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An interesting night in The Swamp

Pat Dooley
Gator Sports
Last time Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom was at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, his Missouri Tigers won 38-17. Odom will also be the interim head coach Saturday in place of head coach Sam Pittman, who tested for COVID-19 earlier this week.

Here's a good way to remember that time flies, sometimes when you're not having fun unless your idea of fun is wearing a mask to The Swamp or getting a swab up your nose.

But remember when they announced the new SEC schedule? And Arkansas was placed on Florida's schedule for a Nov. 14 appearance in The Swamp?

And we all kind of looked at it and thought, "That will interesting. Feleipe's return. But that's an automatic win."

Boom. Just like that, it is here Saturday night and we almost have to pause and remember the blurry-fast pace of a college football season that took forever to get here and had huge interruptions. 

Let's face it. Saturday night is not about Georgia. It's not about the SEC Championship Game. It's about a plucky team in red and white that will likely have the coach of the year at the end of the season, but won't have him for this game.

Instead COVID-19 victim Sam Pittman will watch the game in his guest house, isolated from everyone and everything except his bulldog Lucy ("She don't say much," the Arkansas head coach said) and watch what has turned into the SEC game of the week, mainly because it's one of the only games this week despite what was supposed to be a full schedule.

It will be kind of strange on a lot of different levels.

I can't remember the last time a head coach was not with his team for a game against Florida in Gainesville, although there were times late in his career where they might have shut off Bobby Bowden's headset.

And certainly, Florida is playing an unfamiliar foe in Arkansas. And yet, there is all kinds of familiarity on the other sideline.

(Stay with me here. Hopefully, I'm not losing you.)

It is different in that we almost never see the players with the Razorbacks on their helmets run out of the southeast tunnel. Arkansas has only played in Gainesville four times and not since 2013. 

Florida won that day to run its record to 4-1 on the season. The hero of that game was Solomon Patton, who took two short Tyler Murphy passes to the house.

The mighty Gators didn't win another game in 2013. 

Sorry, sometimes history can sting.

So, Florida is 4-0 in Gainesville against the Razorbacks, as if that really matters. What does matter a little bit is the other side of this game, the level of familiarity Florida has with Arkansas and vice versa.

Defensive coordinator Barry Odom is the interim coach and we remember him well from the shellacking his Missouri team handed the Gators two years ago.

"It'll be an easy transition," Pittman said. "Obviously, he's played Florida (2-2 at Mizzou). Familiarity just makes you more comfortable."

The irony here is that Feleipe Franks was so bad in that game in 2018 he probably would have lost his starting job to Kyle Trask the following week, but Trask broke his foot in practice. 

And then there is the guy who will be calling plays for Arkansas. Kendal Briles was in The Swamp just last year, calling plays for Florida State. (It did not go well).

"You can look at it both ways," Dan Mullen said. "We know them and they know us. I don't know if it plays a huge part in the game, but you can draw it up both ways."

And, of course, there is Franks, who Mullen acknowledged has probably imparted some wisdom to the Arkansas defensive coaches about what Florida likes to do and what some audibles are. 

"We have a plan for that," said Mullen.

So Odom knows how to beat Florida and Florida knows how to beat Odom and Briles knows what Florida likes to do and Todd Grantham knows Briles' tendencies and Feleipe knows Florida and Florida knows Feleipe.

Got all of that?

One more thing. Will Franks be the first player to be booed by some of the same fans as a Gator player and as an opposing player running out of the tunnel? That's a double whammy.

And have I taken this too far?

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.