The recipe for Florida’s success this season has been playing ahead. When they take an early lead, they can try to control the clock on offense with short, high-percentage throws and the running game, but the key is the defense. A lead allows the Florida defense to take over the game and keep the opponent from scoring. It’s especially important when the Gators have a lead in the second half, allowing the defense to tee off on a predictable offense that has to throw the ball to get back into the game.
Florida cannot fall behind by a significant margin on Saturday. McElwain also knows the importance of his team playing with a lead, and it’s why the Gators choose to receive the opening kickoff if they win the coin toss. They cannot fall behind by 10+ points in the first half against Florida State.
The best way for Florida to fall behind is turnovers. Taking care of the football was Treon Harris’ strength when he first took over the job, but that has changed recently. Over the last three games, Harris has thrown four interceptions and lost two fumbles. Even when the Florida offense struggles but is forced to punt, Johnny Townsend has been a special teams weapon.
It sets up long fields for the opposing offense, making it tougher to score than the short fields that come off turnovers. Harris and the Florida offense have to take care of the football on Saturday better than they have over the last three weeks.
COOK BIG RUNS
Easier said than done, the Gators have to somewhat limit what Cook does on Saturday. The sophomore running back is going to get his yards. This won’t be a game where the Florida defense holds the opposing running back to 18 carries for 35 yards. He’s simply too good for that to happen. However, there’s value in players being in the right place and holding Cook to eight-yard gains instead of the gains of 80+ yards that he’s capable of.
The Florida State offense has struggled on the road this season, and the best way for it to get going is for Cook to hit some long runs that reach the end zone or set up a touchdown.
MAGUIRE GETTING COMFORTABLE
If the Florida defense wants to slow down the Seminoles, making the offensive one-dimensional is the best way to go. That would require making Sean Maguire uncomfortable with the pass rush. The Florida pass rush has a lot of question marks heading into Saturday. Taven Bryan, Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCalister are all listed as doubtful for the game.
The Gators have to get after Maguire and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. If he settles in and the Florida State passing game gets going, the Seminoles will be a difficult offense to stop.