In their last big road test against a balanced offense, the Florida defense mysteriously disintegrated in the second half against Tennessee. Was that an anomaly? Or could it happen again.
We may find out Saturday.
Arkansas will clearly be the defense’s biggest test since Tennessee because the Razorbacks are so balanced. Austin Allen is a very good quarterback who will be throwing to probably the best set of receivers the Gators have faced this season, and the Hogs have an effective power running game to complement the passing game. It’s an offense that can keep a defense off balance.
Since the loss to Tennessee, the defense has been dominant. First by shutting down the running game and making opponents one-dimensional, then bringing heat on the quarterback. Knowing that, I have a feeling the Razorbacks will try to set up the running game with some early success in the passing game. If Arkansas does achieve balance, it could be a tough day for the defense. This is a very capable offense that scored 30 points on the Alabama defense, so this is a legitimate challenge for the Gators.
On the other side of the ball, the Gators should have some success against an Arkansas defense that gave up 543 rushing yards in a 56-3 loss at Auburn two weeks ago. But, then again, with this offense, who knows. The Gators have a way of making struggling defenses look good, and that could very well be the case again Saturday, especially on the road. The Razorbacks likely will put seven and eight defenders in the box and put the game in the hands of Luke Del Rio, whose lack of arm strength keeps coming into question.
Overall, this is going to be a tough test for the Gators in a very hostile environment. With a win, Florida could clinch the Eastern Division title at home next Saturday against South Carolina. But the Gators really can’t afford to start looking ahead. If they do, they’ll come home with a damaging loss Saturday night.
The belief here is the Gators will do just enough on both sides of the ball to escape with a win.
Prediction: Florida 28, Arkansas 27