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Five things to know about Florida-Arkansas game

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Former Florida teammates Kyle Trask (11) and Feleipe Franks (13) will match talents from opposite sidelines Saturday at The Swamp.

Arkansas (3-3) vs. No. 5  Florida (4-1)

TV: 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN. Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850. Favorite: Gators by 17.5

1. Feleipe Franks’ return to The Swamp

When Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks announced last January that his transfer destination would be Arkansas, many on this end shook their head wondering why. It seemed like a little bit of an odd fit, with Franks heading to the bottom feeder in the SEC West. But this has turned out to be an almost perfect fit for Franks because he is excelling under new head coach Sam Pittman, who has built the offense around what Franks does best. The Razorbacks are a much better team than predicted heading into the season, and Franks is doing a nice job leading this team. He’s completed 67.2% of his passes and has thrown for 1,428 yards and 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions. His presence back in The Swamp certainly makes this a prime-time worthy game.

More:Florida Gators looking forward to hooking up with Feleipe Franks again

2. Meanwhile, back home in Fayetteville

Pittman is in self-isolation due to a second positive test for COVID-19 this week and is relegated to watching Saturday night’s game on television. He has turned the head coaching duties over to defensive coordinator and former Missouri head coach Barry Odom, who is familiar with the Gators and The Swamp. In his four years with the Tigers, he went 2-2 against the Gators, and both of his wins were blowouts. He wrecked the Gators’ homecoming game in Dan Mullen’s first season in 2018, his team humbling UF 38-17 in a game in which Franks was benched and replaced by Kyle Trask. The previous year, in Columbia, his Tigers thrashed the Gators even worse, 45-16 in UF’s first game after Jim McElwain was canned. 

More:Gators notebook: Pittman will not be coaching against Gators

3. Hard-nosed Hogs

When the SEC sent out its revamped, conference-only schedule, this kind of looked like an easy win for the Gators given how bad the Razorbacks have been for several years. But, now, this game certainly is no gimmie for the Gators. They’re going to have to earn it, just like Auburn did and just like Texas A&M did. At 3-3, and with an almost win at Auburn and shutting down Georgia for a half, the Razorbacks are probably THE surprise team in the SEC this season under Pittman, the former offensive line coach at Georgia. Pittman has the players believing and performing, especially Franks, and the Hogs are giving everyone headaches with their fast, aggressive, hard-nosed style of play that reflects their new coach. “He’s come in and done a great job of putting the guys in position to do what they do well," UF coach Dan Mullen said. "And, even better, he’s done a great job creating a winning mindset. And if you see this year, they play with that winning mindset and have been really successful.” 

4. Saturday's game questions

• How badly will Feleipe Franks hurt his former team? Or will it be the other way around, with the Gators getting the best of him?

• If UF tight end Kyle Pitts (concussion) doesn’t play, who steps up to make plays in the passing game?

• Will Kyle Trask throw for four or more touchdowns for the sixth consecutive game?

• Can an improving defense shut down the Arkansas running game?

• After the big win over Georgia last week, will the Gators out flat or fired up?

Click back Sunday for Andreu’s answers

Andreu’s pick

Florida 35, Arkansas 17

(Record: 3-2)

5. Key match-up

Florida defense vs. Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks:

Franks, the former starting UF quarterback, knows the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of many of the Florida defensive players. And many of them know his strengths, weaknesses and tendencies, so this should be an interesting chess match between the UF defense and Franks. The big difference for Franks is a different offense now that has really been built around the things he does best. As a result, he’s probably having the most efficient season of his college career. His coaches and teammates have confidence in him — and he has confidence in them. So, really, in many ways, he couldn’t have found a better fit for his senior season. He’ll be highly motivated to play his best Saturday night — but so will those players opposite him on the Florida defense.