Florida has not allowed points in the third quarter all season long while Arkansas has not let anyone in the endzone in the fourth quarter this season. Neither defense has generated much in the way of sacking the quarterback with the two teams combining for seven total sacks. The key to the game will be whose run defense plays better. The Gators must defend the option, the power, and the quarterback keep while the Hogs must have an answer for the cutback zone running of Ciatrick Fason. Last season Fason went for 98 yards on 11 carries and will look to have similar results on Saturday. The Gator run defense struggled for one half all season against Tennessee so the possibility that they are a good unit still remains. The defensive ends will be the spotlight this week and they must respond with a big game.
For the third week in a row Florida must prepare for a quarterback who can run. Matt Jones is the best athlete UF will face all year at the position. He can really run and make people miss and is definitely the Hog's best playmaker on offense. He is not the most accurate thrower but can deliver on the run and outside the pocket. He also carries out his fakes real well which makes him tough to defend. The Hogs will run I formation, Gun with two backs and four wide one back spread formation. They really do a good job of mixing it up with looks and play calling. Jones will run the option out of the I and in the Gun which is a very difficult play to defend. The Hogs like to run the power to the weak side and Earl Everett better bring his hard hat. One thing is for sure with the Hog offense: They want to run the ball in the redzone which is evident by their 12 rushing touchdowns.
The Gators must get their redzone offense back on track and this week they face a gambling & aggressive Razorback defense. Watch the Hogs early in the game they will get eleven hats to the ball every play. Chris Leak must have a better game this week and I think he will find open targets against an inexperienced secondary. If Fason has a fast start, look for UF to find some man coverage in the secondary for Caldwell, Baker, and Jackson. Defensive End Jeb Huckeba is a terrific player who must be neutralized by running right at him. Jon Colon will have his hands full and it is important for the running backs to not dance around in the running game because he will chase you down. The Razorbacks are smallish at linebacker and UF should be able to power their way into the endzone. Florida can get big plays against the Razorback defense but they must protect the football better this week or they will lose. Arkansas is plus two in the turnover margin through four games.
Snippetts and Tidbits…
Matt Jones has really developed into a double threat at quarterback and he is the main focus of the UF defense. The last time UF prepared for a quarterback like Jones was Schaeffer at Tennessee and the defense came out tentative. Look for the Gators to get an eighth man in the box this week with one of the two safeties coming down before the snap. Florida's defensive ends will once again be under the gun as they look to get contain on Jones. The most difficult play to defend is the gun two back option and that could cause the Gators some problems. Ray McDonald is and will start to see more and more double teams. Marcus Thomas must step up and produce when he gets a single blocker on him. Arkansas defensive line likes to move around a lot before the snap and they will "game" quite a bit. UF's experience should help identify the right guys to block and the Gators can attack the Razorback defense in the run game right up the middle. I think Deshawn Wynn will play this week and get some carries in the game. Florida's most effective pass plays down the field have been the play action pass and look for the Gators to establish the run early. One glaring problem on the offense is penalties. The Gators have been one of the least penalized teams in the Sec under Zook his first two seasons but this year they are near the bottom in penalty yardage. Redzone penalties un-did the Gator attack a week ago and UF worked all week long on discipline inside the opponent's twenty yard line.
The defensive line has a chance to make a name for themselves this week. If the front four can elevate their game they will help keep the Gators in the East race. If they continue to feel their way through games it will end up a shootout. Which Gator defense will show up? The first half against Tennessee or the one that shut down the Vols in the third quarter and stymied Kentucky? Offensively, Chris Leak cannot have an off day. He must protect the football and if Arkansas brings heat, deliver the ball to the open receiver. UF cannot get away from the run against the Hogs and look for Wynn to get in the mix with Fason.
Key Players: UF D-Line, Chris Leak, Matt Leach.
Prediction Time: Gators win close shootout late 35-31
Stat of the Week: 2. Only two quarterbacks are averaging 200 yds or more passing this season in the SEC. Matt Jones and Chris Leak.