As a collective, Florida State’s offense doesn’t match-up favorably with Florida’s No. 12-ranked defense.
Seminoles running back Cam Akers, however, has the full attention of the Gators.
Ranked the No. 59 all-time prospect by 247Sports, Akers hasn’t let FSU’s futility hinder his production.
In addition to having already eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark, Akers has 17 touchdowns, matching his combined touchdown total as an underclassman.
The junior was singled out by UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at the top of the week as UF reconvened to prepare for the team’s final home contest, and Florida’s defensive personnel seemed to receive the message loud and clear as practice commenced.
“Cam Akers is an unbelievable back,” senior linebacker David Reese said. “That’s a guy we’re going to have to stop, stop the run with, make them beat us passing.”
While it hasn’t come against defenses of Florida’s caliber, the ‘Noles have had some success in the passing game with quarterbacks James Blackman and former transfer Alex Hornibrook. FSU’s passing offense ranks No. 30 in the nation at 277.5 yards per game, and pass-catching options such as Tamorrion Terry (892 receiving yards) and D.J. Matthews (33 receptions) could present challenges for UF’s secondary.
Still, the message is clear: stop Akers to make FSU’s offense one-dimensional.
“Cam, that’s a ballplayer. I have nothing bad to say about him or the running backs they got over there. They’ve got some really good players over there despite the season they’re having. The internal stuff, they can’t control that,” Gators defensive end Jon Greenard said. “But I just know they’ve got some good ballplayers over there and they’re going to come out with everything, all their punches, just like we will, too. Expect a dogfight.”
For much of the year, Florida’s rushing defense has mirrored that of the competition; when the Gators face a team with a threat in the backfield, the team often gets gashed. More than half of the 1,215 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns allowed by the Gators through 11 games this season came during Florida’s daunting mid-season stretch against Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Georgia.
In that stretch dating from Oct. 5 to Nov. 2, UF allowed more than 100 yards per game in each contest — although one could point to injuries to Greenard, Jabari Zuniga and Jeremiah Moon as to why the Gators struggled to contain the run during that span.
Those games aside, the Gators have allowed an average of 76.7 rushing yards per game this season — a figure more in line with Florida’s defensive mindset.
For Florida to secure its first victory at home over FSU in a decade, UF’s defense will have to stop the run — a tall task, yet one the Gators have been capable of when healthy this season.
With Zuniga set to make his return, UF’s defensive line is anticipating a return to form Saturday night, which more than likely could spell bad news for Akers.
“He’s a great back, I give credit when credit is due. We’ve just got to wrap him up and tackle him, take him to the ground,” junior defensive tackle Kyree Campbell said. “It’s FSU, we play them every year, so a win against them will complete the season for us.”