The Florida Gators are not at risk of losing to the Northern Colorado Bears. In a cupcake game, "keys to victory" represent "acute team needs."
This is certainly a situation in which the Gators face acute team needs, so while the win-loss drama on Saturday might not rise to a high level, Florida urgently needs to play well with the Tennessee Volunteers looming just around the bend.
Here is what the Gators have to tend to more than anything else:
1) STRONG OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY
This is the epicenter of the team heading into Week 2. The offensive line was a pure and unmitigated disaster against Michigan. This is a game in which Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier should not have to open up the playbook to give Tennessee anything new to look at. The Gators need to pound the rock and establish confidence in their O-line. Giving linemen every chance to be physical and establish superiority at the point of attack is the foremost need on this team. The quarterback questions hanging over this team won't matter if Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks are running for their lives. The O-line needs to establish the running game and, in spots, demonstrate adequate pass protection on slow-developing pass plays. Trying to "protect" the offensive line with a lot of bubble screens and quick hitch passes is not recommended.
Against a weak opponent, McElwain and Nussmeier shouldn't try to baby their O-linemen. They need to call plays in which their linemen have to work harder to produce results. That might seem mean, but this group needs a challenge. Tough love before the huge Tennessee game is not excessive. It's necessary. Other parts of the roster can be saved and given a lot more bench time in this game.
2) QUARTERBACK-RECEIVER RELATIONSHIPS
Regardless of the rotation used by McElwain at the quarterback spot, he and his coaching staff need to get quarterbacks and receivers on the same page. Franks is inexperienced in terms of his collegiate career, but Zaire is inexperienced relative to the Florida system. He motioned for receivers to realign against Michigan, but the receivers stayed put. Ironing out that communications problem -- which is connected to a playbook knowledge problem -- has to be achieved this week. The rapport between quarterbacks and receivers must be firmly established and solidified before the Tennessee game. Using the full playbook doesn't make sense in this game for the reasons advanced in item No. 1, but it also doesn't make sense because it's better for the offense to nail down the simpler plays in the playbook this week. A return to complexity would confuse the issue this week. The playbook can become a lot more layered against the Vols.
3) DEVELOPING A CALLOWAY ALTERNATIVE
With Antonio Callaway still not in the mix, Florida has to find good options in the passing game before the Tennessee tilt. This is not necessarily a search for a new No. 1 receiver. This is more a matter of finding primary, secondary and tertiary options who all feel involved in the offense and gain a greater sense of how they fit into the picture heading into the Tennessee game. The complexity of the route structure doesn't need to be extreme, but giving receivers a variety of tests is certainly a point of emphasis to carry forward in the passing game.