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Expert Predictions: Gators Wire looks at McNeese State matchup in Week 2

Florida football looks to get on the right track this coming weekend after a disappointing and discouraging loss to the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City. Next up for the Gators are the McNeese State Cowboys who will serve as the sacrificial lamb in the program’s home opener in the Swamp on Sept. 9.

The Cowboys are a Division I school that plays in the Football Championship Subdivision and is a member of the Southland Conference. They have won 14 conference titles (most recently in 2015) and played in six bowl games along with two Division 1-AA championship games.

Unfortunately, betting odds are hard to come by for this matchup, but to be sure, the Gators will be heavily favored on their own turf.

Ahead of the game, the Gators Wire staff assembled to present their collective predictions for the Week 2 gridiron affair inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Below is a look at our respective takes as well as a composite prediction based on our collective contributions.

Adam Dubbin - Managing Editor

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

Billy Napier has a lot to prove against a clearly inferior team this Saturday. After watching his team struggle to get their timing down while making mistakes that simply cannot be made by any team at the collegiate level, the Cowboys offer an opportunity to calibrate on both sides of the ball.

Most importantly, Florida needs to establish the ground game out of the gate to put the opponents on their heels and open things up for Graham Mertz. If the Gators are going to have any chance of breaking the .500 mark this season they need to get the offense in sync. Additionally, the defense needs to prove the second half against Utah was not a fluke and the special teams need to get in gear.

As for my score prediction, it will clearly be a lot to a little in favor of UF, but I’m not completely convinced it will be the clinic we hope it will be. Points will be scored, however, by both teams.

Florida 43, McNeese 20

David Rosenberg - Assistant Editor

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

The Gators need a rebound game and McNeese State looks like the perfect opponent to recover from the Utah loss with. Tarleton State put up over 550 yards of offense and scored 52 against McNeese in Week 1. Trevor Etienne, who led the team in carries against the Utes, and Montrell Johnson Jr. should have massive days after being held to a combined 31 yards.

Florida needs to score early and never look back. The fans are slipping after just one game, and Tennessee is next on the schedule. Blowing out an FCS program at home doesn’t right all the wrongs from last week, but the program needs something to raise spirits after a tough start to the season. I say foot on the gas pedal and never look back.

Florida 52, McNeese 14

Jesse Richardson - Staff Writer

Carly Mackler/Getty Images
Carly Mackler/Getty Images

The Gators aren’t the only ones looking for redemption Saturday.

McNeese State was severely outscored, 35-17, in the second half against Tarleton last weekend when the Cowboys defense collapsed. McNeese will be extra motivated to get the upset victory and expose the organizational mess that is the Florida Gators. On the other hand, head coach Billy Napier took accountability this week in the media scrums and seems confident that the sloppy performance in Salt Lake City is fixable.

McNeese State is the perfect matchup for the Gators to find their footing. The Cowboys’ offensive line is easily penetrable, and its secondary unit left plenty of groundwork for the opposition to work with. Expect Florida quarterback Graham Mertz to settle in the pocket and do plenty of heavy lifting for the offense. Napier agreed the run game needs to be more prevalent, especially with studs like Montrell Johnson and Trevor Ettiene standing in the backfield.

The Florida Gators will earn a victory this weekend and instill confidence in the UF fanbase once again, rolling over McNeese State at the Swamp.

Florida 38, McNeese State 13

Pat Dooley - Staff Writer

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

As bad as Florida looked in the opener, McNeese looked worse. Florida will correct the 120 mistakes from the first game and handle the Cowboys.

Florida 42, McNeese 10

Sergio De La Espriella - Gators Wire alumnus

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

We knew that the Gators’ trip out west to face the defending Pac-12 (RIP) champions probably wasn’t going to result in a victory. The loss was expected. What wasn’t expected was the manner in which that loss came, especially in the first half. Self-inflicted wounds in the form of penalties and sloppy play isn’t the reassurance Florida fans were looking for from Billy Napier in his second season-opener.

Thankfully, McNeese State coming to Gainesville is the perfect opportunity to get things back on track. Napier’s, shall we say, stern demeanor after the Utah loss provided some solace for fans as they watched in-state foe Florida State make quick work of SEC compatriot LSU. It’s a bad idea to compare the Gators’ rebuilding timeline to their rivals, but just because it’s a bad idea doesn’t mean it isn’t a reality.

Florida needs this game to get all of their alignment and discipline issues under control. I expect to see a much different team than we saw last Thursday, one that is ready to play from the beginning and shows what we saw in second half flashes last week for a full 48 minutes. A “just another day on the job” mentality this Saturday will do the Gators wonders, especially with Tennessee coming to town seven days later.

Florida 41, McNeese State 10

Composite Prediction

The Swamp fireworks
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators Wire staff unanimously agrees that Florida will triumph easily over their visitors this weekend, but there is some variance in the numbers provided. While David has UF scoring 52 points as the high point, Jesse projects just 38; Pat and Sergio have Florida holding McNeese to just 10 points while Adam sees them doubling that total.

All things considered, this should be a comfortable win for Florida. What is most important is what they do with those 60 minutes of official game time to prepare for the Tennessee Volunteers the following weekend.

Florida 43, McNeese 13

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire