Back when everything seemed positive, anyone scanning Florida’s schedule trying to project the Gators’ won-loss record this season likely would have not hesitated when they came to the third game.
They would take one look at the opponent and instantly check the “W” box next to Colorado State.
Eight days ago, today’s game in The Swamp seemed like a sure thing, a gimmie win for the Gators. But not now, not after what happened one week ago today.
Exposure is what happened. Kentucky exposed the Gators as not being nearly as good, or nearly as tough and physical, as they thought they were coming off their opening rout of Charleston Southern.
The Gators were manhandled by the ’Cats, losing both lines of scrimmage. And when you lose the line of scrimmage, you usually lose the game, which Florida did.
Getting beat up by Kentucky means one thing: every game is going to be an adventure from here on out, and there are no sure wins on the schedule, maybe not even Idaho late in the season.
Colorado State obviously isn’t the gimmie win everyone had been assuming up until last week.
While the Gators were getting pushed all over the field in the 27-16 loss to Kentucky, the Rams were rallying from a 27-9 deficit in the second half to stun another SEC school, Arkansas, 34-27.
Following the deflating loss, the Gators have had to endure a long week where their physicality and toughness have been questioned by everyone, including their coaches
Meanwhile, out west, the jacked-up Rams went through preparation soaring with confidence, looking forward to this chance to take down a second straight SEC school.
“That win certainly gives them a lot of confidence coming in here this week,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “How they won the game, coming from behind. In two of their games, furious comebacks. That can build a lot of confidence in a team that they’re always in the game. No matter what’s going on, they have the opportunity to come back and compete.”
The Rams’ confidence was up after their big win. It probably went through the roof when they were watching tape of Florida’s performance against Kentucky.
Where the Rams are the strongest (the passing game), the Gators are the most vulnerable (a depleted secondary that is missing its best player, Marco Wilson).
Colorado State quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels, a graduate transfer from Washington, and his receivers have been lighting up every secondary they’ve faced.
Carta-Samuels and wide receiver Preston Williams, a transfer from Tennessee, have become a lethal combination.
Carta-Samuels is fifth in the FBS in passing yards per game (367.3) and fourth in completions per game (28.0), while Williams is fourth in receptions a game (9.0) and fifth in reception yards a game (130.3).
Carta-Samuels and Williams hooked up 12 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the upset of Arkansas.
The Rams are averaging 455.3 yards of total offense a game.
“They’re good,” UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “They’ve got talented wideouts, they have a quarterback that can spin it, their running game is solid, their tight end is really athletic. I think they’re a really good team.
“They’ve been in SEC stadiums before. They went to Alabama last year and put 23 points on them. They just beat an SEC West team in Arkansas. So we understand we have a challenge and need to play well.”
The Rams are a dangerous opponent, one that is capable of springing another upset. It’s a team that has UF’s attention, for sure.
But the Gators spent most of the week focusing more on themselves — and trying to be tougher and more physical. The practices have been demanding, and the players seem to have responded in a positive way.
“I feel like we’re stepping up to the plate a lot more in physicality, and I feel like it’s going to show up on Saturday,” junior offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor said.
It better, because this is a resilient Colorado State team that’s come here expecting to win.
What last week tells us is they have a chance.
“They’re a team that no matter what, whatever the situation is, they’re not out of it,” Mullen said. “They’re right in the middle of it, no matter what the situation is. It’s going to be a challenge for our guys. Against this team, you’ve got to be ready to play four quarters. No matter how the scenario plays out, it’s a four-quarter game against this team. Get ready to go.”
Note: As part of former Gators coach Jim McElwain’s $7 million buyout to leave Colorado State in 2014, Florida is paying CSU $2 million for today’s game. Florida agreed to pay Colorado State $3 million over six years. McElwain agreed to pay $2 million out of his own pocket. McElwain is now an assistant coach at Michigan.