Florida will take on Western Carolina in a “no-win” situation game this weekend. It has been well documented why this game was scheduled and the fact that many lower tier Division I teams avoided The Swamp. One thing that should be mentioned is the fact that the NCAA granted the twelfth game but did not extend the season.
This made it very difficult for scheduling and for teams losing bye weeks before big games. It is tough to play 11 or 12 games in a row and Florida did choose the right week to take off prior to Georgia. The reason it is a “no-win” situation for Florida is the human polls will hold it against Florida more now than they would have had this game been played in September.
I will compliment Urban Meyer for doing some national media this week to defend his team, schedule and opponent for this game. He is very good with the media and comes off as a likable, honest guy which can only help Florida with the Harris Poll folks.
I am very disappointed in the Jarvis Moss story this week. I think he is a great player and was the difference in the game last week, but to have this happen right now is very surprising. Elite college athletes cost themselves a lot of money with decisions like this and even more than that they hurt the image of their school and program. I will not crucify Moss nor take the higher than thou stance, because we have all made mistakes. Hopefully he will learn from this and come back with a vengeance against FSU and Arkansas in the SEC title game. I expect Ray McDonald to move back out to defensive end which is a position that he was dominant at last year before his first knee injury.
STATISTIC: The Gator senior class is 21-4 at home.
Western Carolina has lost eight games in a row and the Catamounts pose no threat to the Gators. This game is about UF and polishing aspects of their game and getting young guys some playing time in The Swamp. Florida’s offense needs to score 40 points and be very efficient and explosive. Florida’s defense needs to regain its swagger and force turnovers this week versus the Catamounts. UF will have a completely new look front seven p with the front four and Brandon Spikes and Dustin Doe in at linebacker. This is also a good game for Chris Hetland to make a long field goal. If you are UF you don’t want to kick field goals, but if you have to kick one, hopefully Hetland can extend his streak to two in a row. The final thing UF has to play for this week is the seniors. The class that finally got the orange and blue back to Atlanta will run out onto the field for the final time on Saturday. This class also looks to finish its second consecutive season unbeaten at home.
STATISTIC: The Gators had more first downs in the first half against South Carolina than they did the entire game against both LSU and Georgia.
Let’s look at some Gator offensive season numbers and some keys for the game with Western Carolina:
— The Gator offense has scored on its first drive 5 out of 10 times this season. I look for the Gators to make that 6 out of 11.
— Six of UF’s seven offensive drives last week went for over 50 yards. This week the Gators will score quicker and enjoy better field position.
— For the season the Gators have averaged more than one yard rushing per attempt at home than they have on the road. The Gators also have nine rushing touchdowns at home this season.
— For the season the Gators averaged 4.22 yards per carry against the SEC. This is a tribute to the improved offensive line play this season.
— The Gators have had two 200-yard games rushing this season and this week could be the third. Last year the Gators had just one against Lousiana Tech. Urban Meyer’s last team at Utah averaged over 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing his last season.
— The Gators will face nine of the top 56 defenses in the country if it faces Arkansas in the SEC title game. That also includes six of the top 25 defenses in the country.
— In four games away from the Swamp the Gators have just six touchdowns with six interceptions.
Gator offensive percentages for the season:
First Down — 60-40% run-pass Second Down — 58-42% run-pass Third Down — 36-64% run-pass For the Season — 55-45% run pass
Keys and Goals for the Gators this Week:
— Give DeShawn Wynn 20 carries and tell him to get as many yards as he can then sit him down.
— Protect the football and play a clean game. Zero turnovers is a goal and allow Chris Leak to get to his 200 yards and then sit him down
— Let Tim Tebow get involved and run the offense with players like Fayson, Ingram and even Brandon James.
— Score 40-plus points and stay healthy.
STATISTIC: The Gators are sixth in the country in rushing defense at 76.6 yards per game.
Look at some Gator defensive numbers and some keys this week for the game against the Catamounts.
— Florida has given up six rushing touchdowns and six passing touchdowns each.
— Away from home this season the Gators are allowing just 2.48 yards per rush.
— Florida has held seven of its 10 opponents under 100 yards rushing. Look for the Gators to make that 8 out of 11 this week.
— The Gator secondary has had five interceptions vs ranked opponents this season.
— The longest run this season is 35 yards against the Gator defenses. The longest pass given up the entire season is 48 yards.
— Florida has given up a total of 15 plays over 20 yards on the season.
— The Gator secondary has limited opponents to 50% completion percentage on third down this season.
— Florida has given up four red zone touchdowns in five opportunities the last two weeks without Marcus Thomas in the lineup. They had given up just one the entire season with Thomas in the lineup ( 5 games).
STATISTIC: Florida leads the SEC and is 8th in the country in punt return coverage.
How will it play out?: I believe the Gators can just show up and win but it is important to stockpile some style points even though with some voters it is a lost cause. Remember neither Urban Meyer nor Pete Carroll has a vote in the coaches poll. Charlie Weiss however does have a vote and if they beat USC you can rest assure he will vote his team #2. Only the mess that is the BCS could creep into my prediction column. The Gators have not been 10-1 very often in 100 years of football so go enjoy the weekend and have fun with it. Gators must come out focused and finish the Catamounts off with a 49-0 victory.
Check out Sun Sports on Friday at 6:30 p.m. for College Kickoff and for the Gator Post game immediately following the game on Saturday join me along with Whit Watson, Larry Vettel, Nat Moore, Steve Babik, Todd Lewis and Terry Norvelle for all the coverage all weekend long. You can tune in to the Brady Ackerman Show Monday through Thursday mornings, 7-10 a.m., on ESPN Radio Gainesville (AM1230) or Ocala (AM900).