With Florida State week and the SEC championship on deck, this week’s home contest against Florida Atlantic should act as a tune-up game for the stretch run.
The Gators still have plenty to play for, as they’re still very alive in the College Football Playoff race. Here’s some stuff to get you ready for game day.
Florida Atlantic (2-8) at No. 8 Florida (9-1), Saturday at noon (SEC Network)
Weather: 75 degrees, 15 percent chance of rain
Line: Florida is favored to win by 31 points
Numbers to know:
* Jim McElwain is tied with Urban Meyer (2005), Steve Spurrier (1990), Galen Hall (1985) and Ray Graves (1960) for the most wins (9) in his first season as Florida’s head coach. McElwain can set a new record if he can pick up his 10th win of the season against FAU on Saturday.
* The Gators have outscored Conference USA opponents — the conference FAU belongs to — by a combined score of 442-69 since 2000.
* Florida has held five opponents to less than 75 rushing yards this season, which is the most times it has done it in a single season since 2006. The Gators won the national championship in 2006.
* Charlie Partridge is just in his second season as FAU’s head coach, but the Owls have already lost eight games by a touchdown or less during his short tenure. Partridge has posted a 5-17 record as FAU’s head coach.
* Florida and FAU have 53 players who played together across 16 high schools in the state of Florida.
Story lines to watch:
* In-state rivalry?: Let’s not go that far. But there have been some interesting words exchanged between the two teams leading up to Saturday’s game. After last week’s win over South Carolina, Gators coach Jim McElwain told ESPN’s sideline TV reporter that FAU’s roster “is full of guys who wish they were Gators.” Owls coach Charlie Partridge dismissed the comment. “I really don’t make much of it,” Partridge said to reporters this week. “We talked about it with the team. I just asked, hey, did everybody see it? Most of them had seen it. I said, listen we need to worry about getting ready for a game. That’s it.” The fact is that McElwain is right. Most of FAU’s players probably would have preferred to play at Florida and in the SEC. More than 90 players on FAU’s roster are from the state of Florida. What does this mean? Owls players will have plenty to prove Saturday. Will that mean anything on the field? Probably not.
* The return of the Driskel: No, not the one you’re thinking about. Jason Driskel — former Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel’s younger brother — is a quarterback on FAU’s roster. Jason probably won’t start for the Owls, but he is expected to get some playing time. Jason started two games this season while starter Jaquez Johnson recovered from ankle injuries. While Johnson is now healthy, Driskel has still played one series in each of the past three games. That number could go up this week against Florida. “He’s definitely earned the possibility to get more time this week,” Partridge said to reporters this week. “It’s definitely not about the Jeff Driskel story line. It’s more about the fact that (Jason’s) earned the chance to play a little more.” Jeff transferred from Florida to Louisiana Tech in the offseason after becoming a punching bag for Gators fans. Will Gators fans boo Jason? Will Jason have extra motivation going against his brother’s old team? Partridge plans to speak to Jason before kickoff to make sure he controls his emotions. “He’ll smile as soon as I sit down and I know what his reaction will be,” Partridge said. “He’ll say, ‘Coach, I’m good.’”
* The backup plan: Florida hasn’t had much of a chance to play its backups this season. After defeating New Mexico State 61-13 in the opener, the Gators’ next eight victories have come by an average of 12 points. In other words, there haven’t been many blowouts. If everything goes as planned against FAU, Florida should have a chance to get some backups in against the Owls. So which Gators backup would benefit from some playing time? Quarterback Josh Grady. The redshirt senior hasn’t played since Oct. 3 against Ole Miss. With Will Grier out of the fold due to his suspension, Grady is the next man up behind Treon Harris. It’s important he gets some snaps. If the Gators can build a big lead, Grady and a wave of other backups could get their chance.
My prediction: Florida 41, FAU 10.
Anthony’s season picks record: 8-2