Another weekend of college football, another shot redemption for Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC).
This time, it’s South Carolina (5-3, 4-3 SEC) that stands in the way of Florida collecting their seventh win of the season. A familiar face in Will Muschamp revisits Gainesville for just the second time as the Gamecocks’ head coach.
Last Saturday’s loss to Missouri was arguably Florida’s most disappointing and shocking this season.
But this week Mullen welcomed the fact that his team will remain at home for the next two games. He’s acknowledged before that his team struggles when they cannot get into a rhythm.
Mullen was adamant this week that creating a daunting atmosphere in The Swamp continues to be crucial.
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) November 8, 2018
Sorting out the QB Position
There’s no extreme sense of quarterback controversy in Gainesville, but Mullen has seemed rather pensive regarding the subject after the 38-17 loss to Missouri.
Mullen might have had more to think about had quarterback Feleipe Frank’s immediate replacement, Kyle Trask, not suffered a season-ending foot injury at Thursday’s practice. It would now be a tremendous surprise if Franks isn’t handed the reigns again on Saturday.
Yet leading up to South Carolina, Mullen has remained coy when asked about his game plan for the position.
The status of Emory Jones
There’s also a section of the Gator faithful that would love to see freshman quarterback Emory Jones be given the keys to the offense.
When asked whether or not he thought about playing Jones ahead of Trask last week, Mullen gave a clear response.
“We didn’t have the package for him this week. Like I said, we’re going to play him, the goal is to redshirt him at this point,” Mullen said. “We have three games left in the regular season and he can play in two, plus the bowl game. So he can play in half of our remaining games.”
It means Jones can potentially appear on Saturday. With Trask’s injury, the freshman surely saw an uptick in reps at Friday’s practice, and he must be game ready. Still, Franks provides the most familiarity for a struggling offense, but the sophomore now has to perform better than he has recently to keep Jones on the bench.
The last two games Franks has combined to go 21-for-44 with only 189 yards through the air. Franks was never completing a high amount of passes early in the season, but the explosive plays have also completely dissipated from the Gators’ offense. On Saturday they’ll face a defense that gave up 616 yards of total offense to Ole Miss last week.
Mullen said that the offensive line needs to give Franks better protection and more time to throw. The Gators also failed to run the ball consistently against Missouri.
With essentially no help from his teammates, Franks was up against the wall versus Missouri, but another poor performance from him on Saturday and Gator fans will likely start to point fingers at the redshirt sophomore.
Urgent improvement needed on defense
Florida’s recent defensive collapses have been an even bigger headache for Mullen and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Junior quarterback Jake Bentley will be another difficult player to contain, as he’s improved his play in the Gamecocks’ last two wins.
Will Muschamp’s offense is relatively balanced, but they’re not a very daunting team on the ground. Grantham will hope his team can start to recreate some pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The Gators have recorded just two sacks in the last two weeks. Mullen used words like “unacceptable, terrible and atrocious” to describe some of the mistakes his defense has recently been making. Florida’s defense has also failed to forced a single turnover in their last two losses.
Grantham spoke about why his defense is struggling to make game-changing plays at the moment this week.
Despite a relatively thin secondary, Florida is reportedly carrying no injuries on the defensive side of the ball.
Earlier this season, Florida’s defense was doing a terrific job of bailing out the offense when needed. The unit would also put Franks and co. in better positions to score points.
It’s a formula that had earlier success, and a formula that Mullen and his team will want to get back to perfecting against South Carolina.
Kickoff is set for noon from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
SC ✈️ FL pic.twitter.com/07ZHuD3qjM
— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) November 9, 2018