Four games in and the No. 9 Gators remain an enigma. Close calls and injuries have hampered the team through the season thus far, but it remains in playoff contention, though the schedule gets no easier.
Florida will potentially face three top-10 teams — Auburn, LSU and Georgia — in four games.
But first, the Gators face FCS opponent Towson on Saturday at 4 p.m. which will essentially act as a dress rehearsal before the meat of their schedule is upon them. They will need to see top play from the entire team.
Defensively, there is little to worry about.
The Florida defense is tied for first in the nation in sacks (20), 10th in the nation in scoring defense (44 points allowed) and 23rd in total defense (285.3 yards allowed per game).
Though the defense has been hobbled with injuries, most notably cornerback C.J. Henderson’s knee injury suffered in the home opener against UT-Martin, it has played well with second and third string players in. It should have a suitable test against a Towson offense led by Tom Flacco, brother of Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco, who’s already eclipsed 1,000 yards and six touchdowns through four games.
“If we can get healthy, we possibly could be an elite defense,” Mullen said to the media on Monday. “We’ve had just so many injuries that we’ve had to deal with, but our guys have come up, and the next guy up comes to play.”
On the offensive side of the ball, there are more question marks.
Junior quarterback Kyle Trask will need to continue his upward trajectory if his team is to do the same. The once-backup quarterback filled in for starter Feleipe Franks in the fourth quarter against Kentucky on Sept. 14 after he went down with an ankle injury. Since then, he has completed 29 of his 41 passes for 419 yards, including a 293-yard performance against Tennessee last week and three total touchdowns.
One target Trask has relied on is sure-handed tight end, Kyle Pitts. Against the Volunteers with Trask, the sophomore had four receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown.
“He is a very athletic tight end, and he is very physical, big body, and gets open,” Trask said. “He has probably one of the best hands I have ever seen, too.”
Trask will assuredly look to Pitts as one of his favorite targets against Towson and beyond, but the pass game won’t work without a reliable run game to press the defense up.
While Florida has triumphed in every game this season, the lackluster ground attack has been a root cause for a lot of its struggles on offense.
The Gators average 136.8 yards per game on the ground, good for 91st in the country. The run game will surely be an area of focus for Florida against a Towson team ranked No. 10 in the FCS.
Offensive line coach John Hevesy, whose unit will be a focal point as the team tries to establish that run, said with all the upsets already this season, the team can’t look too far ahead and expect good results.
“You’d be kind of stupid to look past a week when you see what goes on in college football right now every week,” he said. “So, to me, if you sit there and think you’ve reached the pinnacle of what you’re doing, it’s a quick trip to the outhouse from the penthouse.”
Contact Dylan Rudolph at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @dyrudolph.
Tight end Kyle Pitts had the most productive game of his UF career against Tennessee last week. He caught four passes for 62 yards against the Volunteers, including a touchdown.