Florida Gators vs USF Bulls Preview

Florida Gators vs USF Bulls, UF -28.5, 1:00PM EST on ABC

Previous Game Results

Florida Gators

Florida Gators 35 – Florida Atlantic Owls 14

Quarterbacks

The Florida Gators employed a two-quarterback system in the first game of the season. Emory Jones played the majority of the time, getting 59 snaps. He went 17/27 for 113 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He averaged 4.2 yards per attempt. Jones also rushed for 74 yards on 10 carries. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him as a 43.1 (out of 100) for the game. Anthony Richardson played 26 snaps for the Gators. He was only 3 for 8 passing for 40 yards, with one of the completions going for 36 yards. Richardson was much more effective on the ground, however. He rushed for 160 yards on 7 carries, a 22.9 average. He also scored a touchdown on a 76 yard run. PFF graded him as a 83.9 on the day, heavily carried by his rushing ability.

Running Backs

Malik Davis was the leading rusher for the Gators in terms of running backs, with 104 yards on 14 carries, a 7.4 yard average. He also had a touchdown. PFF graded Davis at 84.1 for the game. Dameon Pierce only carried the ball 6 times for 31 yards, a 5.2 average, but also had 5 catches for 25 yards. Demarkus Bowman had 4 carries for 20 yards, a 5 yard average. Nayquan Wright had 3 carries for 5 yards and 1 catch for 4 yards, and Lorenzo Lingard had 2 carries for 6 yards.

Wide Receivers

The Gators didn’t have a ton of passing production, with only 20 completed passes. Ja’Markus Weston led the way with 3 catches for 44 yards, a majority of those yards coming on a chunk play from Richardson. Rick Wells had 5 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. Trent Whittemore had 1 catch for 18 yards. Jacob Copeland had 1 catch for 15 yards, and Justin Shorter had 4 catches for 11 yards.

Defense

Zach Carter was the most impressive player on the defense. He racked up 4 tackles with 3 sacks, and earned a 91.9 PFF grade.

USF Bulls

USF Bulls 0 – NC State 45

Quarterback

The Bulls also played two quarterbacks. Cade Fortin went 7 for 20 for 41 yards, just 2.1 yards per attempt, and also threw an interception. He added 23 yards on the ground on 5 yards for a 4.6 yard per carry average. Timmy McClain, a freshman, went 7 for 13 for 126 yards, a 9.7 yard per attempt average, but also threw 2 interceptions. He added 16 yards on the ground on 4 carries.

Running Backs

USF did not have any single player get more than 8 carries. They ran the ball 32 times for 104 yards, just 3.3 yards per carry.

Wide Receivers

Xavier Weaver was the best receiver for the Bulls against the Wolfpack. His explosion was beneficial to the offense, catching just two balls but getting 73 yards out of it. One of the catches was for 44 yards and the other was for 29.

Defense

Linebacker Andrew Mims was the team’s leading tackler with 14 tackles. They gave up 232 passing yards on 26 attempts, a 8.9 yards per attempt average, and also 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. The Wolfpack also ran the ball 40 times for 293 yards, and average of 7.3 yards per carry, and scored 4 touchdowns on the ground.

What to Watch For

1. Passing Game Improvement

The passing game for the Gators last week was just abysmal. The offense looked out of sorts most of the time and just couldn’t get much going. They lack the playmakers to be able to create after the catch as effectively as last year, and will need to be able to get the ball down the field to create explosive plays rather than try to let the receivers create themselves at or behind the line of scrimmage. The tight ends also did not catch a single pass last week.

2. Corner Two

The Gators have yet to have anyone step up and for sure take the corner two spot. While some have played better than others and should be favored at the moment, no one has separated themselves enough to have any decision be final. This game can be valuable to perhaps the two most talented corners on the roster after Kaiir Elam, Elijah Blades and Jason Marshall Jr. Blades getting experience in the Gators system after transferring in late in the year will be a valuable. Marshall, as a true freshman, has shown signs of the talent that made him a five-star prospect, but simply is young and makes mistakes common among inexperienced players. Getting him reps now can help him potentially be able to earn more playing time both next year and even later this year. Marshall and Blades’ talent is enough to keep them in the competition and gives them probably the highest upsides of any of the corners.

3. Interior Defensive Line

Florida has had an influx of talent on the interior of their defensive line through the transfer portal. With the additions of Daquan Newkirk and Tyrone Truesdell from Auburn, Antonio Valentino from Penn State, and also a true freshman in Desmond Watson, the Gators can make up for what they lost from last year and then some to play next to a budding star in Gervon Dexter.

4. The Two QB Systems

With both teams employing two quarterbacks in their first game of the year, it will be interesting to see how it shakes out in game to. For USF, McClain looks like the clear choice, with much better efficiency in the passing game as well as being a much younger player. For the Gators, it is a bit more complicated of an issue. Anthony Richardson has more long-term potential for sure, but may not be as good of a quarterback at the moment. However, he also played better than Emory Jones last game, and if that trend continues, Dan Mullen will have no chance to ignore it. Richardson had accuracy struggles, but as a redshirt freshman, it is not the biggest concern. Accuracy can improve a bit for young players, and the ball leaving his hands is just a thing of beauty. His elite running ability at the quarterback position also helps tremendously. For Emory Jones, the way to shut down any controversy is quite simple: become an effective and efficient passer. If he can show the ability to hit both intermediate and deep throws as well as properly read the defense, the job is his without a doubt (at least for this season). However, if he continues to struggle in that area, a quarterback controversy could be at hand. With how poor the Bulls’ defense was last game, I expect much better performances out of both quarterbacks.

Keys to the Game

1. Run The Ball Down Their Throats

This one is quite simple. They could not stop NC State at all on the ground. Florida has a better and deeper running back room, as well as a better offensive line, and both quarterbacks that they play are major running threats. There is no reason the Gators should not eclipse 300 yards rushing while still trying to get a significant amount of reps in the passing game.

2. Don’t Turn The Ball Over

The Gators had two interceptions in the previous game, and that is two too many against a significantly inferior opponent, and there will be an even more stark skill gap in this game. If they don’t turn the ball over, they should easily run away with this game.

3. Put Their Quarterbacks in Chaos

This is Todd Grantham’s dream game. A very bad quarterback who will probably be replaced very early on in the game for an inexperienced, freshman quarterback who lacks high end skills and tools. Blitzing him early and often can be very beneficial, as well as disguising coverages in the pre-snap.

Prediction

Florida Gators 49 – USF Bulls 13

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