The Gators take home field again this Saturday for the first time in over a month in desperate need of a victory. Off three consecutive losses and now spouting a losing record, Florida (4-5, 2-5) squares its sights on the Samford Bulldogs (4-5, 3-4).
The Alligator football writers Ryan Haley and Michael Hull break down what to expect from Florida’s first Football Championship Subdivision matchup of the year.
Ryan: Even though Florida’s lost eight of its past 10 games against Power 5 opponents and four of its past six games, I really didn't expect to put too much thought into this game. After all, it’s still an FCS team, right?
Then I looked at Samford’s offensive numbers.
The Bulldogs average 36.78 points and 450.7 yards per game. They’ve scored 42 or more points five times in nine games, and they scored less than 27 points only once. Four different players boast at least five rushing touchdowns, five different receivers amassed at least 230 receiving yards and they average 6.0 yards per play.
Look, I get it, it’s still against FCS opponents, and they’re in the Southern Conference. I’m not saying they’re an offensive juggernaut meant to be feared by the college football world, but Florida’s defense is under new management this week after the firing of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The unit offers more questions than answers after allowing an average of 41 points per game over the past three weeks to offenses ranked 63rd, 14th and 102nd in the country in scoring offense, respectively.
Linebackers coach Christian Robinson doesn’t exactly have an impossible task in front of him for his first week at the helm of the UF defense, but it isn’t as easy as the name on the scoreboard might indicate.
With quarterback Anthony Richardson’s availability in question and the Gators reeling from a few losses in a row, I think Florida finds a way to get it done, but the Bulldogs might find the end zone a few more times than the home crowd would appreciate.
Florida 41, Samford 33.
Michael: Like Ryan pointed out, Samford is by no means a cupcake game, especially for a Florida team that is sub-.500 for the first time under Dan Mullen. The Gators just lost to one of the worst teams in the Power 5 by 23 points and fired their defensive coordinator and offensive line coach. They still need to win two of their last three games to even be bowl-eligible. To put it lightly, this team is in shambles.
Samford, meanwhile, has scored 20 or more points in eight of nine games this season and is coming off a 35-14 thrashing of Citadel. However, the Bulldogs have also lost high-scoring affairs to UT Martin, Mercer and Eastern Tennessee State. The Samford defense is ready to be had, giving up 35.89 points and 480.3 yards per game. The Gators offense should be able to have its way with this Bulldogs defense, very much unlike the last Bulldogs they played.
I don’t think Richardson’s availability will play much of a role. All Emory Jones has to do is turn around and hand it off to the likes of Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis and Nay’Quan Wright: Samford allows 229.4 yards per game on the ground.
I think Florida starts to turn the ship in the right direction against Samford Saturday. There’s really nowhere to go but up for this team, and maybe the coaching changes light a spark on defense. UF is favored by 33.5, which I believe is too high. Samford’s offense will score enough to keep this game within four scores, but it shouldn’t be too competitive.
Florida 38, Samford 21
Contact Ryan Haley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley.
Contact Michael Hull at email@example.com, Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33.
Michael Hull is a fourth-year journalism sports & media major and a sports writer at The Alligator. He hosts the weekly sports podcast and has worked on staff for five semesters. In the past, Hull has served as the sports editor, the men's and women's golf beat writer, the volleyball beat writer and the football beat writer.
Ryan Haley, a UF journalism senior with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida, is Summer 2022's Engagement Managing Editor. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.