Charleston Southern defeats East Tennessee Football

File/Staff

Charleston Southern opens the football season Saturday against Florida, marking the second time the Buccaneers have played in Gainesville.

The first trip came in the 2009 season opener with the Tim Tebow-led defending national champions easily beating the Bucs, 62-3.

Most observers feel the a similar outcome is in store for CSU, despite Florida being in somewhat of a rebuild under first-year head coach Dan Mullen. The 2018 Gators most certainly are not what CSU faced nearly a decade ago but they do recruit SEC-caliber athletes and that will be a problem for the FCS Buccaneers.

“My expectations are for us to go there and compete. Play hard and compete,” CSU head coach Mark Tucker said.

There are many questions on both sidelines and there likely will not be many definitive answers after four quarters. CSU is a 40-plus point underdog and a Florida cover of that spread seems likely.

CSU’s biggest non-conference game is in two weeks at The Citadel, so being smart with key personnel is a must for the Buccaneers on Saturday.

Here are key factors for the Buccaneers:

Stay healthy

CSU will get a nice check for its trip to The Swamp but the most important thing is for the Bucs to return to North Charleston with their health. CSU starting quarterback London Johnson is the only quarterback with college game experience and the Bucs need him as healthy as possible for the rest of the schedule. Coming away healthy along the offensive and defensive lines also is crucial.

Stop the run

Conventional wisdom says CSU’s best chance of staying competitive is to contain the Florida running game. Gators starting quarterback Felipe Franks completed just 55 percent of his passes last season, throwing eight interceptions. CSU’s veteran secondary has a shot to defend the pass but the unit as a whole must slow down the run and put Florida in long-distance downs as often as possible. Florida’s offense ranked 13th in the SEC a year ago while CSU’s defense was a top 20 unit nationally in FCS football.

Run the football, eat the clock

The Bucs averaged 193 yards rushing per game last season and return a solid core of running backs. Johnson also is quite effective in the running game. Churning up yards on the ground keeps the clock running and CSU is traditionally among the best in FCS football in time of possession. Avoid turnovers and move the chains is CSU’s recipe for an upset.

Prediction

Florida 45, CSU 10