- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 6 Florida plays host to Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday. It’s the first of three non-conference games for the Gators, who finish the regular season against rival Florida State in Tallahassee. Florida has won the four previous meetings with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Here are five storylines for the game:
1. Gators won’t be grounded: Florida has got to find ways to make some plays down the field in the pass game before the Nov. 24 FSU game. The Gators are going to work on that against the Ragin’ Cajuns. That means better pass protection from the offensive line and the backs and tight ends who have to pick up rushers, as well as better work from the receivers. It might be time to get Raphael Andrades and Latroy Pittman more involved as pass catchers, because Quinton Dunbar and Frankie Hammond have not been consistent enough, although they have come through with several big plays.
2. How much does Gilly get? RB Mike Gillislee set a goal of 1,500 yards this season. It’s probably unreachable, but 1,000 yards is not. Gillislee needs just 203 yards to reach that number. But the question is how much does Gillislee play against ULL? The Ragin’ Cajuns aren’t a BCS-conference team, but they’re a solid Sun Belt Conference opponent, and that should mean significant snaps for Gillislee. If the Gators do get up big, they will play a lot of young players in order to avoid injury, especially with FCS opponent Jacksonville State on deck next week. Only seven players in school history have rushed for 1,000 or more yards in a single season. Ciatrick Fason (2004) was the last to do it.
3. Disciplined defense: ULL runs the spread offense and QB Terrance Broadway is a dual-threat player who has rushed for 320 yards and five touchdowns. UF has had a lot of success stopping those kinds of players from making plays on the ground. The Gators limited Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers, South Carolina’s Connor Shaw and Missouri’s James Franklin. The Ragin’ Cajuns are averaging 435.5 yards and 35.0 points per game.
4. Stay healthy: The Gators are banged up a bit and three players -- KR Andre Debose (knee), RB Mack Brown (ankle) and DT Leon Orr (illness) -- have already been ruled out. K Caleb Sturgis (ankle), LB Lerentee McCray (ankle), LT Xavier Nixon (undisclosed) and LG James Wilson (knee) are expected to play, but they’ll likely get taken out if the Gators can get up big. UF has been remarkably lucky in terms of avoiding critical in-season injuries.
5. Continue to force turnovers: The Gators have forced 22 turnovers, including 15 interceptions. UF forced only 14 total turnovers last season, which was the fewest in a single season in school history since the school began keeping fumble stats in 1950. UF has recorded at least one takeaway in seven consecutive games. The Gators need to keep getting turnovers as a help to the offense, which is struggling to score points. If the defense can give the offense a short field, like it did against South Carolina, it takes a lot of pressure off the offense to drive the length of the field.
9hSam Khan Jr.
3dSam Khan Jr.