Early 2022 predictions for Billy Napier and Gators

It’s been a wild ride since the Florida football program rid themselves of lazy Dan Mullen. A relatively quick search found their new head ball coach, Billy Napier. Since Napier hit the Swamp on December 5th, 2021 he has been seemingly working nonstop. He needed to work swiftly to give this team a fighting chance in 2022.

Oct 16, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) reacts to scoring a touchdown against LSU Tigers during the second half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Napier has made use of the resources at his disposal. He has used the massive staff budget increase to build a huge football staff. He gobbled up three 4-star transfers from his prior position at Louisiana-Lafayette. His nonstop effort on the recruiting trail has brought Florida all the way back inside the top-30 recruiting classes for 2022 – you may remember that the Gators fell all the way down into the 70’s back in December.

With all of that said, let’s have some fun and do a super early projection for 2022. We’ll look at the Gators 2022 schedule and see just how wrong I will be at the end of November.

Utah @ Florida

The Swamp is absolutely rocking for Billy Napier’s debut as head coach. It will be deafening, raucous, “insane asylum” as the great Mick Hubert says. There also will be a pretty good Utah Utes football team there. This team could ever be better than Florida heading into week 1.

Anthony Richardson will indeed be the starting quarterback for the Gators, a pocket passer like Jack Miller could give him a run for it. However, the lack of weapons in the receiving core make Richardson the better option as he is very mobile.

Prediction:

Florida 30, Utah 20

The unbelievable atmosphere in the Swamp will help lift Napier and Florida to a win over a ranked Utah team to start the season. The PAC-12 has been playing under heavy COVID restrictions the last two seasons. Utah won’t be able to handle the energy and noise of the swamp.

Kentucky @ Florida 1-0

The Gators head into this game trying to get revenge for an agonizing loss at Kentucky last season. While Kentucky had a great season in 2021, I expect them to take a slight step backward in 2022. It’ll be another crazy atmosphere in the Swamp with over 88,000 fans looking for revenge from the previous season.

Prediction:

Florida 27, Kentucky 16

It’s not the prettiest of games, but the offense does enough and the defense looks solid to start the year.

South Florida @ Florida 2-0

Florida defeated USF 42-20 in week two of the 2021 campaign. It will be a tough ask for USF to come into Gainesville and compete with a Florida football program that is just way more talented than they are.

Prediction:

Florida 48, South Florida 13

I’d be shocked if the Bulls find the end zone multiple times in the game. A far more disciplined Gator team under Napier will absolutely run this team over.

Florida 3-0 (1-0) @ Tennessee 3-0 (0-0)

There will be no easing into their first road game of the season for Florida. You can bet on an electric atmosphere in Knoxville for this rivalry game. I expect Tennessee will navigate themselves to a 3-0 start and be ranked for this SEC East showdown. Florida handled the Vols with ease in their 2021 matchup, but that was a tale of two teams that headed in opposite directions after that game. Florida went on to lose six of their final nine games.

As much as I think Tennessee is heading in the right direction, they have been hurt badly by transfers over the years. They recruit decently, but this will still be a toss-up game for them at home.

Prediction:

Florida 34, Tennessee 27

It’s a tight game throughout, and both teams are able to wrack up some yards. A late turnover by the Vols will seal it for the good guys.

Eastern Washington @ Florida 4-0

Florida was supposed to play host to Eastern Washington in the opener of the 2020 season -the game was canceled due to COVID-19 schedules- but they will have the chance to welcome EWU in 2022. I don’t really think this is warranted of much discussion, all due respect to Eastern Washington. They’re an FCS school, and we are not talking about Florida State here.

Prediction:

Florida 56, Eastern Washington 7

It’s a blood bath. Florida gets a good chance to play some younger guys in the second half and boys stay undefeated.

Missouri 3-2 (0-2) @ Florida 5-0 (2-0)

I looked at this game and it jumped out to me as another revenge game. why? Yeah, Florida essentially got “punked” at the end of this one by Eli Drinkwitz and Mizzou, but so many good things came out of that. We finally had our eyes opened about Dan Mullen. There also happens to be a lot of those “revenge games” because Florida lost seven games last year. Thanks for putting the final nail in Danny’s boy’s coffin last year Eli, enjoy playing a real coach in 2022.

Prediction:

Florida 33, Missouri 17

The Gators just have too much firepower for Mizzou this year. Not having Tyler Badie to shred a soft 2021 Gator team is a huge difference. Florida controls this one throughout, they move to 5-0.

