Florida Football 3-2-1: Campbell’s return made an impact

Nov 2, 2020 | 0 comments

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Well, Florida’s 41-17 win over Missouri on Saturday certainly didn’t leave us with a lack of things to talk about over the next week. To recap, the defense played like we expected them to at the beginning of the season, Kyle Trask made more history, a large brawl broke out at the end of the first half and Dan Mullen wore a Darth Vader costume to his postgame press conference.

Due to a new NCAA rule that prohibits team activities on Election Day, the No. 8 Gators (3-1) began preparations for the monster showdown with No. 5 Georgia (4-1) on Sunday.

Here are three observations, two questions, and one prediction as UF exits a wild week and enters what figures to be another one.

Three Observations

1) Getting nose tackle Kyree Campbell back made a world of difference. Campbell entered the season having started 24 consecutive games, but he missed the first three games of the season for an undisclosed reason. Without him, the Gators were undersized in the middle and entered Saturday allowing 164 rushing yards per game and 4.1 yards per rush. The pass rush was also spotty due to players having to play out of position to compensate for his loss. With Campbell back in the middle against Missouri, UF gave up just 40 rushing yards and 1.7 yards per carry and sacked quarterback Connor Bazelak three times. Campbell only made one tackle, a stop on third down, but his presence allowed the Gators to move Zachary Carter back to strongside end and Brenton Cox to BUCK. They instantly became deeper, more flexible, and less predictable just by having him on the field.

2) The makeshift secondary played way better than anybody could’ve expected. With three starters and two key reserves unavailable, the Gators turned to some inexperienced players and even a walk-on to slow down an offense that threw for more than 400 yards against LSU three weeks ago. Jaydon Hill was outstanding in replacing Marco Wilson at corner, playing tight coverage and breaking up a pass. Safety Rashad Torrence seemed to always be around the ball, take good angles and prevent short throws from turning into explosive plays like they did in the first three games. Brad Stewart played better than anybody the Gators have used at STAR this season, tying for the team lead with six tackles. Walk-on cornerback Patrick Moorer broke up a deep ball in the fourth quarter. The unit played so well, in fact, that you have to wonder if defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will consider keeping Hill and Torrence in the starting lineup after their more experienced teammates return.

3) Georgia looks like a favorable matchup for Florida. Georgia’s defense is perhaps the best in the country against the run but has had some issues down the middle of the field against the pass. That plays right into what the Gators do best offensively; they attack the middle of the field through the air and sprinkle in a few runs just to give the defense something to think about. On the other side, the Bulldogs start a former walk-on at quarterback in Stetson Bennett, and he’s left a lot to be desired in their last two games against Alabama and Kentucky. They pretty much have to rush for 200 yards or more to have a chance to win games. The Gators’ defense has been decent against the run all season, and they have a chance to be really good with Campbell back. Georgia may also be without star receiver George Pickens, as he missed the Kentucky game with an injury. If ever there was a year for the Gators to get the Georgia monkey off of their back, this would be it.

Two Questions

1) Will the SEC hand down any suspensions for the fight on Saturday? By rule, players who are ejected for fighting aren’t automatically suspended for the next game, but the league office has the authority to review the incident and take additional disciplinary action. Defensive ends Antwaun Powell and Carter were the only UF players ejected, but it looked like two or three more Gators were heavily involved and could potentially face further action by the league. The Gators are already short-handed due to COVID-19 issues and injuries, so they can’t afford to lose more key players to suspensions. If Carter is suspended, that will be a detrimental blow to the defensive front. Cox would likely slide back to the strongside, and generating a pass rush will be a bit more difficult without Carter sliding inside on third downs.

2) Will the offense finally show up in Jacksonville this year? In 2018, they gained just 275 yards and scored 17 points. In 2019, they gained 278 yards, including just 21 rushing, and entered the fourth quarter with only three points on the board. Georgia coach Kirby Smart seems to have all of the answers for Mullen’s offense. They shut down the run, rush the passer and take away the short and intermediate throws. They force you to beat them by hitting them over the top with deep balls. That’s not the strength of the Gators’ offense, but they’ll probably need to complete a few deep balls to have a chance. Can they finally solve the riddle that is the Bulldogs’ defense?

One Prediction

1) Trevon Grimes will have a big game against Georgia. He’s only caught 11 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns this season. He was open several times against Missouri but only caught three passes for 33 yards and a score. However, Georgia’s defense seems like a good matchup for him. The Bulldogs will do everything they can to keep Kyle Pitts from taking over the game, and they’re probably one of the few defenses that has the speed to keep Kadarius Toney from running free and wild. So, Grimes will likely get a bunch of one-on-one matchups down the field. Trask has improved his accuracy on deep balls this year, so don’t be surprised if Grimes turns in a 100-yard game.

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