Florida goes into Saturday’s game at Florida State facing a potential, and possibly potent, matchup problem.
The UF defense has a propensity for giving up explosive plays.
And the FSU offense has the speed and talent at running back and wide receiver to make explosive plays.
That could turn out to be a volatile combination for the Gators.
A big defensive focus this week is trying to find ways to limit those explosive plays (20 yards or longer).
“Absolutely,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “When you look at them, they’re talented outside. They’ve got a talented quarterback who can make some throws and when you look at their running backs, especially No. 3 (Cam Akers), he’s a guy who can make some guys miss and create double-digit runs.
“Anytime you want to be hard to score on you’ve got to eliminate explosive plays. That’s going to be a focus to make sure that we make people, not just this team but any team we play, go the long, hard way.”
The Seminoles did not go the long, hard way in their 22-21 win over Boston College last Saturday. They shot down the Eagles with explosive plays, eight in all, including the game winner — a 74-yard touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Tamorrion Terry with just 1:49 left in the game.
FSU set up another second-half touchdown with a 55-yard run by Akers. Earlier this season, Akers had an 85-yard run against Virginia Tech.
So, the Seminoles have the potential to blow up the UF defense with explosive plays.
FSU’s most dangerous playmaker has turned out to be Terry, a true freshman from Ashburn, Ga. He leads the ACC in touchdown receptions with eight. Those TD receptions have been for 27, 17, 78, 55, 17, 35, 10 and 74 yards.
“Really talented guy,” Grantham said of Terry. “When you look at their receivers in general they’ve got some skill guys who can make some plays. They’re really talented. I think the quarterback is really good. He can make some plays. I played him when I was at Louisville. I think he’s a talented guy that can spin it. We understand we’ve got a challenge facing their skill guys. We’ve got to be ready to play.”
Terry and Co. are probably eager to see how they match up with the Florida defense. The Gators have been prone to surrendering explosive plays, especially in the second half of the season.
UF gave up only two big plays against Idaho last week — a 21-yard run and a 23-yard pass — but the Gators were burned by multiple explosive plays in the three previous games against Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina.
FSU has playmakers comparable to those three SEC schools.
“They’ve got a ton of offensive weapons,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “Two quarterbacks that have played a lot of football and can put up big numbers, can throw and can run. Their wideouts are explosive playmakers. A running back was obviously the No. 1 running back in the country coming out of high school.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
In last year’s game, the Gators did a solid job holding the FSU playmakers in check. They gave up only two explosive plays — a 39-yard pass and a 21-yard TD pass from James Blackman to Nyqwan Murray.
FSU won the game 38-22, but much of the damage was self-inflicted by the erring UF offense, which turned the ball over four times. Two of those turnovers went for touchdowns on a pick-sick and a fumble return.
Overall, the Florida defense held up, giving up only 216 total yards.
But the Gators saw enough last year to know what to expect Saturday from the FSU offense.
“They’ve got a great quarterback,” middle linebacker David Reese said. “They’ve got athletes all over the board. Cam Akers, both of their backs. They’ve got a one-two punch (at running back). Talent all over the field.
“Explosive plays against Miami (earlier this season). We’ve got to be aware of all the athletes they’ve got and just come ready to play.”
If they don’t, this is an FSU offense that can blow up on the Gators.