Tampa Bay Sports Day

BEAIRD: Hogs Host Gators, ‘Noles Look to Bounce Back, USF Off

Sports Day college football columnist Brend Beaird previews this weekend’s key game involving state teams.

FLORIDA (6-1) AT ARKANSAS (5-3): This is the pivotal game for the Gators. If they are able to beat Arkansas then a win over South Carolina means even with a loss to LSU the Gators can still make consecutive trips to the SEC title game. The Hogs are led by tough quarterback Austin Allen who threw for over 400 yards on the Alabama defense. The Gators must stop Raleigh Williams III who is a load at running back. The Hogs receivers are one of the strengths of the team with the likes of Drew Morgan, Keon Hatcher and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. Florida’s biggest mismatch is between it’s defensive line against the Hogs offensive line.

Florida beat Georgia 24-10 last week as the Gators defense held the Dogs to 164 total yards. Arkansas had a week off after the 56-3 loss to Auburn. Allen threw for 187 yards and one interception while the rushing game was limited to 25 total yards. The Gator defense will once again be the difference in a big road win.

FLORIDA STATE (5-3) AT N C STATE (4-4): How soon can the Noles rebound from a tough loss to Clemson? The Noles had an opportunity to beat Clemson with the tremendous performance by running back Dalvin Cook, but the offensive line couldn’t protect quarterback Deondre Francois on the last drive of the game.

Clemson beat FSU 37-34 last week. It was the first time in 10 years that FSU lost to Clemson at Doak Campbell Stadium, and it marked the first time FSU has lost consecutive games to Clemson since the Tigers won three in a row from 2005-07. Cook scored four touchdowns. The Seminoles were penalized 13 times for 111 yards in the loss to Clemson. Cook has gone over 1,000 yards in three straight seasons and needs 192 yards break Warrick Dunn’s school career record of 3,959 yards

The Wolfpack lost to Boston College last week 21-14 for their third consecutive loss. Quarterback Ryan Finley finished with a career-best 307 passing yards and two touchdowns, but he threw two interceptions—his third straight game with multiple picks.

Raleigh has been a house of horrors for the Noles in the past. The Wolfpack are reeling partly because they are struggling to run the ball even with capable tailback. Matthew Dayes. The Noles need to find a way to shore up their offensive line. For some reason, line coach Rick Trickett has been reluctant to try some new personnel. The month of November would be an opportune time to experiment since FSU is not playing for titles this season. The Wolfpack continue to struggle because the Noles will right the ship with a win.

MIAMI (4-4) HOSTS PITTSBURGH (5-3): The Canes desperately need to break a four game losing streak. During the last four games, the running game has disappeared partly because the offensive line has become a revolving door for defensive linemen to harass quarterback Brad Kaaya. Miami allowed eight sacks against Virginia Tech and then Notre Dame collected 12 tackles for loss.

Last week against Notre Dame, Miami rallied from a 20-point deficit before losing 30-27. The Fighting Irish won on a 23-yard Justin Yoon field goal with 30 seconds left and spoil the Hurricanes 27-0 run.

Pitt’s secondary continues to struggle as Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans battled through a right ankle injury to throw for a career-high 406 yards and two touchdowns in a 39-36 Hokies victory. Kaaya finally has enough protection to lead the Canes to a home win.

USF (7-2) IS OFF: South Florida scored touchdowns on their first six drives in last week’s win over Navy. The seventh drive ended with a fumble at the 1-yard line. USF finished 12 -for-16 on third down. USF finished with 629 total yards. The 52 points tie for the most allowed by Navy since 2012. Coach Willie Taggart is now 14-4 in his last 18 games.

UCF (4-4) HOSTS TULANE (3-5): UCF lost a difficult game to Houston last week. Houston held UCF to 29 yards in the second half of the Cougars’ comeback win, including minus-5 yards in the third quarter. UCF led 24-3, but UCF’s first seven drives of the second half went for minus-8 yards. The Houston defense forced four turnovers in the game, three of which came in that second half, and the offense scored 28 straight for a 31-24 win. Tulane lost to SMU last week, 35-31. UCF returns to the positive side of the ledger this week.

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.