Jacksonville Sports Day

BEAIRD: Del Rio Returns for Gators; FSU Hosting Wake Forest

Sports Day college football columnist Brent Beaird previews this weekend’s matchups.

MISSOURI (2-3) AT FLORIDA (4-1): The best news of all for Gator fans is quarterback Luke Del Rio is back from his knee injury. Even some of the players this week said they were more comfortable with Del Rio than Austin Appleby. This is not throwing Appleby under the bus, Del Rio is the leader of the team and you can’t lead by sitting on the bench. There are several players with minor injuries, but the off week allowed most of them to heal including left tackle David Sharpe.

Sophomore Jordan Scarlett has earned the right to be featured running back moving forward. Freshman Lamical Perine has earned the backup role. Mark Thompson, the biggest of the backs, has been a bit disappointing. Still, Thompson and Jordan Cronkrite are in the mix.

Missouri had a good defense and a bad offense last year. This year is just the reverse. The Tigers are No. 11 in the conference in total defense, No. 9 in passing defense and tied for No. 11 in rushing defense. Missouri allowed LSU to total a school-record 634 yards last weekend.

Quarterback Drew Lock leads the SEC in passing his sophomore season. He has improved steadily since having to start periodically during his freshmen season due to the inconsistency of Maty Mauk. A rested Gator team beat Missouri to head into another off week with only one loss..

FLORIDA STATE (4-2) HOSTS WAKE FOREST (5-1): FSU might have salvaged its season with a dramatic 20-19 win over Miami. Jacksonville product DeMarcus Walker blocked the PAT after a late Hurricane score. Former Nole receiver Ermon Lane said after the Louisville loss, he knew it was time to switch to safety. Lane had four tackles against Miami. Senior safety Nate Andrews is out for the year after tearing a pectoral muscle in the Miami win.

The Seminoles defense limited Miami’s rushing attack to 62 yards on 28 carries. Cane quarterback Brad Kaaya was held to 214 and two touchdowns along with an interception. Junior defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi finished with a game-high seven tackles.

Dalvin Cook ran 27 times for 150 yards, and his lone reception was a 59-yard touchdown catch. In three games against the Hurricanes, Cook has rushed for 474 yards and four touchdowns.

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson has done a nice job with this team. The Demon Deacons have a better record than FSU for the first time in memory. Wake Forest defeated Syracuse 28-9 last week in the rain and wind. Wake has started 5-1 for the first time since 2006.

Linebacker Marquel Lee led the way on defense with 15 tackles including 12 solo stops and 5.5 tackles for loss. Cade Carney gained 104 yards rushing with one touchdown while quarterback John Wolford ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns. FSU should win this game at home, but Wake will make them earn it with its improved play.

MIAMI (4-1) HOSTS NORTH CAROLINA (4-2): How quickly can the Canes rebound from the difficult loss to FSU? Time is of the essence because coach Larry Fedora has a dangerous Tar Heel team. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky, running back Elijah Hood and receiver Ryan Switzer make up one of the best offenses in the ACC. Coach Mark Richt said on Monday morning morning that offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. If Odogwu can’t play then Tyree St. Louis would replace him.

The penalty problems remains with the Canes recording 10 for 110 yards against FSU. Richt is also concerned with the offensive line protecting Kaaya. Miami has dismissed highly touted freshman WR Sam Bruce for violations of team rules. Bruce is free to transfer to another school and be eligible next season

UNC could do nothing in the inclement weather last week which resulted in a 34-3 loss to Virginia Tech at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels gained 131 total yards on 62 snaps, averaging 2.1 yards per snap. Trubisky was only 13 of 33 for 58 yards with 2 interceptions. The offensive line struggled all day with its run blocking and pass protection. I’m going with a close one here with UNC having more firepower.

UCF (3-2) HOSTS TEMPLE (3-3): UCF had an unexpected bye week this past Saturday as Hurricane Matthew forced its game against Tulane to be postponed. Since losing to Michigan and Maryland, the Knights have two straight wins, including an impressive 47-29 victory against East Carolina. Quarterback Justin Holman started in the win against ECU, but completed only 11-for-29 passes and being intercepted twice. Will Holman or McKenzie Milton quarterback this week?

The defense has vastly improved in a year, even though the pass defense is ranked No. 81 in the nation allowing 238 yards per game.

Temple is coming off a tough loss to Memphis in which the Owls jumped out to a 13-0 lead before falling 34-27. Quarterback Phillip Walker threw 59 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Temple kicker Austin Jones is 10 of 12 on field goal attempts. Temple is struggling and UCF will benefit with a win.

SOUTH FLORIDA (5-1) HOSTS UCONN (3-3): Quarterback Quinton Flowers, who has thrown 11 touchdowns against three picks, has led the Bulls to a 5-1 record and an average of 35 points per game. The USF defense is allowing 24.8 points per game.

UConn beat Cincinnati last week on the strength of their defense. The Huskies held the Bearcats to two yards rushing, and will now look to contain the explosive Bulls offense that averages 35.2 points per game.

The USF defense is only allowing 350.6 yards per game. UConn has struggled to rush the ball averaging 134.5 yards. The UConn offense is ranked No. 105 in the nation averaging only 360.8 yards of total offense per game. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs is completing 61%, of his passes. USF will reach bowl eligibility with a win here.

Brent Beaird is a sports writer for Gator Bait magazine and the Clay Sun edition of the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville, Florida. Brent, who is also a Heisman Trophy voter, is the college football analyst for First Coast News TV (ABC/NBC) in Jacksonville. Brent is also featured on 1010XL sports radio in Jacksonville. He also does a weekly segment on several stations across the South.


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