The Citadel (4-8) at (3) Florida (9-1)
Saturday, November 22nd, 1:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The third-ranked Florida Gators will take on The Citadel in a non- conference mismatch this weekend. Considering the strength of the Florida program, it is unclear what the Gators hoped to accomplish by scheduling The Citadel, an FCS opponent with very little chance of even keeping the score in this weekend's game respectable.
After all, the Bulldogs are 4-8 overall and have lost to the likes of Samford and Georgia Southern. They did manage to halt a seven-game skid last week with a 24-21 Homecoming win over Chattanooga, but this game against Florida represents a monumental leap in competition.
Speaking of the Gators, they are considered by many fans and analysts to be the best team in the nation right now. Since a one-point loss to Ole Miss at the end of September, Florida has gone on a six-game win streak in which it has outscored its opponents 299-63. Last weekend, the Gators handed Steve Spurrier his worst loss ever as the head of a collegiate program in a 56-6 thrashing of South Carolina. Spurrier won a Heisman Trophy as a Florida quarterback and had great success as coach of the program. The Gators have already clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game against top-ranked Alabama, and if they are able to knock off The Citadel and Florida State in these final two games, the matchup with the Crimson Tide will likely decide one of the two teams in the national title game.
Florida has won all 13 of its previous meetings with The Citadel, and the most recent matchup resulted in a 49-10 triumph in 1999.
The Citadel is scoring 28.1 ppg while generating 370.2 total ypg this season. The club relies heavily on its passing attack, as the running game is averaging a modest 3.6 yards per attempt. Bart Blanchard has started all but one game this season, and he has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,679 yards with 22 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. The top receiver for the club is Andre Roberts, one of the best offensive performers at the FCS level. In 12 games, Roberts has hauled in a staggering total of 104 receptions for 1,458 yards and 17 touchdowns, numbers that have undoubtedly attracted the attention of NFL scouts. Asheton Jordan leads the rushing attack with 734 yards and three scores.
In the win over Chattanooga last weekend, Roberts made nine catches for 116 yards but was held out of the end zone on those receptions. He also contributed 43 rushing yards on six carries, and finally did score a touchdown on a 43-yard punt return with under two minutes remaining that proved to be the difference in the game. Terrell Dallas had a pair of rushing scores, and Roberts Blanchard threw for 221 yards in the win.
Opponents are scoring 29.8 ppg against The Citadel, which is allowing 364.8 total ypg. The Bulldogs have allowed 48 touchdowns to opposing offenses, including 25 on the ground. They are permitting 4.7 yards per rushing attempt and 12.2 yards per pass completion, proof that they have struggled against both means of attack. The Citadel has allowed opponents to make good on 61 percent of their fourth down conversion attempts this season, a number that is simply unacceptable. Jordon Gilmore leads the Bulldogs with 99 total tackles, and he has forced three fumbles. As for Terrence Reese, he has 10 TFLs to his credit.
The Citadel played extremely well against the run in the victory over Chattanooga last weekend, as the Mocs were only able to gain 60 yards on 29 attempts. While the Bulldogs did struggle at times against the pass, they played well enough to win overall.
Florida is racking up 44.1 ppg thanks to a balanced offense that averages over 200 yards both rushing and receiving. The ground attack accounts for 5.7 yards per rushing attempt, while the passing game is generating 13.7 yards per completion. At the helm of the offense is Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore last season. Tebow's numbers aren't as gaudy as they were a year ago, but it can be argued that he has been asked to do less because of an increase in viable offensive weapons. The versatile signal caller has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,913 yards and 19 touchdowns against two interceptions. As a runner, he has scored 11 touchdowns despite a modest average of 3.3 ypc. The most exciting player for an offense loaded with speed is Percy Harvin, who leads the team in rushing with 476 yards on just 52 attempts, an average of 9.2 ypc. As a receiver, he has made 33 catches for 519 yards, and Harvin has 14 total touchdowns as a runner and a receiver. Keep an eye on freshmen Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey, explosive freshmen tailbacks who have combined for 874 yards and eight touchdowns.
Last weekend against South Carolina, Florida racked up 519 total yards, including 346 yards on the ground. Harvin was the star of the show, as he ran for 167 yards and two scores on just eight rushing attempts. "Coming into the game, we knew that South Carolina had the number one defense in the SEC," said Harvin. "We thought our offense was the best and we had the best running backs, so we had something to prove." Tebow had a rushing touchdown and threw a pair of scoring passes.
While the Florida offense gets most of the media attention, the team's defense has certainly done its job this season. The Gators are fourth nationally in scoring defense (11.3 ppg), sixth in total defense (274.9 ypg), tied for sixth in interceptions (17), 11th in rushing defense (102.8 ypg) and 14th in pass defense (172.1 ypg). The team has not allowed a single point in the first quarter over the last six games and has surrendered just two first-half touchdowns all season. Florida has 25 takeaways to its credit and has help opponents to 30 percent success on third down conversion attempts. Brandon Spikes leads the defense with 70 total tackles, including eight TFLs. He has also recorded three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown to open the scoring against South Carolina last weekend.
The Gators came up with four takeaways in that tilt and limited the Gamecocks to 173 total yards and six points. "The defense played phenomenal," said head coach Urban Meyer after the game. "They gave us momentum, which was worth 14 points. Hats off to Coach Charlie Strong and the defensive players."
Florida will have this game wrapped up by intermission and would be smart to sit its key players in the second half to avoid potential injury. There is not a more complete team in the nation than the Gators right now.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 70, The Citadel 3
11/19 10:26:16 ET