LSU 6-0 (3-0) @ Florida 6-0 (3-0)

Wow what a showdown this is. Both teams could potentially enter this matchup inside the top-10, just imagine the environment inside a packed Swamp. Brian Kelly VS Billy Napier. Two coaches in their first season at huge programs where they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. In 2021 this game started at 11 AM local time in Baton Rouge, LA. What a joke to be kicking off in the morning hours. You can bet even if these teams are 5-1 that we will be seeing the CBS 3:30 game or a night game on ESPN for this one.

Predictions :

Florida 24, LSU 20

I might be crazy here, I just feel the Gators are in a better position to win this game in 2022. I’ve never thought highly of Kelly as a coach for some reason, and I’m giving Napier the upper hand in this battle . It’ll be tight, it won’t be very high scoring and whoever wins the turnover battle will take it.

Georgia 7-0 (4-0) vs Florida 7-0 (4-0) (played in Jacksonville, FL)

Essentially a battle for the SEC East title in Jacksonville. If the Gators do enter this game at 7-0 it means everything has essentially played out perfectly. They’ve achieved more than 99% of people would have believed. I have them fighting through some of those games just from being at home. Now is the ultimate measuring stick with the defending national champions.

Prediction:

Georgia 27, Florida 17

Even if Billy Napier is a better coach than Kirby Smart it won’t help him much in this game. You just can’t catch up to a recruiting juggernaut that fast. On paper, I would hope for a game similar to the 2018-19 matchups. Don’t get embarrassed, maybe give the fans a little bit of hope, but realistically this one will never be in doubt for Georgia.

Florida 7-1 (4-1) @ Texas A&M 7-1 (4-1)

This is a very scary matchup for Florida. They travel into arguably one of the top atmospheres in college football and have to play a team that is recruiting fantastically the last few years. It’s a good test for Florida, I don’t think the talent mismatch will be as bad as it is with Georgia. A lot of the high-profiled players for A&M are younger, so there is a chance for the Gators.

Prediction:

Texas A&M 34, Florida 20

The crowd plays a huge factor in this one. A young Florida team will not be able to make the plays necessary to compete in College Station. A&M starts to create separation in the 2nd quarter, and Richardson will turn the ball over trying to force plays that aren’t there. A tough loss to see for Florida, as we see there is still a ways to go to reach the playoff.

South Carolina 6-3 (3-3) @ Florida 7-2 (4-2)

Other than the LSU game, I believe this is the biggest toss-up game on the schedule for the Florida football program. Shane Beamer has done fantastic things at South Carolina in just one prior season. They add a former 5-star QB recruit in Spencer Rattler, USC earned a bowl bid with a carousel of below-average quarterbacks in 2021. Oh yeah, they also KILLED Florida in their 2021 matchup. I don’t think that game has many merits in this matchup, the Gators pretty much just quit in that drubbing. I really don’t know how this game will play out, I don’t know if South Carolina will be a 6 win team, or a 9-10 win team.

Prediction:

Florida 30, South Carolina 28

Yeah, we’re gonna go Florida here, again because of the home-field advantage. My confidence in this pick is 51%, not high at all. Remember also that Rattler led Oklahoma to a blowout win over Florida in the 2020 Cotton Bowl.

Florida 8-2 (5-2) @ Vanderbilt 3-7 (0-6)

Ahhh yes, poor Vandy. The good news is Vanderbilt schedule has three winnable non-conference games on it! The bad news is I don’t think they will be competitive in many SEC games. Realistically, Vanderbilt should be attempting to win one SEC game this year. They have zero chance in this game against Florida thought.

Prediction:

Florida 51, Vandy 14

The days of Jay Cutler are long gone, and this day is going to be a long one for those Commodores. You may see Jack Miller get some reps at QB in the second half. The Gators will flip their 2021 conference record from 2-6 to 6-2 in 2022.

Florida 9-2 (6-2) @ Florida State 6-5 (4-4)

This will be an improved Florida State team, they won’t be the 2021 dumpster fire they were. Neither will the Gators. Florida State was on the rise heading into the Sunshine State Showdown in 2021, then took a giant step backward and couldn’t beat the Gators, despite three interceptions from Emory Jones.

Prediction:

Florida 34, Florida State 23

This will be a fight most of the game. You cannot overlook the rivalry games, no matter what the records are. This game is on the road, and the Doak will be packed for this one. It’ll be a good way to go out for Billy Napier, and the Gators will have much more success on the offensive side of the ball with Richardson playing the entire game against FSU. Also, don’t forget Richardson was hurt when he pulled out the victory against the Noles in 2021.

Final record 10-2 (NY6 Bowl Bid)

This is probably their best case scenario record. But it’s achievable. If Napier can guide this young team to 8-10 regular-season wins that would be huge in his first year. 7 or fewer victories for this year would bring some doubts on whether he can adequately coach a team of this caliber.

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