The Florida Gators (5-5) host the Furman Paladins (6-4) on Saturday in what is a near must-win game for the Gators as they look to become bowl-eligible with two games remaining on the schedule. A win and the Gators are almost certain to be a postseason participant and a loss means an uphill battle against a Florida State Seminole squad next week that would love nothing more than to go into Gainesville and prevent the Gators from playing in a bowl game.
The good news for the Gators is that Furman, an FCS squad, simply does not match up from a talent standpoint (for an excellent preview of Furman, read this post from Alligator Army). For that reason alone (incidences such as Michigan-Appalachian State notwithstanding), the Gators should be able to take care of business on Saturday.
QB John Brantley, who has completed 107 of his 181 passes for 1479 yards (59.1%) and 6 touchdowns, has looked better running Charlie Weis’s offense, but still needs to find a way to make impact plays. Six touchdowns in eight games is disappointing, especially in an offense that boasts the talent Florida’s does. He should be able to get on track in the lead up to next week’s game against the Seminoles.
RBs Chris Rainey (658 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns) and Jeff Demps (527 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns) lead a Gator rushing attack that can be as dynamic as any in the SEC when both are healthy. Unfortunately, throughout both of their careers, that hasn’t always been the case. However, both are expected to suit up and get their reps this week. Look for Mike Gillislee to get involved as well.
While Brantley has been known to spread the ball around, these are the kinds of games where young players in need of gametime reps get involved. Thus, look for freshman WR Quinton Dunbar to get more looks in this game in addition to the normal looks to WRs Andre Debose and Deonte Thompson and TE Jordan Reed.
The Gators defense has given up three points this year to non-SEC teams and that trend should continue against Furman. DT Dominique Easley wreaked havoc on the offensive lines of Florida Atlantic and UAB and will look to do the same in Saturday’s game. LB Jelani Jenkins has done an excellent job of covering the field sideline-to-sideline and is the leader of the LB corps. S Matt Elam has been a playmaker in the secondary with two interceptions and five passes defended.
The outlook for the Gators is favorable this week. They should be able to handle Furman the same way they did Florida Atlantic and UAB in the beginning of the year, even if they don’t hold this Furman team to three points or less. The Gators should secure their spot in a bowl game in advance of next week’s matchup against the Seminoles.
Prediction: Gators 45, Furman 10