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Gators handled Hurricane Irma perfectly. Now it’s time to play football

Florida Gators fans
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If he messed up, so what.

Northern Colorado wasn’t going to win. Neither would any other Colorado directional school. Not with John Elway, Terrell Davis, Larry Walker and Patrick Roy in the lineup. This was an FCS opponent and was a gimme. Clearly, a warmup game. Games like that are how you work out the kinks. This one would have been extremely valuable for a redshirt freshman quarterback whose nine attempts against Michigan represent his entire collegiate body of work. The guy needed reps.

Well, he still needs reps. But now the stakes are different. Now the next game is Tennessee, a team that showed plenty of its own flaws in somehow managing to beat Georgia Tech 42-41 in double overtime the first week of the season. But the Vols did find a way to win.

In the process, first-year starting quarterback Quentin Dormady started slowly, just like Franks against the Wolverines. He was only 8 of 20 in the first half. But Tennessee coaches stayed with him and he found his rhythm, completing 12 of 17 passes in the second half, including two for touchdowns, in leading the Vols to the comeback win. He then got a second game under his belt in the 42-7 win over Indiana State Saturday, going 13 for 18 with two more scores.

So Dormady seems a bit more primed as the rivalry approaches. And make no mistake, despite Florida’s recent dominance of the Vols (11 wins in a row before last year) and how both teams have fallen from the ranks of the nationally elite, this rivalry is as testy as they get.

RELATED: A house of horrors for Tennessee: Looking back at Vols’ past 6 games at Florida

This year’s game also comes against a Tennessee team riding a rare one-game winning streak over the Gators. Add it all up and you get a Vols team that comes in with at least a modicum of confidence.

I still think the Gators should start Franks. Warmup game or not, it is time to end the revolving door at quarterback. It’s time to find the guy, once and for all. Franks is the best choice. He is big, strong, athletic with a rifle arm. The skill set is there; he just needs to play.

And yet (unlicensed borrowing of McElwain’s favorite phrase) the mistakes will be much more magnified this time. For that reason, I think Luke Del Rio, the only of Florida’s top three quarterbacks who did not play against Michigan, suddenly is back in play.

Regardless of how limited fans believe he is, Del Rio started six games last year and the Gators won five of them. He knows the offense better than both Franks and Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire. And you know he is chomping at the bit to play the Vols after missing last year’s game with an injury.

We also learned last week that Florida’s problems are much bigger than just the quarterback. The play-calling was abysmal, predictable and rarely challenged the Wolverines’ defensive brain trust. In part because of that, the offensive line was beaten badly; the Gators rushed for a paltry 11 yards.

Defensively, as good as I think the Florida back end will be, maybe even the pass rushers, the Gators showed a real vulnerability in the middle of the defense. Michigan exposed a soft underbelly and Tennessee running back John Kelly might be better than anyone the Wolverines played.

So how will the Gators play it? Nobody knows for sure.

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