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Florida football vs. Charleston Southern: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Gators host Charleston Southern in season opener

(Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Eager to put last season's 4-7 campaign in the rearview mirror, Florida kicks off the Dan Mullen era in earnest Saturday evening at home against Charleston Southern. Expectations are high but Mullen is well aware of the pressures in Gainesville after serving as offensive coordinator for two Gators national championship teams in his four seasons (2005-08) under Urban Meyer.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: No Line

Mullen's top - and toughest - task will be invigorating a lifeless offense that finished 100th, 107th and 109th in the nation in points per game in the three seasons under former head coach Jim McElwain.

"Trust me, I know how important offense is here," Mullen said at his introductory press conference. "I know everybody likes to score some points. ... I love scoring points. That's fun."

Addressing a quarterback position that has been a turnstile in recent years will go a long way toward that goal and Mullen, a master at grooming signal-callers, took almost all preseason to tab sophomore Feleipe Franks over sophomore Kyle Trask and freshman Emory Jones.

"He gives us our best opportunity to win now," said Mullen, who went 69-46 in nine seasons at Mississippi State. "Running our offense. Ability to extend plays, some of his athleticism right now would give us the best opportunity."

ABOUT CHARLESTON SOUTHERN (2017: 6-5)

Defense has been the cornerstone of the Buccaneers (19.8 points allowed per game in 2017) and that doesn't figure to change despite the departure of Big South Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Ellis, as seniors Solomon Brown and Johnny Robinson return to lead a defensive front that makes a living disrupting the line of scrimmage.

There is hope for a spread-option offense that gained valuable backfield experience a year ago and features junior wide receiver Kameron Brown, a two-time All-Big South selection who finished each of the past two seasons in the top 10 in FCS in receiving yards per catch (22.1 last season).

Charleston Southern had three different quarterback starters last year, but sophomore London Johnson (581 yards passing, 366 rushing, 7 total TDs) emerged from a spring battle as the undisputed leader thanks to improved maturity, according to second-year head coach Mark Tucker.

ABOUT FLORIDA (2017: 4-7)

While all eyes will be on the development of Franks, who passed for 1,438 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions last season, the young quarterback will be helped tremendously by the return of the team's former starting running backs - Jordan Scarlett, who was suspended all of last season for his involvement in credit card fraud, and Malik Davis, who was leading the team in rushing last year until suffering a season-ending knee injury in October.

Defensively, the Gators have the talent and athleticism despite falling short last season but the unit may open the year without its top run stuffer after inside linebacker David Reese suffered an ankle injury leading up to the opener. "I want to put as much pressure on the offense as possible," Mullen told reporters. "In an attacking sound-style of defense. Going to be fast, physical and aggressive in everything we do."

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Gators and Buccaneers have met just once, with Florida beating Charleston Southern 62-3 to open the 2009 season.

2. This marks the second time in as many seasons that Tucker and Mullen open the year against each other as Charleston Southern was blanked 49-0 by Mississippi State in the 2017 opener.

3. The Gators' record last year was just their second losing mark since 1980.

PREDICTION: Florida 42, Charleston Southern 10

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