MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Florida Gators’ run defense is the best in the nation, but it’s going to get a big test this Saturday when the run-heavy Arkansas Razorbacks come to Gainesville.
Arkansas is making strides as a run-first team under former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema. The former Badger was known for his smash-mouth style of football in the Big Ten and has brought that same mentality to the Hogs and the SEC.
The Gators allow just 53.5 yards on the ground per game under head coach Will Muschamp, a defensive mastermind. The Hogs will push the run as the team has averaged 237 yards per game on the ground.
It’s the irresistible force meeting the immovable object on the football field. So far this season Florida’s four opponents have rushed for 50, 50, 66, and 48 yards in their respective games.
“They’re a power team,” said Florida safety Cody Riggs. “Nothing we haven’t seen before, but we have our work cut out for us.”
Arkansas has seven 100-yard rushing performances this season, four more than any other team in the league. Alex Collins, a 5-foot-11, 206-pound freshman from Fort Lauderdale, is second in the SEC in rushing. He’s averaging 119 yards on the ground, 25 more than teammate Jonathan Williams.
“They’re gonna be physical,” Gators defensive tackle Damien Jacobs said. “They’re gonna line up and run it there, and they’re gonna run it there until you stop them. We’ve gotta strap it up this week. It’s gonna be fun.”
The interior of the Gators defense figures to get a big test and without defensive end/tackle Dominique Easley, the tackles will have to respond. Still, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said with the athletes across the defensive line, running the ball will be tough.
Florida will be entering one of the toughest stretches of its schedule in the next few weeks. After Saturday’s game against Arkansas, the Gators have to head to Death Valley to play the LSU Tigers. The next week they make their first trip to Columbia to play an improving Missouri Tigers team.
After a week off, the Gators return to play Georgia for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. A winnable game against Vanderbilt follows and then a trip to South Carolina looms large on the weekend of November 16. The Gators finish off the season against Florida State.
At the quarterback position, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen returned from a shoulder sprain last week and threw for a career-high 282 yards and three touchdowns against Texas A&M. Florida’s Tyler Murphy made his first career start at Kentucky and completed his first 13 passes.
Both teams rely on ground games, preferring to have their signal callers be effective and efficient with limited throws. But Allen and Murphy are showing they can do more.
Finally, there will be a familiar face to Miami Hurricanes fans on the Arkansas sideline. Former UM coach Randy Shannon coaches Arkansas’ linebackers and will step foot in the Swamp for the first time since his Hurricanes lost 26-3 to the Gators.
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