Posted: 3:32 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013
1. Arkansas has never beaten Florida in SEC play. Not once. Needless to say that the Razorbacks will need to play flawlessly to get their first victory, but what about this year's Florida team would cause Gators fans to worry that this might be the year?
I'm frankly not that worried about this year's game -- it's at home, it's an older, more mature Florida team against a younger Arkansas team with a shaky defense and an offense in flux -- but if anything looks like a possible advantage for Arkansas, it's that running game against the newly Dominique Easley-less Florida defensive line. Kentucky ran fairly well early on against Florida before abandoning that strategy, and Alex Collins is assuredly better than Kentucky's best running back. If the Arkansas line can win some battles up front, it could make this a fight in the trenches.
2. Arkansas fans know next-to-nothing about Jeff Driskel, and even less about his replacement Tyler Murphy. Tell us what to expect from the quarterback position when Florida has the ball?
What Tyler Murphy's provided through two games is steady, unshowy distribution of the ball for an offense that plays patient, control-based football. There's not a lot of flash to his game, and what little there is has come on smart cutbacks in the open field, but Murphy's made Florida fans a lot more comfortable with an offense that they had a lot of doubts about.
3. What is the general consensus regarding Will Muschamp as he nears the midway point of his third season in Gainesville? Are fans still clamoring for (Arkansas native) Charlie Strong, or has that ship sailed for good? Was there any sort of vocal backlash following the Gators Sugar Bowl decimation at the hands of Strong's Louisville team?
I think most folks are on Muschamp's side, with some, myself included, believing his program definitely has championships in its future. There are definitely still people in my mentions on Twitter who think Muschamp has to go, and that criticism intensified around that Sugar Bowl fiasco -- which still fell on Florida's offense more than its defense, despite that being the defense's worst night of the 2012 season -- but I think it's mostly a lunatic fringe that is never satisfied getting its off-kilter on.
As far as Strong's concerned: He's still beloved by many, and fans would probably clamor for his return should Muschamp get fired, but I think Muschamp's likely to stick around for a while, and would bet that the window for Charlie Strong to be the head coach at Florida is closed. I'm happy for his successes, though, and the stream of Florida players who hugged him after that Sugar Bowl loss is testament to how happy many at Florida are for him, too.
4. Take us though the powerhouse Florida defense that performs so steadily while most focus on the Gators' offensive woes. Which is the strongest level? Are their any weaknesses? What names should Razorback fans be listening for Saturday night?
Florida's defense works because it keeps teams in front of it and off schedule, and can get offenses off the field in short order. The defense works best because there's really no definitive strongest level, and there are no apparent weaknesses: I called safety play a weak point early this season, but since Marcus Maye got lost on a long touchdown pass against Miami, Florida's safeties have been really good, with the only major issue for the defense being Cody Riggs struggling when he's moved down from safety to nickel back. If you can get that matchup, congrats: You have found one weak point on a steel-plated defense.
You should listen to hear Antonio Morrison and Vernon Hargreaves III have their names called, but Morrison's been the sort of relentlessly low-key linebacker that this style of defense needs, and Hargreaves has already played well enough in the four games of college football he's seen to perhaps dissuade quarterbacks from throwing his way, so you might not hear either of those. The name you're going to hear if it's a bad night belongs to defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., who has been excellent in the last two games.
5. Be honest, y'all got a little weary of Tebow too, right? At least when he was in the NFL? It's okay to admit it.
I've been weary of Tebow longer than that, but that's got more to do with my own politics and my frustration with his wholly uncritical fans, who make headlines, while both his more rational ones and the majority of Florida fans who aren't Tebow fans first and foremost have generally moved on. I'll probably always root for him to do well, and hope he gets another NFL chance, but I think most Florida fans realize that he's been a below-average NFL quarterback who caught lightning in a bottle in the fall of 2011 -- and I know that gloating over Tebow winning one more playoff game than Peyton Manning in Denver thus far is less about Tebow love than about lording Florida's leg up on one of the greatest quarterbacks ever over Vols.
6. Arkansas and Texas A&M; are slated to return to Jerry World in 2014 after a two year home-and-home to begin their SEC relationship. Feelings are mixed, but a significant portion of fans if not an outright majority would prefer the series remain on campus. How do Florida fans feel about the neutral site aspect of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party? Is there ever any real push to get the games moved back to campus?
Jacksonville's been a great host for that game for a long time now and there's a sense that moving it back to campus would ruin what is basically a 36-hour party. But Jacksonville is, um, Jacksonville, and I'm not among the folks who would weep for moving it back to campus.
Whether that happens likely depends on how serious the SEC gets about a nine-game schedule -- which I think is inevitable, even if the timing is currently inscrutable. The tea leaves suggest there may be some dragging of feet in that realm for now, and so it's probable that Florida will have its neutral-site game for the forseeable future.
7. What is something that could happen Saturday night that would completely surprise Arkansas fans while being completely unsurprising to Florida fans?
Would Arkansas fans be surprised by being run over by a better team? I'm having a hard time coming up with possible outcomes other than losses that would surprise Florida fans, and I don't know that a Florida win would really surprise Arkansas fans.
Let's go with this: If Arkansas gets the lion's share of the calls on the night, four years after decidedly not getting the lion's share of the calls in Gainesville, it might surprise Hogs, but Gators who have bitterly complained about a lack of discipline (eyeroll) for years would be very much unsurprised by it.
8. Finally, a couple of predictions, if you will. Winner, final score, and Will Muschamp's blood pressure reading after Saturday night's first penalty against the Gators.
Give me Florida 31, Arkansas 17, and 125/85. That first penalty won't be damaging.