Florida-Arkansas Breakdown & Prediction

by Inside the Gators Staff
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Inside the Gators Zack Weiss and Mark Wheeler take a closer look at Saturday’s match-up between Florida and Arkansas including thoughts on what a win or loss would mean for the Gators, Florida’s biggest advantage and disadvantage, and offer up a score prediction.

What would a win or loss mean for the rest of Florida’s season?

    Weiss: This is pretty black-and-white, to be honest. A win equals a bowl game. Which, while considering what pre-season expectations were may make it seem otherwise, is a success. Playing in a bowl game is not a failure for a young roster and second-year head coach. Especially when you’re in the SEC. That said, all the pressure in the world is on this team to win that vital sixth game. And, therefore, all the pressure in the world is on this team to win this weekend. Because, if they fall to the Razorbacks, the Orange & Blue may just lose out. With games remaining against LSU on the road, Missouri on the road, and top-5-ranked FSU, Florida won’t be a favorite again this year post-Arkansas. So, a loss this weekend would mean Billy Napier & co. are in deep trouble going forward; not making a bowl game this season would be absolutely brutal.

    Wheeler: Yes, a win means that Florida becomes bowl-eligible. However, other than that, this is where it gets tricky for the Gators. Beating a team, at home in the Swamp, with a 2-6 record isn’t going to win UF any ‘feel good’ points. If they lose though to a team, in the Swamp, with a 2-6 record, the wheels may just fall off altogether. UF is likely an underdog in the three remaining regular season games. Could you imagine finishing the season on a five-game losing streak? I can, and it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

    What is the Gators’ biggest advantage and disadvantage?

      Weiss: Florida’s biggest advantage is the same thing it’s been in every home game throughout Napier’s tenure: The Swamp. For whatever reason — comfortability, better sleep at home, the crowd noise, more family and friends in attendance, whatever it may be — the Gators are simply a different, significantly better, team at home vs. on the road.

      Their biggest disadvantage is that they just lost an anchor of their defense in Shemar James, who’s led the team in tackles up to this point and is now out for the season after dislocating his knee against Georgia. Without him, Austin Armstrong and the Florida defense are going to have to adjust with guys like KJ Jefferson, Andrew Armstrong, and Raheim Sanders on the other side — all of whom are capable of doing damage to a reeling defense.

      Wheeler: The biggest advantage is being at home in the Swamp going against a team that struggles with throwing the ball. Considering Florida has issues defending the pass, not being at a huge disadvantage in that aspect of the game is actually pretty good news for the Gators.

      As far as disadvantage, UF is going into this weekend a bit blind in that they don’t have tape or a scouting report on what Kenny Guiton wants to do as a play caller after replacing Dan Enos over the bye week as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator.

      Who are the key players to watch for?

      Weiss: For Arkansas, the aforementioned QB-WR-RB combo is one not to take lightly. KJ Jefferson’s thrown for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns. Andrew Armstrong’s caught over a third of those yards, with 520, and four scores himself. Raheim Sanders has missed all but three games this season, so numbers won’t wow, but is a highly talented back who ran for over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

      For Florida, at this point in the season, the weapons of which you can rely on have shown themselves. And those guys are WR Ricky Pearsall, WR Eugene Wilson, RB Montrell Johnson, and RB Trevor Etienne. As well as, of course, QB Graham Mertz. TE Arlis Boardingham’s been good as well, but he is just a freshman. And I know Wilson is too, but he’s really special. This team needs him right now. If that core group of offensive weapons can produce Saturday, the Gators should be able to prevail without too much distress.

      Wheeler: As far as Arkansas goes, without Shemar James – who combines athleticism and physicality – manning the middle, I have a feeling they are going to feature KJ Jefferson in the run game to the tune of 10 or more carries.

      As for Florida, keep an eye on James’ replacement Mannie Nunnery. He moves well, but he doesn’t look as physical or as active as James. That could be a problem going up against the aforementioned Jefferson and Raheim Sanders.


      Weiss: The Gators’ defense struggles without James, but Mertz has a big day and guys like Pearsall, Wilson, Johnson and Etienne provide enough juice to squeeze out the win. Florida 30-27.

      Wheeler: I’ve suffered one loss in picking Florida’s game this year, that being I had South Carolina beating the Gators three weeks ago – and of course, UF pulled that one out. That week I was still trying to decide who was going to win while writing the prediction. The same thing this time around. To me, it all comes down to enthusiasm and energy. If the crowd is flat, so too likely will be the players. However, the Gator Nation has surprised me a couple of times this year, making a bigger difference than I thought that they would. I am counting on that happening again on Saturday, with the Swamp being the difference in a 27-17 Florida win.

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