New Year, Same Game

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* Behind Enemy Lines: Michigan Q&A

* Notebook: McElwain on naming Franks as the starter

* Breaking: Franks named starting quarterback

*Alley: Make no mistake about it, CJM didn't want to do this

* Impact Analysis: Scarlett, Wells suspended

* Scarlett, Wells suspended indefinitely

* Alley: Discuss the big suspensions with Florida fans

* GET TWO MONTHS OF FREE ACCESS

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This one was supposed to be different.

Back when Florida faced—and badly lost to—Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl two years ago it was the culmination of a bumpy first season for head coach Jim McElwain - but one that was still a strong block on which to build.

As the day closed on Michigan's 41-7 win, there was still a sense of anticipation amongst the Gator faithful though because "the next time" they faced Jim Harbaugh's crew in the already then scheduled 2017 Advocare Classic, the team would be older, wiser and ready.

"The next time" Florida faced Michigan the flash in the pan success of Harbaugh's loopy first season would have worn off and McElwain's program would be running like a machine.

"The next time" Florida faced Michigan Will Grier would be back under center having paid his debt to society through a stricter than expected punishment by the NCAA.

"The next time" Florida faced Michigan Jordan Scarlett wouldn't be sitting at home serving a suspension and Antonio Callaway would be able to truly showcase his talent after some growth, maturity and extended time in the system with the same quarterback.

Instead things are nearly the same—for both teams.

For the Gators there's no Grier, no Scarlett, no Callaway and an unproven quarterback taking snaps for both Florida and Michigan.

McElwain and Harbaugh have both built what should by all definition be considered a successful team yet they still find their respective group doubted across the college football landscape.

There was enough foresight in 2015 to know that Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson would be gone by now leaving questions in the secondary and that has proven true leading into Saturday's match-up so that at least wasn't a surprise. The same could be said for the Michigan unit as well since Wolverine fans knew they'd be without Jabrill Peppers when facing the Gators in 2017.

So what's different about this game—other than the addition of Eddy Pineiro, creating the best kicker/punter duo in the country? While one could assume not much and logistically would have an argument, in theory there's a chasm of difference; not because of comparisons with the past but understanding of what could come. The first three years are the hardest. It's more than a possible title for a Larry Levinson movie, it's a general fact of life. It's also the amount of time most SEC coaches are given to prove themselves and McElwain did that in his first two years nearly guaranteeing he'll revive plenty more to build off of.

If this game goes the same way the Citrus Bowl did then Gator fans won't be as forgiving, understandably and rightfully so; but while Florida's chances have been weakened in the past week there are enough pieces in place to create a good game and those are the pieces that should make this season exciting.

Felipe Franks isn't Will Grier but more importantly he isn't Treon Harris. The lanky pro-style quarterback fits into McElwain's offense and has an arm to stretch defenses. That secondary that has questions also has an overflow of raw talent in guys like Vosean Joseph, Marco Wilson and Chauncey Gardner that can keep up with anyone who joins them on the field.

Even if Callaway has run out of chances there is still Josh Hammond, who can go up top better than he's given credit for. And the reason Jordan Scarlett is out for Saturday's matchup is because McElwain looked at his program as a whole versus a game. He could have let the credit card scam allegations slide for a while. He probably would've been criticized, but pundits would have had to also admit that it wasn't the first time a coach tailored a players punishment to fit a game and it wouldn't be the last. Instead he sacrificed one of his best offensive playmakers to set a standard.

The 2015 Citrus Bowl was a conclusion on a rough first year. Another season has passed since that time and the ground work is done. The 2017 Advocare Classic should be the first step into the program Florida fans can expect in the Jim McElwain era.

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