Oct 25, 2018

Big Ten & SEC Week 9 Preview: Gators, Bulldogs square off in Jacksonville

In the ninth week of the college football season, members of the Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee are making visits throughout Big Ten and SEC country, meeting with fans across both conferences in advance of the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Here’s a look at some of the most highly-anticipated games on the schedule this week:

No. 9 Florida (6-1, 4-1 Big Ten) vs. No. 11 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on CBS

Florida and Georgia will meet on neutral ground this Saturday as the Gators and Bulldogs will battle at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Georgia holds a 51-43-2 advantage in the all-time series, including a 44-41-1 mark in Jacksonville.

Gators first year head coach Dan Mullen, the team’s offensive coordinator from 2005-08, is off to an excellent start in his return to Gainesville. The Gators are the only team in the current Top 25 that finished the 2017 season at or below .500. Furthermore, Mullen is one of only three first-year head coaches with six or more wins this year (UCF’s Josh Heupel and Georgia Southern’s Chad Lunsford)

The Gators defense has been especially impressive this season, as Florida ranks 10th in the FBS with an opponent red zone touchdown percentage of 42.9 percent. Overall, opponents have scored six touchdowns in 14 red zone trips. The Gators’ defense also has 18 takeaways, which is tied for third nationally, trailing only Kansas (21) and LSU (19).  The Gators’ red zone defense and high volume of takeaways have contributed to Florida ranking in the Top 15 nationally in scoring defense (16.6).

Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense, led by sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm, is on pace to set a school record for scoring average in a season. The Bulldogs have scored 40 or more points in five of their seven games this year, and overall, Georgia is averaging 39.0 points per game. (The 2012 team owns the school record at 37.8.) On the other side of the ball, the Dawgs’ defense ranks 13th nationally in scoring defense (16.3) and 16th in total defense (310.6).

No. 19 Iowa (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) at No. 18 Penn State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on ESPN

One of country’s best defensive units will meet one of the nation’s top offenses on Saturday as Penn State hosts Iowa in a Top-25 Big Ten matchup. This will be the 28th meeting between Iowa and Penn State. The Nittany Lions have won the last four meetings and hold a 15-12 advantage in the series, but the last time Iowa and Penn State met with both schools ranked in the Top-25 was 2010, when No. 17 Iowa defeated No. 20 Penn State, 24-3, in Iowa City.

Iowa’s defense leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the country in scoring defense (14.1) and has held four of their opponents to a season-low in points (Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Indiana, Maryland). The Hawkeyes defense also ranks second in the Big Ten and country in rushing defense (79.6) and second in the Big Ten and third in the country in total defense (258.1).

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, the school’s career passing yards leader, leads an offense that ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring (42.6) and third in total yards (480.6). McSorley and running back Miles Sanders have led one of the nation’s best ground attacks this season, averaging 240.7 yards per game, which ranks second in the Big Ten and 13th nationally. The duo is part of a four-way tie for the conference lead in rushing touchdowns with eight each.

No. 12 Kentucky (6-1, 4-1 SEC) at Missouri (4-3, 0-3 SEC) – 4 p.m. on SEC

Kentucky and Missouri will meet in Columbia this Saturday in an SEC East clash. The Wildcats are looking to secure a fifth SEC win and ensure their first winning season in league play in 41 years. Meanwhile the Tigers are looking for their first SEC win of the season. Two of Missouri’s three losses this season have come to Top-10 teams (No. 1 Alabama, then-No. 7 Georgia), with the third loss coming to South Carolina.

Kentucky’s 6-1 record is the best seven-game start to a season for the Wildcats since 2007. The ‘Cats defense has been a huge factor in the team’s success, as the UK defense, led by senior pass rusher Josh Allen (8.0 sacks, 12.5 TFL), is second in the nation, allowing just 12.9 points per game — including four games of yielding 10 points or less.  Kentucky also boasts one of the best running backs in the country, Benny Snell, Jr., who is averaging 124 yards a game (sixth in the nation)

Kentucky’s defense will have its hands full this weekend, as the Tigers offense has been potent at home this season. Led by quarterback Drew Lock, who is averaging 282.7 yards again (15th among FBS QBs), Mizzou is averaging 46.3 points per game at home. Mizzou’s offense will also look to minimize turnovers, as the Tigers are 4-0 this season when they don’t lose the turnover battle; they’re 0-3 when they do.

No. 16 Texas A&M (3-2, 2-2 SEC) at Mississippi State (4-3, 1-3 SEC) – 3:30 p.m. on SEC

Mississippi State will play its third straight game against a ranked team as the Bulldogs host Texas A&M this Saturday. State leads the all-time series against the Aggies, 6-5. A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher has won five of his last six games when coming off a bye, but the Aggies will need to overcome an impressive Bulldogs defense if Texas A&M wants to snap its two-game losing streak against Mississippi State.

Mississippi State’s defense has been one of the elite units in college football this season. The Bulldogs lead the SEC and rank sixth in the nation in total defense (282.4), and second in the SEC and fourth in the nation in scoring defense (13.6). State’s defense has been even more impressive to start games, as the unit allowed its first first-quarter touchdown of the season last Saturday at LSU. However, the TD came after a turnover, with the drive starting at MSU’s 3-yard line

MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald set the school record for 100-yard rushing games (18) with 131 yards on the ground at No. 5 LSU. Fitzgerald has 3,130 career rushing yards and is the only quarterback in SEC history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a career. Fitzgerald’s 107.3 rushing yards per game leads the nation among quarterbacks

Texas A&M’s defense will look to contain the Bulldogs rushing attack led by Fitzgerald. The Aggies run defense is allowing just 81.6 yards per game, which ranks fourth in the nation. The Aggies defense has also been stout on third downs this season, holding opposing teams to just a 22.8 percent conversion rate, good for second in the nation.

Other Big Ten and SEC games being played this week:

Indiana (4-4, 1-5 Big Ten) at Minnesota (3-4, 0-4 Big Ten) – 8 p.m. on FS1

Vanderbilt (3-5, 0-4 SEC) at Arkansas (2-6, 0-4 SEC) – 12 p.m. on SEC
Purdue (4-3, 3-1 Big Ten) at Michigan State (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) – 12 p.m. on ESPN
Bethune-Cookman (4-4, 2-2 MEAC) at Nebraska (1-6, 1-4 Big Ten) – 12 p.m. on BTN
No. 20 Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (4-3, 4-1 Big Ten) – 12 p.m. on FOX
Illinois (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) at Maryland (4-3, 2-3 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on BTN
Tennessee (3-4, 1-4 SEC) at South Carolina (3-3, 2-3 SEC) – 7:30 p.m. on CBS

Click here to check out previews of games from earlier this season.



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