‘Biggest challenge of the year'

The Gators are coming off a game where they allowed the fourth most rushing yards in program history to a triple-option offense run by Georgia Southern. The defense doesn't have much time to lick its wounds. The explosive Florida State offense makes its way to Gainesville this weekend boasting gaudy numbers that have Florida's attention.

The numbers have been impressive and hardly take a week off. The Florida State offense is putting up big numbers against every opponent. The Seminoles rank 14th in passing offense, 23th in rushing offense and sixth in total offense. Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston, the Florida State offense is able to do almost whatever it wants this season while leading the nation with 80 touchdowns.

"They're really good," Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. "The numbers speak for themselves. They've been putting up big points in every game. There really haven't been many games that were close. They do a good job of attacking both ways. Through the air with the quarterback, they've done a great job making throws down the field and they've got talented guys out there that are tough match-ups one-on-one and they run the ball very effectively.

"They're a balanced attack. Their offensive line is now an experienced offensive line. They've been playing for a while together. That presents the issues right there in terms of protection and also at the line of scrimmage when they're running the ball."

After watching last week's game on tape, the Gators were able to recognize the issues with preparing for the triple option. Some of them came while getting ready to face an offense that the players don't see on a routine basis. The coaches usually draw from similar concepts to previous weeks when getting players ready for the offense they'll face.

The Gators hadn't seen anything close to Georgia Southern's offense. This week, the preparation returns to a normal offense in the pro-style attack the Seminoles use. However, Durkin knows it isn't a normal test. The explosiveness of Florida State makes it what he believes to be the biggest challenge of the year.

"I think our guys respond well to challenges, like they have this year as well as others," Durkin said. "I think we've responded well to challenges. This is our biggest challenge of the year. (Florida player) are watching the film. They know what they're up against. Our guys are very competitive and they understand that. I think they'll respond well.

"Our guys have great confidence in themselves. I think our guys are going to come out and play a great game on Saturday. They're excited about the game like they are every year."

Winston's statistics have him in the heat of the Heisman Trophy race. He's 14th in the country with 3,163 yards, adding 32 passing touchdowns to just seven interceptions. The arm strength is what makes him special on film.

"As strong as I've seen on tape," Durkin said of Winston's arm. "He can make all the throws and he does make all the throws. He's got great confidence in his arm and you can understand why. It'll be our biggest challenge of the year."

The Florida State receivers present problems for a Florida secondary that wants to play aggressive coverage in press man. That could allow the Seminoles to take some deep shots and stretch the field.

If the Gators are able to slow the receivers, Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary will create issues. O'Leary has 457 yards and seven touchdowns this year.

"Nick is almost like a receiver playing the tight end position," Durkin said. "He's a really good route-runner, he's a competitive guy. You can tell he wants the ball, he's hungry for it, he goes and gets it."


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