Tampa Bay Sports Day

BEAIRD: Will Muschamp Returns to Florida Field Saturday

Sports Day college football columnist Brent Beaird looks at this weekend’s matchups.

FLORIDA (6-2) HOST SOUTH CAROLINA (5-4): After a debacle at Arkansas last week, the Gators really need to win this game to continue hopes to make it to Atlanta. The Arkansas game was a true trap game for Florida after beating rival Georgia. The biggest issue for Florida was getting poor play from quarterback Luke Del Rio and the offensive line. Del Rio is out with a shoulder injury this week. Austin Appleby replaces him. It will be vital to get one of the freshman either Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask some snaps also.

Injuries have decimated the Gators this week. The most crucial injuries are linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis and center Cam Dillard. Defensive end CeCe Jefferson is also is out with a foot injury. A big part of the resurgence of South Carolina has come from quarterback Jake Bentley and Rico Dowdle, both freshmen. Amazingly, if Florida wins and Tennessee loses to Kentucky then Florida returns to Atlanta. The Gators should be able to pick up a much needed win to stay in the divisional race.

FLORIDA STATE (6-3) HOSTS BOSTON COLLEGE (4-5) ON FRIDAY NIGHT: First of all, FSU should not be playing this game on a Friday night because it interferes with recruiting. Coach Jimbo Fisher said he has complained to school and conference officials about playing Friday night games. His pleas will fall on deaf ears since the ACC television partners are making out the schedule.

On the field, the Noles got a much needed win over NC State last week. Quarterback Deondre Francois threw for over 250 yards. Dalvin Cook, who is 126 yards away from tying Warrick Dunn’s career rushing record, was held to only 65 yards. Defensive lineman Demarcus Walker, who is in line for an All-American selection, leads the nation in sacks with 10.5. Defensive back Ermon Lane continues his fine work with 10 tackles last week against N C State. The Noles will win this game pretty easy because BC simply can’t score. They are averaging only 19 points per game.

MIAMI (5-4) AT VIRGINIA (2-7): In last week’s win over Pitt, quarterback Brad Kaaya threw for 356 yards and four scores, and ran for a touchdown. Tailback Mark Walton gained 125 yards on just 14 carries. The defense held James Conner to only 40 yards and a score, and the team only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. This should be the Canes second straight win. Kaaya was sacked only once in the Pitt win, which was a vast improvement over games in October.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers, coached by Bronco Mendall, dropped a 27-20 road decision to Wake Forest last week, as quarterback Kurt Benkert threw two fourth-quarter interceptions, with Demon Deacons safety Jessie Bates returning the second one 39 yards for the winning touchdown. Virginia showed some life two weeks ago when they nearly beat Louisville and Lamar Jackson. The Cavs are allowing 445.4 yards per game.

UCF (5-4) HOSTS CINCINNATI (4-5): A win on Saturday means the Knights are able to clinch a bowl game after going 0-12 last season under George O’Leary. Drico Johnson was voted the AAC’s defensive player of the week after scoring two defensive touchdowns during a 37-6 rout of Tulane. He returned his second interception for an 86-yard touchdown, the fourth-longest return in school history. UCF defensive back Shaquill Griffin also added a defensive touchdown. UCF’s defense forced five turnovers. Knight linebacker Demeitre Brim led the team with a career-high 11 tackles

Coach Scott Frost is playing both senior quarterback Justin Holman and freshman McKenzie Milton to prepare him for the future. Holman and Milton each recorded touchdown runs against Tulane Saturday.

Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville, 29-19 in four years, had an argument with a fan after the Bearcats’ 20-3 loss to Brigham Young. UC has lost two straight games and four of its last five. After reaching a bowl game in each of Tuberville’s first three UC seasons, the Bearcats must go 2-1 in their final three games to reach a bowl this year.

UC ranks 118th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 20.6 points per game. The Bearcats have scored only three points in their last six quarters. Gunner Kiel has started the past three games at quarterback. UC is 1-2 during those games. UCF becomes bowl eligible with this win.

USF (7-2) AT MEMPHIS (6-3): USF comes in after a week off needing to run the table their last three games and Temple to lose a game for the Bulls to win the AAC East division and play in the championship game.

Quarterback Quinton Flowers has 27 total touchdowns and needs just 79 yards to reach the 1,000 yards rushing mark. Running back Marlon Mack has rushed for 11 touchdowns so far this season. The Bulls rank 114th in the nation in total defense and allows 30.2 yards per game.

Memphis blew out SMU 51-7 as quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Ferguson has thrown for 2,565 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. This game should be a shootout with USF and Flowers getting a late score to win it.

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, Fla.