Tampa Bay Sports Day

BEAIRD: ‘Noles Should Rebound, Gators Win this Weekend

Sports Day college football columnist Brent Beaird looks at this weekend’s games involving state teams.

FLORIDA STATE (2-1) AT USF (3-0): This might be an opportunity of a lifetime for coach Willie Taggart’s team to beat FSU while they are down after a difficult defeat to Louisville. The Bulls are unbeaten. They run a zone read scheme with quarterback Quinton Flowers that is similar to what FSU saw last week. Running back Marlon Mack can also give the Noles some problems.

What is wrong with Noles? This would take a while to lay out, but first of all the defense is really struggling with injuries to stalwarts like Derwin James and just being out of position to make tackles. It is also obvious that tailback Dalvin Cook is just not himself. Does he have a shoulder injury or is he too big after putting on some weight in the offseason. Regardless, he is not hitting the holes like he can do.

I still think FSU rebounds this week, but if they are not mentally up for the game Louisville will beat them twice.

FLORIDA (3-0) AT TENNESSEE (3-0): Despite most of the civilized world picking the Vols, I still think the Gators will win to run the current streak to 12 games. Their defense is the dominant unit on the field. Florida has the No. 1 ranked defense in the nation. It’s on par with Alabama. Backup quarterback Austin Appleby doesn’t have to be Peyton Manning. Coach Jim McElwain puts more emphasis on his running backs than his quarterback. Appleby needs to be a game manager. For example, he needs to check out of bad plays into good plays and throw the ball to the right colored jerseys. The biggest mismatch is the Vol offensive line against the Gator defensive line. Florida’s defense must keep quarterback Josh Dobbs in the pocket. Dobbs’ strength is running the ball not throwing deep. If Florida wins the Gators are in great shape with LSU coming to town in two weeks.

MIAMI (3-0) OPEN DATE: No, the Canes have not played great foes, but they have been efficient and effective. Quarterback Brad Kaaya has looked solid. Miami is running the ball as well as anyone in the ACC with Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton. Stacey Coley leads a competent group of receivers.

Still, the biggest improvement is what defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has done. The Canes are among the leaders in rush defense. Miami was up 21-0 at Appalachian State before fans got settled in their seats. The Cane defense limited the Mountaineers to just 2.6 yards per carry and only 2-for-13 on third downs. UM ranks No. 3 in the nation in fewest yards per carry at 1.57. Last year, UM ranked No. 115 at 5.26 yards per carry.

Freshmen linebackers—Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud—have been stellar. Junior defensive end Chad Thomas is developing well under defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski. Miami visits Georgia Tech next week before hosting FSU.

UCF (1-2) AT FIU (0-3): UCF head coach Scott Frost named McKenzie Milton as the starting quarterback this week over Justin Holman. Milton completed 21 of 37 passes for 260 yards in the loss to Maryland last week. The Knights give up six fumbles during their 30-24 double overtime loss to the Terrapins last week. The Golden Panthers under Ron Turner, who is 10-29 in his fourth season at the school, are looking for their first win of the season. FIU beat UCF, 15-14, last season. Alex Gardner, who had 23 carries for 130 yards in the loss to the Minutemen, has been FIU’s most consistent player. I think UCF will keep FIU winless.

Florida State, Florida and UCF are likely to be the big winners for this week. Enjoy the games.

Brent Beaird has been a sportswriter and broadcaster since the early 1990s. He writes for Gator Bait magazine, the Clay Sun edition of the Florida Times Union and Inside The Game Magazine. Brent, who is a Heisman Trophy voter, is a part of the 1010XL sports radio team in Jacksonville. He is also a college football analyst for First Coast News and does a regular feature on Wednesday night on the ABC broadcast. Brent lives in Orange Park, Florida.