By: CJ Rooks (@cjrooks0415)
The Florida Gators will host the Arkansas Razorbacks this Saturday evening in a battle between two teams who love to run the football. Arkansas is 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the SEC. Arkansas fans were ecstatic when they opened 3-0, but excitement has diminished since losing their last two. The Gators are 3-1 overall and 2-0 in SEC Play. They have suffered major injuries, but Muschamp told the media earlier in the week he believes this team can overcome the loss of key players.
Arkansas is similar to Florida in that they look to establish the run early and often. Arkansas’s rushing attack ranks 21st in the nation and is averaging a whopping 237 yards per game. They have a hard nose, smash mouth offensive line and new coach Bret Bielema has instilled the same powerful style of running that helped him succeed at Wisconsin. Arkansas is also not afraid to pass the ball with quarterback Brandon Allen. Coach Bielema likes for him to manage the game and set up the run first, but he is able to make the necessary throws when needed. Last week against Texas A&M Allen threw for 3 touchdowns, but also 2 interceptions. He will have to limit those mistakes if Arkansas has any hopes of upsetting the Gators at home.
This will be Arkansas toughest matchup yet. The Gator defense is arguably the best in college football. They rank 1st against the run, and are only allowing 54 yards a game on the ground. Arkansas will definitely try to take advantage of the absence of Dominique Easley. This will be the Gators second game without their leader. If they stop the run, and force this Arkansas team to pass the ball, then the Gator defense will once again have a dominant day.
Quarterback Tyler Murphy will be making his second career start on Saturday, and will look to continue his success. Not only will the defensive line get tested, but also the offensive line for the Florida Gators. Arkansas has two good defensive ends in Chris Smith and Trey Flowers. They will bring pressure all day against the inexperienced Murphy. The Gators O-line will need to do a great job protecting him and establishing the run game. Arkansas ranks 36th against the run, but gave up 262 yards on the ground against Texas A&M last week. If the Gators are unable to establish the running game, Murphy may be required to pass the ball a little more. Offensive Coordinator Brent Pease will need to get him some easy throws in the beginning to build his confidence.
Bret Bielema would love to get his first win in the SEC against Florida. There have already been a few words exchanged back and forth between both teams. Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel spoke earlier in the week to Gator defensive tackle Damien Jacobs who had a few choice words about the Razorbacks offensive line. Jacobs mentioned the leader of that line, All-SEC center Travis Swanson as the main culprit of the dirty play. That offensive line will look to push the Gators buttons and rattle them early. Muschamp will need to make sure his defense does not pick up any stupid penalties.
The Gators will look to stay perfect in the SEC this weekend with a matchup looming at LSU. Their next three games are on the road and will not play again in the Swamp until November 9th. If they get the win Saturday they could return home in November undefeated and a top 10 ranking. That is why this game is so important. What separates the good teams from the great teams is winning the games they are supposed to win and not playing down to the level of inferior teams. The Gators are the better team in this matchup Saturday and should take care of business against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
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