Florida vs. Arkansas: Keys to the game

Antonio Morrison (3), Jaylen Watkins and the Gators' defense have held opponents to an almost-unthinkable 17.8 percent on successful third down conversions.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 6:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 8:52 p.m.

There is a scene in “The Godfather” where Clemenza is talking to Michael Corleone about the upcoming mob war and he says, “These things gotta happen every five years or so.”


Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC) at No. 18 Florida (3-1, 2-0), 7 p.m.

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The same goes for Florida and Arkansas. This is only the fourth time the Razorbacks have ventured into The Swamp, the first since 2009. Prior to that, they played in Gainesville in 2004 and 1997.

It's a series that Florida has dominated, which means nothing because only a handful of fifth-year seniors were out of high school the last time they played. Florida has won eight in a row, but needed a late Caleb Sturgis field goal to win the 2009 game.

These are different teams with different coaches. Arkansas has lost two in a row and could use a big win, as the Gators play their third straight game against a new SEC coach.

For Bret Bielema's team to win, here are the five keys:

1. Pound the ball.

It's what Bielema's Wisconsin teams did and it's what this Arkansas team does. The Razorbacks are second in the SEC and 21st in the nation in rushing at 237 yards per game. Arkansas has the SEC's No. 2 rusher in Alex Collins and No. 6 rusher in Jonathan Williams. Florida leads the SEC in rush defense, so this battle of brawn should be something to watch.

2. Get to the quarterback.

Tyler Murphy has played well for Florida in the last two games, but he hasn't faced a pass rush like Arkansas has. The Razorbacks lead the league in sacks with 15 and end Chris Smith has six. Arkansas needs to get Smith going, as he only had a half a tackle last week. Three of his sacks came against Southern Miss. Murphy has only been sacked once in the two games he has played.

3. Keep Brandon Allen healthy.

The quarterback missed the Rutgers game with an injured shoulder, but came back against Texas A&M. Arkansas is a better team with Allen at quarterback, but we all know how sensitive bad shoulders can be. Florida's pass rush has been strong, but could be negated by the Arkansas running game.

4. Get Florida off the field.

The Gators have been ridiculous when it comes to time of possession, leading the SEC at 38:58 a game. Time of possession can be an overrated stat, but it's part of the Will Muschamp methodology. Arkansas can't allow the Gators to hold onto the ball for eight or nine-minute drives.

5. Find Trey Burton.

Burton can line up in so many places, you never know what's coming next. He has worked his way into being the seventh-best receiver in the SEC in terms of number of catches (20). Plus, he's still a part of the running game when he lines up at quarterback.

For Florida, a win means a 3-0 record in the SEC and if the Gators do win it will only be their third 3-0 start in the last seven years. The five keys for Florida:

1. Keep the flags off the ground.

In Florida's first two games, the Gators were whistled for 20 penalties that cost them 150 yards and four first downs. In the last two games, the Gators have been called for only 11 penalties for 72 yards and two first downs. It's vital Florida does not give the Razorbacks cheap first downs or lose first downs to penalties.

2. Keep Matt Jones going.

It was a slow start and a missed opener, but Jones finally broke loose against Kentucky. He's all the way up to eighth in the SEC after his 176-yard performance. You have to figure Arkansas will be keying on him.

3. Protect Tyler Murphy.

As noted earlier, the Razorbacks lead the SEC in sacks and Murphy has done a good job of avoiding them this season. Nobody wants to think about what would happen if Murphy follows Jeff Driskel to the sideline.

4. Get off the field on defense.

Opponents have only converted an almost-unthinkable 17.8 percent of third downs against the mighty Gators. It's doubtful that the number will stay that low, but third downs should be huge in this game.

5. Start fast.

There have been whispers around the SEC that The Swamp isn't The Swamp anymore because of empty seats and less-than-enthusiastic feelings about UF's style of play. This will be a loud crowd early, because it's the first night game since 2011. And Florida is at its best when it's playing from ahead.

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