But before the two permanent cross-division opponents meet, TSD is providing scouting reports on both sides of the ball. Check out Hunter Paniagua’s examination of Florida’s base 3-4 defense.
Now it’s time to look at the Gators’ offense under first-year coordinator Kurt Roper.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
RB: Matt Jones (Jr., 6-2, 235)
FB: Hunter Joyer (Sr., 5-11, 230)
WR (X): Demarcus Robinson (So., 6-2, 200)
WR (Z): Quinton Dunbar (Sr., 6-2, 200)
TE/H-Back: Clay Burton (Sr., 6-4, 250)
LT: D.J. Humphries (Jr., 6-5, 295)
LG: Trip Thurman (Jr., 6-5, 310)
C: Max Garcia (Sr., 6-4, 310)
RG: Trenton Brown (Sr., 6-8, 360)
RT: Chaz Green (Sr., 6-5, 300)
Key Backups: RB Kelvin Taylor (So., 5-10, 210), WR Latroy Pittman (Jr., 6-0, 210), WR Ahmad Fulwood (So., 6-5, 200), WR Andre Debose (Sr., 6-0, 195)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
A David Cutcliffe disciple, Roper has enjoyed success at numerous stops prior to his arrival in Gainesville, most recently helping resurrect Duke’s offense and guiding the Blue Devils to a passing-game renaissance.
There’s been no such luck for Roper at Florida through four games as the Gators have slopped their way to 215 yards passing per game (83rd in NCAA) and only seven touchdowns through the air against six interceptions. On the ground things have been slightly better by comparison. Florida is rushing for an average of 189.8 yards (44th in NCAA) but only 4.6 yards per carry.
The easy culprit to point fingers at is junior quarterback Jeff Driskel. The redshirt junior signal caller looked as if he’d lost his job to true freshman Treon Harris in the fourth quarter of last week’s comeback win at Tennessee, but Harris is now the subject of a rape investigation and will not play in the game, indefinitely suspended from the team.
Which means Driskel, he of the 54.7 completion percentage and tosser of five TDs and six INTs, will be sent back out as the starter versus LSU. Confidence figures to be waning for the one-time prized recruit, who also chips in 28.2 yards/game on the ground (3.5 ypc).
Regardless of Driskel’s mental state entering Saturday’s game, Florida almost has to lean heavily on the run against the Tigers, which have conceded an unfathomable 300 yards rushing on average through two SEC games thus far.
When UF does pound away the lead back is junior Matt Jones, a physical presence at 235 pounds. Jones is dealing with a swollen knee that forced him to miss some practice this week, but he is expected to play. He’s rushed for a team-best 372 yards (5.2 ypc) and three touchdowns on the season.
Elsewhere at the skill positions Florida counts most on Demarcus Robinson in the passing game. The sophomore wide-out has double the receptions of the next Gator in line, Clay Burton, at 26 to 13. In fact, showing how much of a one-trick pony Driskel has been through the air, Robinson’s 95.8 yards/game receiving are 68 more than the player with the next highest per-game average (Quinton Dunbar, 27.8 yards/game).
Up front Roper does have a good deal of experience clearing holes. The Gators trot out two juniors and three seniors in the front five. They’re steady in pass protection, too, having given up only five sacks in 2014.
But perhaps the most damning stat to throw out on Florida relates to third-down conversion success, or lack thereof. The Gators have converted a measly 24 of 70 attempts on third down. Simply math says that’s only 34.3 percent. A quick look through the NCAA stat sheet says that’s bad enough for 105th in the country. (Oh, and No. 104? Yup, LSU, at 34.7 percent. It will be a surprise if either offense can stay on the field Saturday night.)