Most savvy Florida fans have circled the Arkansas game on the calendar, knowing that Saturday will be the team’s best shot to secure a sixth win and bowl eligibility following the inevitable loss to Georgia.
The Razorbacks just fired their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and are 0-5 in SEC play (2-6 overall). Florida is also undefeated at home this year and will play in front of a sellout crowd.
Billy Napier lives in the same reality as the rest of us, but he isn’t counting any chickens before they’re hatched. He’s taking Sam Pittman’s team as seriously as possible in the build-up to Saturday’s contest.
“We need to be operating at our best,” Napier said Monday. “Firing on all cylinders. We need to lead our people. We need to impact our people and get consumed with preparing for this game. You know, I do think Arkansas, although their record doesn’t reflect it, they’ve been in every football game. This is a (team) that’s lost a lot of close games.
“I do think that they’ve played really good defense for the most part, and I know offensively they’ve made a change and know Sam Pittman personally. I have a ton of respect for him as a coach and a man, and I do think they’re a lot closer than their record indicates. So this will be a challenge.”
Napier noted that Arkansas’ coaching changes the way the team prepares. The Florida defense can’t get too comfortable with the tape from this year since someone else will be calling the shots.
Wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton will be calling the Arkansas offense this week. Napier knows he has experience with game management as a former quarterback and he is familiar with the team’s personnel enough to make sound decisions on the fly. Still, Pittman’s influence should sneak in somewhere during the game.
Napier was asked about securing bowl eligibility this weekend, but he decided to dodge the question. Maybe it’s better to wait until the game is played before discussing the effects of the results.
“I think there’s an element to (securing bowl eligibility),” he said. “Certainly, that could happen this week, but ultimately I don’t necessarily think we’re thinking about that as much as we’re talking about we’ve got to get consumed with the things that can affect the outcome of Saturday, right?
“There is a benefit to bowl games. There’s no question about that. You know, I do think with the team that we have in particular that could be beneficial.”