Gators gameday: 3 questions as Florida football takes on No. 16 Florida State

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Three questions for Florida heading into Friday night's matchup at Florida State (7:30 p.m., ABC):

Can Florida get its ground game going again after an off week against Vanderbilt?

Even after rushing for a season-low 45 yards on 21 carries against Vanderbilt, Florida's run offense ranks 15th nationally and third in the SEC at 209.9 yards per game. Certainly, Florida would like to get true freshman Trevor Etienne more involved after he rushed just 4 times for 9 yards last Saturday against the Commodores.

Florida State's run defense has been improved of late, but still ranks seventh in the ACC at 138.0 yards per game.

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Nov 5, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA;  Florida Gators running back Montrell Johnson Jr. (2) runs the ball in the first half against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Can Florida keep FSU edge rusher Jared Verse from becoming a factor in the pass rush?

A projected NFL first round draft pick, Verse has 7.5 sacks on the season, but will face a Florida offensive line that's been solid protecting the quarterback, giving up just 11 sacks in 10 games this season.

"He’s a significant player, relative to affecting the quarterback," Florida coach Billy Napier said. "The guy’s got sacks, pressures and QB hits, and he’s got a pretty extensive menu of pass rush moves. I think the guy’s a good football player, there’s no question about it. He’s got some twitch to him. He’s got some length to him. He’s a guy that I’ve got a lot of respect for. Certainly, he’s made their team better.”

Can the Gators execute better in the red zone after scuffling inside the 20 for three straight weeks?

The red zone has been the dead zone for Florida in November as Florida has scored touchdowns in just 10 of 18 trips inside the 20 in its last three games. Florida is going to need touchdowns --- not field goals -- to pull off an upset against the Seminoles on Friday night.

Key matchup: Florida defensive backs Jason Marshall Jr. and Trey Dean against FSU receiver Johnny Wilson

The 6-foot-7 Wilson, 235-pound creates matchup problems for opposing defense backs with his size and physicality. In addition to catching 33 passes for 649 yards and 5 TDs on the season, Wilson is considered one of the best blocking receivers in college football.

It will be up to Marshall and Dean to keep Wilson from having a big game against the Gators on Friday night. Listed at 6-foot-1, Marshall showed off his 35-inch vertical leap, high-pointing a ball to make his first interception of the season last week against Vanderbilt.

"It's a challenge," Marshall said of facing Wilson. "But it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."