College GameDay crew talks return to Gainesville, Florida-Auburn

Oct 5, 2019 | 0 comments

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ESPN’s College GameDay set resided in the heart of the UF campus on Friday at the Plaza of the Americas. Fans gathered around the set to purchase College GameDay T-shirts and take photos.

The scene will be a little more intense on Saturday morning. ESPN will host its iconic pregame show from UF’s campus for the first time since 2012. While home schedules and timing play an important role in hosting GameDay, the Gators didn’t help their cause by fielding some anemic offenses and failing to compete nationally for most of this decade.

The show and all of the hoopla that surrounds it serve as tangible evidence of the strides the program has taken in its nearly two years under Dan Mullen. Florida has finally earned the right to step into the national spotlight and have the eyes of the college football world on Gainesville once again.

The GameDay crew is excited to be back at the Swamp.

“It’s a place that expects to win, they’re intense for big games, and I think that’s what makes it a lot of fun,” host Rece Davis said. “When it’s hot and humid, it feels like what it’s called, the Swamp, which is really cool.”

Gator Nation couldn’t be in a much better mood than it is right now. GameDay is in town, the Gators are ranked No. 10, the team will wear throwback uniforms on Saturday and it’s homecoming weekend. For the happiness to continue past about 7 p.m. on Saturday, UF (5-0, 2-0 SEC) will have to find a way to topple a No. 7 Auburn team (5-0, 2-0) that some experts believe has a strong case to be the nation’s top team.

Offensively, the biggest key for Florida is going to be finding a way to block Auburn’s defensive line, a unit that offensive line coach John Hevesy said is one of the best defensive fronts he’s seen in his 15 years in the SEC. Davis said he doesn’t envision UF’s offensive line winning that battle, and Mullen will most likely have to out-scheme the Tigers to have success offensively.

Analyst David Pollack, a former defensive lineman at Georgia, said Tigers defensive tackle Derrick Brown is one of the strongest defensive tackles he’s seen, and he’s impressed with the way he effortlessly lifts 300-pound offensive linemen like they don’t weigh anything. Brown was named Second Team All-SEC after last season and is showing up very high on mock drafts for the 2020 NFL Draft.

He expects Auburn to play tight man coverage on the outside, which will eliminate a lot of short throws and allow their defensive line to take over the game. He thinks UF will have to get creative in the ways they manufacture offense.

“You don’t go pick on the biggest kid in school and just go, ‘Hey, take this,’” he said. “You start with the smaller guys first and work your way up.”

The crew praised Kyle Trask and said the Gators’ offense runs smoother in some ways with him than it did with Feleipe Franks. Franks has a cannon for a right arm and decent mobility, which allowed him to make some big plays but also got him into trouble at times, Davis said. Trask is more content to go through his reads and hit the first open receiver he sees.

“Trask does a good job, and I think the offense is better with him throwing the ball,” Pollack said. “He throws the ball better down the field. I think he’s got pocket-presence more. He’ll hang in there and look to throw. His first reaction is to throw, not run. So, I think it fits the offense better with him at quarterback.”

The show will include a feature on Trask’s unusual path from high school backup to SEC starter. Pollack said Trask’s story is “cool.”

“We live in a society of quit,” he said. “Go somewhere else; I’m going to find a different option. Not only has he not done that at Florida, he didn’t do that in high school. So, it’s kind of cool to have guys like that, and that’s the kind of guys I’d want to be in the huddle with, guys that it’s not about them, it’s about us. He doesn’t have to say that; I think every teammate that he has knows that.”

On the other side of the ball, the Tigers love to lean on their zone-read, perimeter-oriented running game, but Pollack said he believes Florida’s defense is fast enough to possibly take away some of the perimeter runs.

Analyst Desmond Howard said Tigers freshman quarterback Bo Nix hasn’t completed a high percentage of passes when under pressure. UF’s defense is tied for second in the country with 24 sacks.

“He’s been battle-tested on the road in the SEC, but this is the Swamp, and I think that [the Gators] have athletes that can really cause some problems defensively for Auburn,” he said. “That’s probably the matchup. You can’t let this kid run the zone read and sit back in the pocket. You’ve got to really put pressure on him and make him make quick decisions and see how he responds.”

The fired up, sold-out crowd inside the Swamp could be an X-factor, Pollack said. Not only does the defense gain energy from the crowd noise, but it makes it harder for the offense to execute. Instead of Nix being able to call out the cadence like he does at home, Auburn will have to resort to the silent cadence, which consists of a guard tapping the center to let him know when to snap the ball. After a while, the snap count starts to become predictable and the defense can get great jumps off the ball.

“I don’t think Florida wins without [crowd noise],” he said.

Florida hasn’t won pretty enough for some people this season. After wins over Miami and Towson, they moved down in the polls. Saturday is their opportunity to win that respect back and position themselves as a legitimate national title contender.

“You’re going to find out who’s really a threat in the SEC after Saturday,” Davis said. “Now both of them, because it’s a cross-divisional game, can still come back and take care of their own business. I get that, but I think that you’ll walk out of here Saturday night, and the winner, OK, whoever wins this game’s a threat to Georgia and Alabama and whoever loses is probably more in the role of being viewed as spoilers.”

Added Howard: “This is one we’ll see what they’re really about. I can care less about other games that you’ve played against subpar opponents. This is why you come to Florida, to play in these types of games.”

The Gators have already made one statement by hosting College GameDay. They’ll be looking to make an even louder, more emphatic statement on Saturday afternoon.


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Tags: Sport

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