The No. 9 Florida Gators face a rare early season non-conference test when they travel to No. 24 Miami to take on the Hurricanes this Saturday for the teams’ first meeting since 2008.
The Gators are coming off of a 24-6 win against the Toledo Rockets. The Hurricanes easily defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls 34-6 behind a strong performance from running back Duke Johnson.
This rivalry dates back to 1938, with Miami leading the all-time series 28-26. Florida won the previous meeting, in Gainesville in 2008. However, this could be the last time these two meet for a while. With the SEC expanding its conference schedule to nine games and Florida’s annual series with Florida State, there is no incentive for the Gators to play another non-conference game against a team from a power conference. With that being said, it should only add to the intensity of Saturday’s game.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on throughout the game.
Return of some familiar faces
A few key players will return to the field for the Gators this week. Starting running back Matt Jones returns from a viral infection that has kept him out for the better part of a month. Mack Brown filled in admirably against Toledo, but Jones is the bigger, more talented back. Also returning for the Gators are a handful of players who were suspended for the season opener, key among them are linebacker Antonio Morrison and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy. The defense looked just fine without them last week, but their presence should only make the unit that much stronger. Also returning will be defensive tackle Darious Cummings and offensive lineman Quinteze Williams. Wide receiver Latroy Pittman remains suspended.
Who steps up at wide receiver next to Trey Burton?
The Gators’ offense faced its fare share of criticism this week for its “vanilla” performance against Toledo. Apart from senior wide receiver Trey Burton, who led the team in receiving with five receptions for 69 yards, no other receiver stepped up. Quinton Dunbar had a typical two catches fro 22 yards, and Solomon Patton had one catch for 21 yards, but dropped a wide-open pass that would have gone for a big gain. True freshman Ahmad Fulwood had one catch for five yards and fellow freshman Demarcus Robinson did not record a catch but did a nice job of blocking downfield. It wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the youngsters step up. But one thing is clear, for the offense to take the next step, someone else will have to emerge next to Burton.
Containing Miami RB Duke Johnson
There is on doubt that keeping Miami’s star running back in check will be a key point of emphasis in Florida’s defensive game plan. Johnson is coming off the best game of his career, rushing for 186 yards on just 19 carries against FAU. The Gators boast one of the best front sevens in all of college football, if they can contain Johnson, it would force Miami to rely on quarterback Stephen Morris and his group on inexperienced receivers.