When the Florida Gators line up on the gridiron against Florida State this Saturday at 3:30, they will not be going up against an SEC defense.
Instead, they will be lining up against the best defense in the nation. This isn’t a banged-up LSU team. This isn’t Georgia and its one-man wrecking crew. This isn’t South Carolina and its one-man wrecking crew.
This is Mark Stoops’ violent, hard-hitting, no-nonsense unit that plays with bad intentions. For two straight years, Mark Stoops has embarrassed Florida’s offense.
In year three—in Round 3 of Stoops vs. Florida—I don’t see much changing.
Florida’s offense, which is ranked 80th in the nation, truly leaves a lot to be desired. It is anchored by an offensive line that struggles mightily in pass protection. It has no major running threat—Gillislee has lost some of his steam in the second half of the season. The receivers have trouble getting separation. And the quarterback situation is a mess.
In fact, Florida’s bread and butter is the zone-read play, which it probably will not be able to run without Driskel being fully healthy. Jacoby Brissett, the presumed starter, is not a mobile quarterback.
Two weeks ago, the No. 4 team in the entire nation barely escaped at home against the Rajin’ Cajuns of Louisiana- Lafayette—Florida scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away with a win—and this past week managed only 23 points against FCS bottom-dweller Jacksonville State, 13 of them coming in a second-half surge.
If that trend continues—if Florida puts out another anemic offensive effort—it’s hard to visualize the Gators scoring much, if at all.
Florida State’s defense is filled to the spout with NFL talent, and Florida’s offense is not. When Florida’s offense is on the field, FSU’s defense will have the edge at every level, particularly at the line of scrimmage.
Big Boy (power) football is out of the question for the Gators—they must dial up trick plays, hope Driskel can mix in a lot of zone-read plays or throw a bunch of lucky bombs.
Otherwise, FSU could hand Florida its first shutout since 1988.
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