November 25, 2011
Five on the Spot: Muschamp's defining moment?
Florida faces off against Florida State in Saturday's regular season finale with a chance to end what has been a disappointing season on a high note. If UF is to win, these Gators are on the spot to lead the way.
* John Brantley - It's one thing to have a career-best game against Furman, and it's another to overcome all the obstacles you have faced as a student-athlete and take down a rival at home two days after Thanksgiving.
Brantley has the chance to do just that on Saturday.
Every Florida fan that grows up wanting to play for the Gators dreams of throwing a winning touchdown pass against Florida State in The Swamp.
For that opportunity to be provided for a legacy, on Senior Day, in the last regular season game of his collegiate career against an opponent he grew up despising is something that simply should not be wasted.
Brantley has a lot going for him Saturday. He will be the healthiest he has been since Oct. 1, is coming off the best passing game of his career and has three other players on offense also looking to make some noise in their last game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Brantley is also going against the No. 30 pass defense in the country which, though good, ranks below five teams he has already faced this year.
He may have earned the start against FSU in 2010, but Brantley only threw the ball 12 times and compiled just 52 yards with a touchdown (20-yard pass to Robert Clark) and an interception. Though it was not his fault, the Seminoles outscored the Gators 28-0 from the second quarter on last year and embarrassed UF in Tallahassee.
Florida State, which beat Miami on Nov. 12, is looking to capture the theoretical state title. Brantley - whose Florida team has already lost to Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina this year - is in search of that one signature win he needs to make his career in the orange and blue complete.
* Jeff Demps & Chris Rainey - The Gators' veteran halfbacks have a tough task ahead of them Saturday.
Also competing for the final time in The Swamp, Demps and Rainey will go up against the No. 3 rushing defense in the country that is allowing just 2.38 yards per carry and a total of 84.36 yards per game.
Considering Florida's running game has been up-and-down all season and Florida State's defense tackles exceptionally well, UF's duo will not only have to play well but also take advantage of every opportunity they get.
Numerous times this season, Demps or Rainey have stumbled while hitting the corner, slipped while trying to cut back or otherwise been stopped behind the line of scrimmage while trying to do a bit too much.
Saturday the duo must focus on hitting the holes created by the offensive line hard and gaining whatever tough yards they possibly can before trying to break out for an extra-long gain.
Sustaining drives will be integral for the Gators, and a running game that can chip away with 3-4 yards per carry (as opposed to 1-2) can go a long way to helping Florida's offense remain balanced, which will in turn give Brantley the ability to throw the ball downfield against lighter coverage.
* Will Muschamp - Now "on the spot" three weeks in a row, Muschamp continues to search for his signature victory in his first year at the helm of the Gators football program.
Florida has lost to all five ranked opponents it has faced this year and (not counting Furman) has not defeated a team with a record at .500 or better.
As I noted last week, the best way to get the fan base off your back is to make them forget about losing to Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia AND South Carolina all inside of six weeks with a revenge victory against a hungry Florida State team.
UF has not dropped a game to FSU at Florida Field since 2003 and considering how many streaks have already been broken this season (in a negative way), Muschamp does not need to add one more to his first-year resume.
Should the Gators drop this game and fall to 6-6 on the season with all six losses coming against rivals and big-time opponents, Muschamp's seat will be scorching hot in 2012 whether athletic director Jeremy Foley or many of his supporters like it or not.
* Senior Class - Sure, I'm cheating a bit by plugging in an entire group to the fifth "spot" but there is plenty of justification for me doing so.
Many Florida players have talked about "sending the seniors out right" with a home victory on Senior Day against Florida State. That's great. But the only way that is going to happen is if the senior class has a part in it, too.
The Gators' seniors will speak to the team Friday evening and have as good a chance as any coach does to provide that extra motivation for their teammates to go out and play up to their potential on Saturday.
Aside from Brantley, Demps and Rainey, Florida has Jaye Howard, Dan Wenger and William Green to provide leadership on the field. All have an opportunity to impact the game from both a playmaking and emotional standpoint.
UF has not lost on Senior Day since 2003 and if the Gators' seniors have just one goal on Saturday, it should be to ensure that winning streak expands to eight-straight years.
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