Idaho at Florida: Today’s storylines

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Florida kick returner Valdez Showers (10) is tackled after a 64-yard opening return against Idaho in the Aug. 30, 2014 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It was the game's only play. More lightning struck, prompting the game to be delayed again. It was declared a no contest around midnight. [Rob C. Witzel/Staff photographer]

Today

Who: Idaho (4-6) vs. No. 15 Florida (7-3)

When: 12 p.m.

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Vegas line: Florida by 39½.

Series record: First meeting, sort of. The teams started a game in 2014, but it was called after a lengthy lightning delay and torrential downpours.

What’s at stake?

Florida has hopes of making a New Year’s Six bowl and can’t afford a slip-up in its final two games of the regular season. Idaho ends its season in Gainesville.

Senior Day for juniors?

More than 20 seniors will be making their Swamp farewell today. The big question now is how many juniors also will be playing in their final home game for the Gators? UF underclassmen come out early for the NFL draft every year, and this year likely will be no different. Defensive end/outside linebacker Jachai Polite is at the top of the list of juniors possibly leaving. His Twitter handle is @RetireMoms, so you know he has NFL money on his mind. And with the year he’s having, he would seem a likely candidate to declare for the draft. The other juniors on the list are running back Jordan Scarlett, wide receiver Van Jefferson and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. We’ll see how these players react at the game’s conclusion.

Twenty Florida players will take part in “senior day” festivities before the game. The class has been a part of two SEC Eastern Division titles and compiled a 30-18 record, including 21-11 in Southeastern Conference play.

Six fifth-year seniors who joined the Gators in 2014 are playing for their third UF coach: Khairi Clark, C’yontai Lewis, Moral Stephens, Jorge Powell, Kavaris Harkless and R.J. Raymond.

Florida-Idaho Part II

The Gators and Vandals were supposed to play each other for the very first time back on Aug. 30, 2014, but Mother Nature put the kibosh on it. The game was canceled due to unsafe field conditions following more than four hours of lightning delays and heavy rain. After several delays, the game finally kicked off at around 10 p.m. But after the Gators returned the opening kickoff 64 yards, more lightning was reported in the area and the teams were sent back to the locker rooms. At around midnight, the game was finally ruled a no contest and everyone went home.

Ending where it began

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes. Idaho seniors Dorian Clark and David Ungerer were expected to make their college debuts in that 2014 game in The Swamp. Instead of starting out here, this is where they are going to be playing the final game of their college careers. Clark, a cornerback from Jacksonville, has recorded 32 tackles and six pass breakups this season, while Ungerer, a wide receiver, is having a career year. He leads the Vandals with 66 receptions for 692 yards and has 1,048 all-purpose yards.

Key matchups

Florida vs. Idaho senior defensive end/outside linebacker/tight end Kaden Elliss:

We’re making this Florida vs. Elliss because the Gators are going to have to contend with this versatile and dynamic athlete on offense, defense and special teams. Ellis is a legit three-way player. He’s the starting Buck linebacker, the No. 2 tight end and he plays on special teams. He makes plays in all three phases. In two games last season, he had at least one sack and a touchdown reception, a rare combination, for sure. He literally plays all over the field. He plays tight end, slot receiver and H-back on offense. He plays defensive end, at both outside linebacker spots and as a stand-up edge rusher on defense. He’s on the kick block teams on special teams. So, the Gators are going to see a lot of No. 3 (Elliss’ number) today. One thing they don’t want to see is him making a lot plays all over the field. Former NFL player Luther Elliss, an Idaho assistant, is his father.

  • Idaho’s beleaguered defense — the Vandals rank 94th in the Football Championship Subdivision in yards allowed — against Florida’s up-and-down offense. The Gators should have a size, speed and talent advantage at every position.

First-timers

Florida has won 18 consecutive games against first-time opponents. The streak includes 14 wins against current Football Bowl Subdivision teams and four wins against current FCS teams, like Idaho. UF’s last defeat was to Michigan when the schools met for the first time in the 2003 Outback Bowl.

The Gators expect to have a size, speed and talent advantage over the Vandals, who are finishing their season on the road.

“You’ve got to come up with everything you can to give your guys the best chance they got,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.

Players to watch

Idaho: LB/TE Kaden Elliss. The senior lines up all over the field on defense and plays multiple positions on offense. He also could see snaps on special teams as a kick-blocking weapon.

Florida: WR/RB Tadarius Toney is averaging 11.3 yards a touch as a receiver and wildcat quarterback. He has 384 yards of offense, including 179 the last two games against Missouri and South Carolina.

Facts & Figures

The Vandals are 0-5 on the road this season. … The Gators are one of only six FBS schools with seven wins after having a losing record a season ago. Cincinnati (9-1), Utah State (9-1), Syracuse (8-2), Georgia Southern (7-3) and Virginia (7-3) are the others.

Today’s game questions

  • Will true freshman quarterback Emory Jones see extensive playing time?
  • The Gators gutted South Carolina with the running game. Can they do the same against an Idaho defense that is giving up 214.7 yards rushing a game?
  • Can the Florida defense cut back on the explosive plays given up in recent games?
  • With the new redshirt rule in place, will we see some true freshmen play who haven’t played yet or only played in the first game or two?
  • Idaho is going to be a tough draw. Do the fans show up and make The Swamp feel like The Swamp?

Click back Monday for Andreu’s answers

Andreu’s pick

Florida 49, Idaho 10

(Season record: 5-5)


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Old bad family joke: “What did Delaware?” “Idaho…Alaska!” UF Florida doesn’t do a first half romp the joke’s on the Gators. Gotta get the starters off the playing field by the intermission. Hopefully this turns into a big send-off for our seniors and a packed or nearly packed stadium to celebrate the turnaround this head coach and these players have forged.
    And we need to see, as Robbie so we’ll write, how that cluster of juniors react after the game. I’m thinking Van Jefferson returns though I’m much less hopeful for the other three.