Florida football schedule, roster and three things to watch

The Florida Gators are the defending SEC East champions. Here are three questions for the Gators heading into Jim McElwain's third season.

The Florida Gators are looking for a third consecutive SEC East championship under third-year coach Jim McElwain heading into the 2017 season.

The Gators reached the SEC championship last season despite losing to preseason favorite Tennessee, and Florida will most-likely be picked behind Georgia in preseason polls this year. That's OK. McElwain reeled in another excellent recruiting class with another one in the making for 2018, and the Gators have a close-to-home schedule through November.

MORE: 2017 SEC predictions

They won't have to wait long to prove it. Florida opens the season against Michigan in the Advocare Classic at Jerry World on Sept. 2.

The Gators are ranked No. 15 in Sporting News Preseason Top 25, and here's a preview of Florida's 2017 schedule, roster and biggest questions entering the season.

2017 Florida football schedule

Sept. 2: vs. Michigan (Arlington, Texas)

Sept. 9: vs. Northern Colorado

Sept. 16: vs. Tennessee

Sept. 23: at Kentucky

Sept. 30: vs. Vanderbilt

Oct. 7: vs. LSU

Oct. 14: vs. Texas A&M

Oct. 21: BYE

Oct. 28: vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)

Nov. 4: at Missouri

Nov. 11: at South Carolina

No. 18: vs. UAB

Nov. 25: vs. Florida State

Dec. 2: SEC championship game

2017 Florida recruiting class

The Gators had a recruiting class with a composite ranking of No. 9 across four major recruiting sites. Four-star guard Tedarrell Slaton was the top player in a solid class for McElwain.

2017 Florida roster

Florida's fall roster can be found here.

Three things to watch

1. Who starts at QB?

There's a four-way battle for the starting job, and everybody has a chance. Feleipe Franks started the spring game, and played well enough to stake his claim. Luke Del Rio, who saw action last season, spent the offseason recovering from shoulder surgery. Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire is the X-factor in the race, and Kyle Trask could get some reps. Whoever starts needs to give the Gators a lift at the position. Austin Appleby and Del Rio combined for 18 TDs and 15 interceptions in 2016. The good news is leading rusher Jordan Scarlett (889 yards, 6 TDs) returns.

2. What wrinkles will Shannon put in?

Geoff Collins took the job at Temple, so former Miami coach Randy Shannon, who spent the last two seasons as the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, takes over full time. Shannon was the defensive coordinator at Miami from 2001-05, and he knows what an elite defense is supposed to look like. The front seven had some key losses, but Jabari Zuniga and CeCe Jefferson return up front and that should help a young group of linebackers develop.

3. How will suspensions linger?

Leading receiver Antonio Callaway (753 yards, 4 TDs) was one of seven players suspended for the opener agianst Michigan, and those players' status will be up in the air after that. How will that impact the locker room? Florida has three SEC East games early in the season, including Tennessee on Sept. 16. Will the team rally around the players in the locker room or slide the other way? The task for McElwain is to make sure the latter doesn't happen.

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