Week 6 - Arkansas at Florida

Posted Oct 2, 2013

Week 6 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Arkansas at Florida

Arkansas (3-2) at Florida (3-1) Oct. 5 7:00, ESPN2

Why You Should Give A Hoot: The SEC doesn't play any defense anymore, right? That's one of the easy talking points of the moment after LSU and Georgia lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine, and with Alabama and Texas A&M trading haymakers a few weeks ago. For this week, at least, forget the tippy tappy, high-octane offense stuff. This game should be about getting nasty.

If nothing else, this should be one of the hardest-hitting, toughest games on the SEC slate.

Lost in Jeff Driskel injury and the offensive issues is a Florida defense that's playing at a national title level. Even with star tackle Dominique Easley done for his Gator career with a blown out knee, this is still one of the fiercest Ds in college football, and because of it, while it might not seem this way, there are still very, very big things on the table.

Florida flat-out gagged away the 21-16 loss to Miami in early September, and the two-foot putt portion of the SEC program is over after dispatching of Tennessee and Kentucky, but the team is getting the luxury of being able to fly under the radar. With road games at LSU, Missouri and South Carolina coming up in the next five weeks, along with the date with Georgia in Jacksonville, any game in Gainesville is a must win. Arkansas isn't going to make it easy.

The Hogs have a long way to go to challenge for the SEC West title, but they pushed Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M hard last week in an entertaining 45-33 loss, and while that, combined with the meltdown late against Rutgers, hasn't made the defense look so hot, new head coach Bret Bielema has the team playing far, far better and nastier than it did last season. Now it's time to come up with a big win over a big team to really get the new era started.

Why Arkansas Might Win: Arkansas isn't Kentucky. This whole Tyler Murphy thing at quarterback worked just fine against the lousy Tennessee and UK defenses, but now Bielema and his staff have had time to prepare for the new Gator quarterback. Murphy might have talent, but he'll look like he's going in slow motion compared to Mr. Football. There is no downfield Florida passing game, so as long as the Arkansas defensive front can find a way to hold serve against the Gator power – far, far easier said than done – it should have a chance. The Hog run defense had problems with the scrambling Manziel, but overall the line has done a nice job against the run allowing just 126 yards per game. In a lot of ways, Arkansas does a lot of the same things Florida does – run the ball, own the clock, get tough on D when needed – but …

Why Florida Might Win: Florida does it a lot better. Brandon Allen and the Arkansas passing game is a bit more effective than the stats might show, but if Arkansas isn't running the ball well, the offense isn't going anywhere. The Hog ground game was fantastic against the softies like Samford, Southern Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette, but once it came time to deal with Rutgers, the offensive line struggled and couldn't close out. Florida's Easley-less line should be able to hold its own and for Arkansas to change its game. The Gator formula should work – run, play great pass defense, play even better run defense, get the D off the field, move on.

Who To Watch Out For: Murphy really has been terrific since stepping in for Driskel. The team needed him to be steady, and outside of a pick against UK, he has done everything right. In just under two games of work he has completed 23-of-32 throws – hitting 83% of his passes against the Wildcats – for 290 yards with two scores, while averaging seven yards per carry with a score in each of the last two games. Outside of being thrown into the Tennessee game cold, he hasn't faced any major adversity yet. It's coming soon.

- The Florida defense really is that good. The key has been third downs, leading the nation by allowing teams to convert a paltry 18% of the time. Arkansas is okay at moving the chains, but it needs to win first and second downs to make it third-and-short. Forget about 3rd-and-5, or worse.

- Florida plays like Bielema would like Arkansas to be. It's tough, nasty, and very, very physical. The Gators are basically what Wisconsin was under Bielema's reign, only with far better players and not as effective a passing game.

- Arkansas beat Florida 28-24 in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl. Since then, the Gators have won all eight meetings in conference play, including two SEC championships.

What Will Happen: It's all about turnover margin with the Gators. As long as they're not making massive mistakes, they'll be more than fine. They'll stop Alex Collins and the Hog running game, they'll barrel away with their own ground attack, and while it won't be pretty, it'll be an effective, nasty game.

Prediction: Florida 30 … Arkansas 16
Line: Florida -11 o/u: 43
Must See Rating: (5 5 shut down this week due to lack of government funding – 1 Rachel vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off) … 3
Buy tickets for this game at TicketCity