Florida football hosts Arkansas on Saturday in Gainesville. Here are your three keys to a Gators victory.
By Matt Zemek
The Florida Gators finally beat the Georgia Bulldogs and Kirby Smart. It had been a long time coming, but Dan Mullen crossed the threshold and secured the win he needed to take the next step in Gainesville. Florida is fully in the driver’s seat in the SEC East, a reality it hasn’t encountered since 2016. The division title is hardly locked up, however. Florida needs to retain focus instead of relaxing and becoming overconfident this upcoming weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Because LSU is such a weak opponent this season, and because Arkansas beat Tennessee this past weekend, it can legitimately be argued that Arkansas is Florida’s strongest opponent leading up to the SEC Championship Game. If Florida can get by this game, its path to Atlanta becomes that much clearer, and its ability to remain in the hunt for the College Football Playoff could be taken more seriously. A loss here would undo so much of the good work Florida has done. The Gators need to fully focus on Arkansas, register a decisive win, and show they are ready to rise to the top of the SEC and the college football world.
1 – Defensive line
This game will come down to a few central factors, but the most important one is Florida’s defensive line against Arkansas’ offensive line. The Razorbacks and Gators both know what the other side wants to do. Arkansas wants to keep the ball away from Florida as much as possible. The Gators want their explosive offense to get as many possessions as possible. Therefore, while the offense carries Florida, the defense will remain the true point of focus, because as long as the defense isn’t terrible, Florida’s offense should be able to win the day. The worst-case scenario is Arkansas controlling the ball for 40 minutes and not allowing Kyle Trask and Company to be on the field for long periods of time. If the Gators are to prevent that from happening, their defensive line needs to stand up and shut down the Hogs.
2 – Wide receivers
Florida exposed and abused Georgia’s defense with wheel routes to the running backs. You can bet that Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman saw that on film; the Razorbacks will be intent on denying Florida the wheel route. Therefore, if Arkansas is going to focus on the running backs coming out of the backfield, Florida needs countermoves at the ready. Getting a game in which the wide receivers, not the running backs, take on more responsibilities in the passing game would not only be a needed tool in the toolbox against Arkansas; more broadly, that would make the Gators harder to defend as the season goes along. The plan versus Georgia was fantastic; the plan versus Arkansas needs to be different so that future opponents can’t easily pin down what Florida is doing.
3 – Feleipe Franks
The former Gator quarterback returns to The Swamp for what should be an emotional and meaningful game. Florida obviously has extensive knowledge of Franks. How UF’s secondary reacts to him will be important. It will also be fascinating to watch. Florida needs to apply everything it learned about Feleipe Franks to this game. Upperclassmen on the Gators’ roster know Franks thinks during a game. They understand how he processes situations. Florida needs to translate this knowledge into results when Arkansas has the ball.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:00 PM CT (7:00 PM ET). You can watch this Florida football game on the ESPN Network.