Return to The Swamp: Florida v. Arkansas
The Florida Gators enter Saturday's contest atop the SEC East with a record of 4-1. They will host an improving Arkansas Razorback squad led by former Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks. Both teams are coming off momentum-gaining wins and will look to continue their successes. Kickoff is slated for 7pm EST at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
This game looks to be a battle of the Razorbacks defense and the Gators' prolific offense. The Gators are coming off yet another impressive offensive performance against one of the top defenses in the country. However, the Razorbacks have been very solid in pass defense this year. They enter the contest with a league-high 12 interceptions... three of which were returned for touchdowns. If there is one way to slow down the Gators offense, it's to force some bad throws, get some turnovers and capitalize on the other end.
The Razorbacks have held every team except Mississippi State to under 300 yards passing. On the contrary, the Gators come in averaging 369 passing yards per game. If the Razorbacks defense can force some turnovers and limit the Gators passing offense, Feleipe Franks' homecoming could get interesting. Not to mention, positive COVID tests for Arkansas Head Coach Sam Pittman -- a candidate for SEC Coach of the Year -- will force him out of coaching in Gainesville, with all eyes on Hogs' Defensive Coordinator (and former Missouri Head Coach) Barry Odom instead.
The Gators recipe for victory is more of the same. With Kyle Pitts likely to miss this game, Kyle Trask will have to spread the ball around and count on his playmakers on the outside. We saw last week how effective Dan Mullen and Brian Johnson were in exposing the UGA defense via the wheel route out of the backfield. Look for some more of that as well. Once Mullen finds something that's effective, he will dial it up time and time again, subscribing to the mantra of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Mullen could also look to establish the run some against a defense who is letting up 167 rushing yards per game. The Gators defense will need to keep on Franks, who is one of the best deep passers in the league. Last week, four or five overthrows kept a few scores off the board for UGA. There is no doubt that the Razorbacks offense saw this in film and will look to exploit the Gators' weaknesses on the backend at some point.
Todd Grantham's defense surrendered 993 passing yards in the first 3 games, but only 320 in the last two games. However, part of that improvement is due to some subpar quarterback play of Missouri and UGA. At this point in his career, Franks is a proven game manager and can make plays happen with his arm and in the ground game. The Gators held UGA to just 112 passing by getting a lead early and forcing Stetson Bennett to throw. If the Gators offense is able to go out and impose its will early, Grantham will be able to put pressure on Franks and try to force him into some mistakes.
The Gators definitely have the edge in this game. But, a motivated Razorbacks team coupled with Franks' homecoming has all the makings of an upset in the Swamp. Still, give me Kyle Trask under center to lead the Gators to a 42-27 win.
Photo Credit: Jordan Herald/@JordanHerald5/UF Football