and quarterback Terrance Owens.
On Toledo's side of the ball, the big playmaker is wide receiver Bernard Reedy, an all-MAC wideout and return specialist. Toledo's probably not winning this game without breaking a big score or two, and Reedy's by far the best candidate to pull that off. He's not a big target, at just 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, but he's that small, shifty type of athlete that can give opposing coaches nightmares.
Two things at stake
Florida obviously can't afford to take a loss against a MAC opponent to kick off the season; the Gators have lost once to a MAC team, ever: a 16-7 beating by undefeated Miami in the 1973 Tangerine Bowl. Since then, Florida had beaten each of its MAC foes by at least 20 points until a 27-14 win over Bowling Green to open last season. The "style points" aren't terribly important to pollsters in Week 1, but it would be nice for fans to see Florida cruise here.
As for Toledo, this is its first game against an SEC opponent, including former members or teams that had not yet joined the SEC. A win here would rank among the biggest in program history: only once have the Rockets defeated a Top 10 opponent, and that was No. 9 (or No. 11, if you prefer the Coaches Poll) Pittsburgh in 2003. Pitt finished that season 8-5 and unranked. Moreover, with no disrespect to the Panthers... Pitt's not Florida.
How to witness
TV: SEC Network (affiliates listed here)
Online streaming: ESPN3.com