Associated Press Photo
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Sports Network) - Having finished their SEC schedule, the seventh-ranked Florida Gators will end their season with three consecutive non-conference games, starting this Saturday against the visiting Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.
Louisiana snapped a two-game losing streak and moved to 3-2 in the Sun Belt Conference following an impressive 40-24 road win over first-place ULM last week. Saturday's bout with Florida marks the second non-conference game the Cajuns will play against an opponent from a BCS conference this season, having lost to Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Sept. 15, 65-24.
Florida wrapped up its SEC slate earlier than any other team, winning seven of eight conference matchups, including last week at home over Missouri, 14-7. The Gators' only loss this season came in a neutral-field clash with Georgia (17-9), and they need a Georgia loss at Auburn this week if they hope to qualify for the SEC Championship Game.
Despite the conclusion of the conference schedule, head coach Will Muschamp says that the approach will remain the same as his teams tries to earn a bid to a BCS bowl.
"It's all the same to me," Muschamp said regarding the non-conference game against Louisiana. "We've got a good football team coming in here, and having recruited in the state of Louisiana where most of their players are from, the south of Mississippi, they've got really good skill people that can run and play and the offense that they have creates issues for us defensively. If you look at the numbers they're putting up, our total concentration is on them, believe me."
The Gators have defeated the Cajuns in all four previous matchups, with the most recent meeting coming in 1996 (55-21).
With 35 ppg and 435.5 ypg, Louisiana has one of the most explosive offenses in the Sun Belt. It logged its fourth 40-point effort against ULM a week ago, paced by a career-high 460 yards of offense and five touchdowns from quarterback Terrance Broadway.
"Terrance came of age tonight," head coach Mark Hudspeth said following last week's game. "He took a lot of heat for the last two losses and like a man, he stepped up and took responsibility. Tonight, he couldn't have been better. He did a great job of finding the open man, ran the ball when he needed to and was diving for the first down marker a couple of times. He was invested in the ball game."
Broadway has been played well all season, especially since taking over the full-time starting gig from Blaine Gautier in October. He has completed more than 64 percent of his passes for 1,624 yards with 12 touchdowns to six interceptions, and he's also made plenty of plays with his legs outside the pocket with 320 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Broadway has a number of receiving weapons at his disposal, as Darryl Surgent, Jamal Robinson, Harry Peoples and Javone Lawson all average more than 50 receiving yards per game and have recorded multiple touchdowns apiece. Robinson made the most noise a week ago, hauling in three catches for 153 yards and two scores.
The rushing attack hasn't been dynamic outside of Broadway, but both Alonzo Harris (462 yards, four TDs) and Effrem Reed (311, three TDs) have brought stability to the running back position.
The Cajuns' defense has left a lot to be desired, as they have allowed opponents to score more than 28 ppg.
Safety Rodney Gillis has been one of the Sun Belt's best defensive players with 47 tackles, four interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Louisiana has just 13 sacks on the season, 4.5 of which belong to Christian Ringo.
Last week's game was an offensive struggle to say the least for Florida, as it earned just 276 yards and 11 first downs, but thanks to a pair of big scoring plays from Omarius Hines and Mike Gillislee, it was able to come away with a win. While the Gators rarely struggle that badly, a high-powered offense is not the reason for their success as they have rather modest numbers (26 ppg, 332.8 ypg).
Jeff Driskel has completed 63.3 percent of his passes and has tossed nine touchdowns against only three interceptions, but he has not been known for his passing prowess as he racks up under 140 passing yards per game. The ability to make plays with his legs salvages his mediocre stat line (348 rushing yards, four TDs).
Gillislee has been a workhorse for the Gators as he's taken nearly half of their 392 carries this season, resulting in 797 yards (4.5 ypc) and seven touchdowns. He has rushed for 100 yards on three different occasion this season, although he hasn't done so since Oct. 6 against LSU.
Only five receivers have garnered double-digit catches. Most of Driskel's passes head in the direction of tight end Jordan Reed, who has caught 33 balls for 371 yards and three touchdowns.
While the offense has gotten by, the Florida defense has been spectacular, ranking fourth in the nation in points allowed (12.1 ppg) and fifth in yards surrendered (286.9 ypg). Last week, the unit picked off Missouri quarterback James Franklin four times, bringing its takeaway total to 22 on the season.
Matt Elam and Jaylen Watkins have been the biggest contributors to the turnover battle with three interceptions apiece. Linebacker Jon Bostic was an All-SEC pick a year ago and he appears to be on his way to another selection this season as he sits with 52 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery.