FOOTBALL

Gator Gameday: 3 questions for Florida football in Las Vegas Bowl vs. No. 16 Oregon State

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Three questions for the Florida Gators heading into Saturday's matchup with the No. 16 Oregon State at the Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium (2:30 p.m., ESPN)

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How will Florida quarterback Jack Miller III perform in his first career start?

Miller has gotten reps with the first team in practice this the beginning of the month in an effort to get timing with receivers and in rhythm with the entire offense. He sat out until late October with a broken thumb he suffered in the second week of training camp in August.

A former four-star prep standout from Scottsdale, Ariz., Miller will get an opportunity to show he's capable of winning the starting quarterback job next season.

"One of the things that gets overlooked a little bit with Jack and his situation is the fact that he was our number two (quarterback) for quite a while, spring practice, the entire summer, OTA process, most of training camp, and he's been back for probably six weeks," Napier said. "He's been able to practice, has great chemistry, knows these guys. There will be some things that come with being a first-time starter but as he settles in, I think he will prove to be a really effective player."

Can the Gators establish the run against a tough Oregon State defensive front?

The best way for the Gators to get Miller comfortable in his first career start is to establish the run. But it won't be easy against a physical Oregon State defensive front that ranks second in the Pac 12 in stopping the run, allowing just 114 yards per game.

Florida, which ranks third in the SEC in rushing offense at 213.7 yards per game, will look to establish the one-two punch of Florida running backs Montrell Johnson Jr. (827 yards, 10 TDs) and Trevor Etienne (705 yards, 6 TDs).

"They are obviously one of the top defenses in the Pac 12," Napier said. "So, I think they play really hard. It's a tough group. We've got a ton of respect for what we see. They've got good players at every level. There's no questions that will be one of the challenges within the game."'

How will the Gators handle the morning start and three-hour time change playing on Pacific Coast Time?

The Gators will play their third morning start of the season in the bowl game against Oregon State with the 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time kickoff. Florida came out flat in the first half of an 11 a.m. local start in a 41-24 win over Texas A&M and flat the entire game in an 11 a.m. local start in a 31-24 loss to Vanderbilt. Napier said the Gators have had since Tuesday to adjust to the time change.

"Each day we're getting a little more used to it, and certainly we're getting the same amount of rest, the same amount of sleep," Napier said. "The first day is probably the biggest challenge, my kids got here yesterday, and we went to dinner, and they fell asleep before dinner was complete. I think the first day is the biggest challenge and after that you settle in really well."

Key matchup: Florida tight end Dante Zanders vs. Oregon State safety Kitan Oladapo

Zanders isn't a pass catch threat for the Gators but his ability as a blocker in pass protection and picking up the blitzing Oladapo will be important in the matchup against the Beavers. The 6-foot-1, 214-pound Oladapo is a physical safety who has posted 8.5 career tackles for loss and 3 sacks.