Arkansas-Florida Preview


After dealing with an illness at the beginning of the season, Matt Jones appears poised to play a significant role in Florida's methodical offense.

The 18th-ranked Gators' defense, meanwhile, will try to slow down Arkansas' potent rushing attack while trying to extend its lengthy win streak in the series Saturday night.

Jones missed a portion of fall practice and the season opener against Toledo on Aug. 31 because of a viral infection. After gaining just 96 yards over his first two games, the sophomore shattered his career high with 176 in last week's 24-7 win at Kentucky.

The effort helped the Gators (3-1, 2-0 SEC) maintain their position as the NCAA's best in time of possession at 38 minutes, 59 seconds. That's 2:32 more than any other team and 5:20 more than Arkansas in 13th place.

While he's content with that style of play, offensive coordinator Brent Pease is hoping to see some quick strikes before Florida heads into a daunting stretch that includes visits to No. 6 Georgia, No. 10 LSU and No. 13 South Carolina.

"To say that we're always going to carry it, have that time of possession, is probably not our total plan," Pease said. "I think you feel comfortable in doing that. You've got a lot of good things going.

"But sometimes you still stress that you want to have explosive plays and you hope you get those where you're scoring in two or three, which limits your time of possession. That wasn't the way it worked out (against Kentucky). So I think there's some give and take in it."

The Gators will first try to send Arkansas (3-2, 0-1) to its ninth straight loss in the series and third in a row overall. The Razorbacks haven't beaten Florida since the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl, when they were members of the Southwest Conference.

First-year coach Bret Bielema has lost more than two in a row only once in his career, a four-game skid with Wisconsin in 2008.

After blowing a 17-point lead at Rutgers on Sept. 21, the Razorbacks couldn't overcome an early 14-point deficit in last week's 45-33 loss to then-No. 10 Texas A&M.

"It's a totally different perspective for me," Bielema said. "I mean, I knew coming in and taking this job that there were some things we were going to have to go through. ... I told our guys after the game, I said, "We're not there yet, but this climb up the mountain has been a lot of fun, and when we get to the top it's going to be really fun to know what you did.'"

Bielema's team, though, managed to surpass 200 rushing yards for the fourth time this season and freshman Alex Collins had 115 or more for the fourth time. Collins ranks sixth in FBS with 597 yards on 100 carries.

Sophomore Jonathan Williams has 477 yards on his 73 attempts but has been limited to a combined 78 in the past two weeks.

It might be difficult to break out of that funk against Florida, which has the NCAA's No. 1 rushing defense (53.5 yards per game) and second-ranked overall unit (202.5 ypg). The Razorbacks are 31st in total defense but have given up a combined 923 yards in the past two games after yielding 759 during their 3-0 start against unheralded competition.

Arkansas allowed Texas A&M to rush for 262 yards after giving up an average of 92.5 on the ground in its first four games.

The two teams enter this game with relatively inexperienced quarterbacks but both have played well of late. Florida's Tyler Murphy has completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 290 yards and has rushed for another 120 in his two games since replacing Jeff Driskel, who is out for the season with a broken leg.

"One of his strengths, his demeanor and how he handles things," coach Will Muschamp said. "He is extremely intelligent. He doesn't get caught in the moment, so to speak, as far as his emotions. And that's something you have to have at that position."

Brandon Allen returned from a shoulder injury in last week's game, and threw for a career-best 282 yards and three touchdowns. His return helped the Razorbacks gain 483 yards after totaling just 283 at Rutgers.

"I saw a feisty, aggressive, angry, competitive young man Saturday night that can win a lot of football games," Bielema said.

Florida is 3-0 all-time in Gainesville against Arkansas but needed a 27-yard field goal with nine seconds left for a 23-20 home win in the most recent meeting between the schools Oct. 17, 2009.