Most of the time, Florida’s defense has been excellent.
Most of the time, they’ve swarmed runners and draped receivers and put the heat on quarterbacks. Most of the time, they’ve led the way to victory.
Most of the time. But not always.
Florida’s defense was exploited in the second half of the Tennessee game, and throughout the game against Arkansas. That’s enough for questions as the Gators travel to LSU for their rescheduled game Saturday. The Gators are third nationally, and 12th against the run.
The running game, in particular, will post a challenge for Florida with Darren Guice and Leonard Fournette both closing in on 1,000-yard seasons. Guise needs 119 yards and Fournette needs 197.
Florida, again, will struggle with field position and the attempt to make big plays with the 95th-best offense in the nation.
Prediction: LSU 20, Florida 16
FSU at Syracuse
The Seminoles have all the advantages in this one against an outmanned Syracuse team that will probably be missing its best player in quarterback Eric Dungey.
FSU has played better defense lately, a streak they should continue against Syracuse’s backup quarterbacks. Between Deondre Francois, Dalvin Cook, and an emerging group of young receivers, FSU should win a comfortable game. Look for DeMarcus Ware to pad his sack totals (third in the country).
Prediction: FSU 40, Syracuse 14
Miami at N.C. State
When you’re talking about the nation’s teams that are better than their record, you might want to start with the Wolfpack, the hard-luck team of the ACC. This year, North Carolina State has lost by three points in overtime to Clemson, by four points to FSU and by seven points to Boston College.
Now comes Miami, which won last week to stop a four-game losing streak. For the Wolfpack, the key will be keeping the pass rush away from quarterback Ryan Finley. For Miami, it’s getting its offensive weapons free so quarterback Brad Kaaya, finally healthy, can be the difference.
Prediction: Miami 30, N.C. State 28.
USC at SMU
The Mustangs are a trap for the USF Bulls, who face rival UCF next week. If Quinton Flowers can be bottled up, and if SMU forces him to pitch, it could be a closer game than you’d think. Don’t forget: SMU beat Houston earlier this season.
Last week, SMU put up 55 points at East Carolina, a number that should make the shaky USF defense a bit nervous. Look out for Ke’Mon Freeman and Braeden West, who both went over 100 yards last year.
Prediction: USF 31, SMU 30
UCF at Tulsa
Few teams in the nation have had the turnaround that UCF has had this season. Still, taking on Tulsa is a tough task. Tulsa is eighth in the nation on offense.
In a year, UCF may be up for the task. Not this year, though.
Tulsa 30, UCF 17
Old Dominion at FAU
ODU is one of those schools that sounds smaller than it is. In actuality, the Monarchs have won three straight and hung up 51 on Southern Miss last week. They’re a tougher opponent than some might think.
FAU’s hope is that quarterback Jason Driskel stays hot. He’s thrown for 550 yards the last two weeks.
Prediction: Old Dominion 27, FAU 20
Marshall at FIU
The Panthers will try to catch the eye of incoming coach Butch Davis in this one, but it won’t be easy.
Quarterback Chase Litton of Marshall threw for four touchdowns last week, showing there is a little danger to the Thundering Herd despite a 3-7 record. Still, there should be a new energy to FIU. Look for quarterback Alex McGough to have a good night.
Prediction: FIU 21, Marshall 17
Tampa Bay at Kansas City
The Bucs won last week by taking the ball away from Chicago several times, but no one’s better at that than the Chiefs, who have won 17 of their last 19 at home. One of the league’s best secondaries awaits for quarterback Jameis Winston.
Prediction: Kansas City 24, Tampa Bay 13
Jacksonville at Detroit
In a year after Calvin Johnson left, the Lions were supposed to return to the basement. Instead, Matt Harrington has led Detroit to a share of the NFC Central lead. Jacksonville has played better that you’d think, though, and a good secondary gives the Jags a chance.
Prediction: Jacksonville 21, Detroit 20 (upset)
Miami at L.A. Rams
The Dolphins aren’t very good, but they have a defense capable of giving rookie quarterback Jared Cook a hard time in his first game. As always, Miami’s chances depend on whether it can spring running back Jay Ajayi.
Prediction: Los Angeles 20, Miami 16