Game preview: Florida vs. Jacksonville St.

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
8:00
AM ET
Jacksonville State (6-5) at No. 6 Florida (9-1)
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Florida Field, Gainesville, Fla.
Pay-per-view

Gators to watch

[+] EnlargeMatt Jones
AP Photo/Wade PayneFlorida freshman running back Matt Jones has run 33 times for 113 yards and a touchdown in 10 games this season.
RB Matt Jones: Going on the assumption that the Gators get up big and play a lot of young players in the second half (although we thought that last week, too), Jones should get some pretty significant work, especially with Mack Brown out with an ankle injury. Jones has run for 113 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries in spot duty. He hasn’t done much lately, though. Since carrying the ball 10 times for 45 yards against Kentucky, he has touched it only 10 times in the last six games, including six carries for 24 yards against Missouri.

SS Matt Elam: This likely is Elam’s last game at Florida Field because he’s expected to leave early for the NFL instead of returning for his senior season. He is such a versatile player and the Gators lean on him pretty heavily for a lot of things. He lines up near the line of scrimmage to help in run support, can play as a single high safety as well as two deep, and is also pretty solid in man coverage.

QB Jacoby Brissett: He’ll be making his first start since the opener and should put up some pretty decent numbers considering Jacksonville State has one of the worst defenses in the Football Championship Subdivision. Two things on which to focus: How quickly does he get rid of the ball, and how does he react to the blitz. Those are two important issues that he’ll have to deal with against Florida State next week if starter Jeff Driskel can’t play.

Gamecocks to watch

WR Alan Bonner: Bonner turned in one of the most impressive games by a receiver in the country regardless of division: 10 catches for 235 yards and five touchdowns against Tennessee-Martin. He ranks fourth in school history with 111 catches and third in school history with 1,964 receiving yards. He also holds the school record in punt return yards (972). He’s one of JSU’s biggest playmakers.

RB Washaun Ealey: The former Georgia player -- he’s the guy whose eyes Brandon Spikes tried to gouge in 2009 -- has run for 638 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He had a stretch in the middle of the season in which he ran for at least 108 yards in three consecutive games. His totals in two games against UF when he was at Georgia: 28 carries, 107 yards, one touchdown.

LB Rashad Smith: Smith is tied for the team lead in tackles (70, along with LB Ben Endress), has forced two fumbles and broken up three passes. He had 14 tackles and intercepted a pass against Austin Peay last weekend to win Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Key matchup

Florida CB Jaylen Watkins vs. Bonner

Watkins has quietly had a really good season. The junior has eight pass breakups (two behind team leader Marcus Roberson) to go along with three interceptions and 28 tackles. He and S Josh Evans have been the Gators’ most improved defensive backs. Bonner (5-foot-11, 168 pounds) is the Gamecocks’ top target (45 catches) and he’s turned in a lot of big plays: TD catches of 66, 34 and 35 yards and a 71-yard reception that led to another score.

By the numbers

4 -- Number of victories, in 15 tries, for Jacksonville State over FBS teams. The Gamecocks’ only victory against a team from a BCS league came in 2010, when they beat Ole Miss 49-48 in two overtimes.

33 -- Number of victories that Charlie Pell recorded as head coach at Jacksonville State (1969-73) and at Florida (1979-84).

86 -- Florida has recorded 86 big plays, which the school defines as runs of 10 or more yards and passes of 20 or more yards. By comparison, the 2008 and 2009 teams had 144 and 147 big plays, respectively.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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