Florida Gators Suspend Seven Players for Michigan Game, Marquee Week One Matchup Loses Luster

Posted on: August 14, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: August 14, 2017, 11:22h.

The Florida Gators were hoping to upset a top 10 opponent in Michigan during their first game of the year, but those odds seem a bit more unlikely after the team handed down suspensions for seven players, including key offensive playmaker Antonio Callaway.

Florida Gators Michigan odds
The Florida Gators will be without suspended star wideout Antonio Callaway for its SEC-Big Ten clash against Michigan. (Image: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Ranked #16 in the coaches’ preseason poll, Florida’s opener against ninth-ranked Michigan was supposed to be one of the marquee matchups in week one. Both storied programs have plenty of questions entering the season, and oddsmakers felt the outcome of the contest would be close.

The Westgate SuperBook had Michigan as a slim 2.5-point favorite prior to the suspension announcement. Following the news, the Gators lengthened to a four-point underdog at the Las Vegas sportsbook.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain said in a statement, “We have a small group of players that have made some choices that are extremely disappointing. We will use this as a learning opportunity and we will have some players step up as we move forward.”

McElwain, in his third year as Florida’s head coach, didn’t reveal the nature of the players’ conduct. But according to reports, the men used their university student identification cards to make purchases at the school bookstore, and then sold the items to other students for cash.

Seven Players, Only 1.5 Points

Sportsbooks lengthening Florida’s odds by less than a safety and keeping the spread under two field goals shows that the experts still think the game will be close. That’s likely because some believe the Wolverines are overrated.

Michigan returns its starting quarterback Wilton Speight, but will once again be rebuilding its offensive line. The starting six-man line for 2017 have combined just three starts to the resumes. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is confident they’re ready to protect Speight and provide running lanes, but bettors apparently think there might be some learning curves in week one.

Long term, however, Michigan has plenty of believers.

Always a popular bet in Las Vegas for the outright national championship, the Wolverines have attracted the fifth-most money for the College Football Playoff National Championship at William Hill. Alabama leads the way, followed by USC, Ohio State, and Florida State.

Suspension Protocol

Florida still hasn’t decided who will become their new starting quarterback. Graduate transfer Malik Zaire is battling redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks and redshirt junior Luke Del Rio for the job.

Whoever becomes the man under center will begin his career against one of the best defenses in the country, and also be without the Gators’ best wide receiver. Antonio Callaway is certainly the most notable of the seven suspended. He was the team’s top playmaker a year ago, finishing the season with 54 receptions and 721 yards.

ESPN Radio’s Mike Golic of Mike & Mike questioned whether McElwain should have spread out the suspensions over multiple games to lessen the impact on the rest of the team. He also pointed out how some other coaches, particularly Alabama’s Nick Saban, handles disciplinary action (which rarely results in the suspension of players).