Matchups - UF @ ARK

The Gators go on the road to face No. 11 Arkansas in a very tough environment, just like last week in Baton Rouge. Here, I breakdown the key matchups.

Florida travels to Fayetteville to face the No. 11 Arkansas Razorbacks.  The Gators will look to put together it's first two game winning streak of the season and vault themselves back into the SEC race.  This is the first meeting of these two teams since the 1997 season.  The Gators hold a 3-1 series advantage with the Razorbacks win coming in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl.

Match Up Breakdown:





Florida's defense vs Arkansas running game
The Razorbacks lead the conference in rushing at 232 yards per game which is 45 yards higher than the second place team, South Carolina.  The Gator rush defense is eighth in the SEC at 138 yards per game but gave up only 56 yards to LSU a week ago, which was nearly 100 yards below their average.  Cedric Cobbs opened the season with four straight 100 yard games before being held below that mark a week ago vs Auburn.  The Hogs will big play you in the run game because they run it so much.  Cobbs has six runs over 20+yards already on the season.  Arkansas will run many different plays at the Gators in the run game.  They like to motion to different sets and move their tight end.  Their favorite run is the power and the lead but they will run the outside zone and the midline option.  They like the "I" formation but will run out of the one back set.  The Gators have been susceptible to the big run when their tackles get out of their gaps and when Channing Crowder is not on the field.  He will have to play 60 snaps this week against Arkansas.  Florida will look to employ an eight man front this week.  The hidden key this week for UF will be the play of defensive ends Bobby McCray and Darrell Lee.  They must contain all outside zone runs and any option plays for Matt Jones.

  Gator running game vs Arkansas defense
The Gators found a solid running game last week with their four backs carrying the ball 27 times for 150 yards vs a very good LSU defense.  Ran Carthon has a dinged hamstring and will probably play but the Gators will need all four backs again if they are going to win.  Ciatrick Fason has passed Deshawn Wynn just barely for second team base on his quick decision making in the run game vs LSU.  While Wynn sat out with an injury, Fason carried the ball seven times for 92 yards.  Coaches have tried to get Wynn to "stick it up in the hole" more instead of looking for the "homerun" like he delivered at Miami.  Both backs will play and Arkansas is currently 9th in the SEC in rush defense.  UF is averaging a respectable 147 yards per game and will look to attack the Hogs straight ahead.  Arkansas linebackers are average and UF should be able to hit some inside run plays behind Mike Degory and Shannon SnellTexas and Cedric Benson managed only 62 yards against the Arkansas eight man front.
Arkansas passing game vs Florida defense
The Razorbacks biggest improvement this year under Houston Nutt has been in there passing game.  They will not be confused with BYU but they are more efficient and aggressive than in year's past.  Matt Jones will not beat you if he is behind but with the lead he will add to the deficit.  Everything starts with the running game and the down and distance situation.  The reason Arkansas is so good on third down conversions is because they have had an abundence of 3rd and four's or better.  The bootleg to a huge 300-pound ight end Jason Peters is the favorite play.  They will also hook up with George Wilson and Richard Smith down the field especially on 2nd and short.  Wilson has 17 catches while Richard Smith averages 25.2 yards per catch.  Last week Auburn did a good job of shutting the Razorbacks down on 1st down and Jones had a season high 28 pass attempts.  That is way too many for the Razorbacks to win.  It will be important for UF corners Johnny Lamar and Keiwan Ratliff to stay on converage until Matt Jones breaks the line of scrimmage.  Guss Scott will be a busy man once again Saturday as he will be important in the run game and keying the tight end.
Gator passing game vs Arkansas defense
The Razorbacks are led by Ahmed Carroll and have the fastest secondary in the country.  Three of four players are member of the All-SEC track squad.  Arkansas is second in the conference in pass defense at 169 yards a game and they play a lot of man coverage with a safety in the middle of the field.  Teams are only completing 48% of there passes against them due to the fact that the Hogs like to bring heat early in the down sequence.  For all the criticism the UF passing game has taken this season, only one team (Ole Miss) has more passing first down than the Gators (88-74).Arkansas is an eight man front which means they can only really play three coverages.  They will show zone cover three, man cover one and zero man coverage.  They do use some zone blitz especially on first down.  One good sign for the Gator offensive line is the fact that Arkansas only has four sacks.  Chris Leak will look to spread out the Gator attack and be sharper on his passes to tight end Ben Troupe.  Look for the Gators to continue to use OJ Small who has developed into the go-to guy on 3rd down situations.  Chris Leak is also becoming more comfortable with the veteran receivers and the passing game in general.  He spent most of the summer and fall camp working with the likes of Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell and Chad Jackson.
Special Teams
Eric Wilbur has been a major improvement for the Gators yet they did still give up a 80 yard punt return for a touchdown.  Marvin Jackson is an average returner who will not likely take it the distance.  The Razorbacks are also a below average kickoff return team and that should give Florida the edge in coverage.  Chris Balseiro is the kicker and is 4-6 on the season with a long of 38yards.  Matt Leach had a career long of 50 a week ago and is kicking very well.  The key may be punt block as Jacob Skinner who only averages 37 yards per punt is slow in getting the ball off.
This week the Gators are the underdog and playing the ranked team on the road again  .But Arkansas is angry and hungry to face the Gators.  Razorback fans will be in a frenzy to finally get a piece of the Gators.  Houston Nutt's team play very hard and play much better as the hunter.  Ron Zook's teams seem to play better as the hunter as well and have new found confidence.  Arkansas still has games left with LSU, Ole Miss on the road so they can get back into the West race even with a loss.  Florida has no room for error needing a win to set up a huge showdown in Jacksonville in two weeks.

Final Analysis:
The key for UF this week will be it's first down defense.  If the Gators can avoid the big run play against Arkansas they can bottle up the Razorback offense.  Chris Leak must continue to value the football and know the down and distance situations.  One benefit for Leak is this will be the  third time he has seen a 4-2-5 defense and should be able to make his reads quicker.  I don't believe this Arkansas defense is as good as advertised.  Florida has a lot to play for and still has plenty to prove to the Gator Nation.  Arkansas is 7-10 after a loss under Houston Nutt.  They expend so much emotion and it sometimes it lingers into the next game when they lose a tough one just like last week to Auburn.  When Ron Zook's team plays with a sense of urgency they play well.  Keep an eye on the Gator seniors once again as they try to extend the season a few more weeks.

MY PREDICTION: Gators 20-14.

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