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UMass vs. Florida 2016: Start time, live stream, TV schedule and 3 things to know

Can the Gators jumpstart their offense with a season-opening game against a still-building Massachusetts team?

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Will Florida's 2016 season be a bridge year to a dominant 2017? Or will deficiencies hiding in this team's offense keep the Gators from moving forward? They'll get some answers this weekend against a still-improving Massachusetts team, though probably not too many.

Florida will almost certainly improve at quarterback this fall, if only because it would be nearly impossible not to. The team's tradition of chasing away passers continued this offseason when Will Grier left the team. Now, the Gators will have to turn to Oregon State transfer Luke del Rio in hopes of restoring the program to glory.

If del Rio and Appleby can't get the offense working, Florida will be able to rely on a solid defense to carry it through a down year in the SEC East. Though Antonio Morrison, Keanu Neal, Jonathan Bullard and Vernon Hargreaves III are gone, upperclassmen like Jarrad Davis, Bryan Cox Jr. and Marcus Maye will return to a unit ranked 11th in scoring defense last fall.

Massachusetts, on the other hand, is slowly rebuilding after a rough transition to FBS football. The Minutemen went just 2-22 in two seasons under Charley Molnar before bringing Mark Whipple back into the fold as head coach. Whipple coached this team to three Atlantic 10 championships in the late '90s/early '00s, and now he's back to guide them to respectability in 2016. In his two seasons at the helm, the team has gone 6-18. Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but still an improvement over the molasses flood that came to be in 2012 and 2013.

How to watch, stream and listen

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network

Radio: FloridaUMass

Online streaming: WatchESPN

Spread: Florida started the week as a 35.5-point favorite.

Make friends: Florida fans can hit up Alligator Army to talk about the matchup, and Massachusetts fans can do the same at Underdog Dynasty.

Three big things to know

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1. Will Florida's offense rebound against a limited non-conference opponent? The Gators wrapped up their 2015 campaign with three games against ranked opponents. They scored 2, 15 and 7 points in those matchups. Playing a UMass team that gave up 31.4 points per game last season could help jump start the team's scoring, but will it matter in the long run?

2. Does Florida have an answer at kicker? Florida famously held an open tryout for kickers last season after its special teams play crumbled into dust in the red zone. Neil MacInnes answered the call but never got the chance to kick a field goal. Maybe he should have; the Gators made just nine of their 20 attempts last season.

3. UMass can win its first ever non-MAC or Conference USA game as an FBS member. In four years, the Minutemen have beaten: Akron, Miami (Ohio), Kent State, Eastern Michigan (twice), Ball State, Florida International and Buffalo. Adding Florida would make this a very strange list.

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