Florida's Saturday matchup (noon, SEC Network / WatchESPN) versus Eastern Kentucky isn't just noteworthy because it will be Will Muschamp's last home game as head coach: It will be Senior Day as well. At least 24 Gators will be playing their last game in The Swamp, but we're sure to see a few underclassmen take off for the NFL after the season, so this could be their final home game, too — we already know it will be Dante Fowler Jr.'s last ride.
But Florida's currently riding a one-game losing streak on Senior Days (thanks, FSU), and what's to say Eastern Kentucky won't make it two straight? Let's take a look.
Now, there's not much game tape readily available for EKU. In fact, I reached out to quite a few writers who either cover the team or have written about them in verified publications this year and couldn't get a response from any of them.
So we'll start by breaking down what FCS teams do best to separate themselves from the pack: SEASON HYPE VIDEOS.
First off, it's 2014. Stop being lazy, go over to the settings button and watch the thing in 1080p.
All right. Starts off terrifying. Darkness. Head coach Dean Hood is in the stadium alone, as if he's plotting something terrible. Suddenly, a student walks on to the field; his backpack drops. The look on his face is of pure terror, but there's nothing out there. What does he see?
Soon other students join him; they don't look scared. Then the first student takes a step forward and, OH, DIP! THE INVISIBLE FORCEFIELD THAT CHANGES YOUR CURRENT ATTIRE INTO PROPERLY FITTED AND SWAGGED OUT EASTERN KENTUCKY FOOTBALL GEAR! THE HORROR!
The rest of the students follow suit. Soon they're all charging to midfield for some sort of scrimmage. (Where is the security? Why are the lights still on?)
The starting wide receiver catches a pass. As he runs down the field, what appears to be Ryan Gosling from Remember the Titans playing safety gets owned by the tight end. The receiver then does a flip into the endzone, which should've been called for taunting. What kind of anarchy is this?
Finally, the EKU letters appear from Tron portals. Fin. I give it an 8 out of 10.
OK, on to the real preview.
As stated before, EKU isn't well knowm around these parts, so let's check with ESPN to see who some of the big names are for the Col...
"And that's all from our end. Back to you, Trevor!"
Seriously, though, junior running back Dy'Shawn Mobley is the focal point for this EKU offense. With almost 230 carries and 1,400 yards this season, Mobley's become the workhorse in a read-option rushing attack. He makes his money off a powerful burst with good one-cut running, shifting through small holes to make plays.
Check out this little duck-and-go.
The running lane is there, but it's small for a guy who's still 5'11", 215 pounds (great running back measurables, by the way). He shows good breakaway speed, and I know it's against Tennessee State, but he'd still out-run Florida linebackers in the open space. Mobley also shows good vision when his offensive line breaks down.
Which it does. A lot.
Mobley sees the middle of the trench being pushed back. A quick hop to the outside and he's off to the races, even with two free players having an angle on him. He'll be Florida's main focus on Saturday, but his legs won't be doing all the rushing.
Senior quarterback Jared McClain is the primary quarterback for what seems to be a usage battle when you look at the statistics. McClain leads the team in passing yards with 1,118 (though he's thrown just five TD passes, and doesn't lead the Colonels in that regard), and has also racked up over 600 yards on the ground. He, like most read-option quarterbacks, makes a living with speed up the middle.
I couldn't fit it all in one Vine, but McClain showed just as much separation speed as Mobley did on his long run, which bodes well against a team that misses tackles. The one-two punch of Mobley and McClain on the ground mirrors a similar style from an Eastern Michigan team Florida faced earlier this year. I think EKU has the better RB and QB in this case, but all of that will depend on the offensive line.
As for McClain's passing abilities, well, when you pressure him...
That play's a bit of an outlier, but it's not uncommon for McClain to force throws off his back foot as opposed to using his legs to get out of the pocket and throw it away. He has a bit of panic to him when his first read isn't there. if Florida can pressure him, he'll throw it up for grabs. I don't like EKU's chances with 50/50 balls.
Let's wrap it up with the defense.
From the limited film I was able to get my hands on, it appears EKU is usually operating out of the 3-4 with three down lineman at the snap. But the Colonels like to blitz quite a bit, and it tends to work out to their advantage.
I've seen EKU run this delayed blitz a few times, and it's predictably successful against FCS (or low FBS) offensive lines. I'm not sure how aggressive they'll be on Saturday, knowing Florida's position players basically win every one-on-one matchup. But the Colonels are 9-2 this year, so, hey, might as well give it your best shot, even if it burns you.
It's worrisome that EKU doesn't have a single player over three sacks this season, but if there's one knight in shining armor for the Colonels on defense, it's redshirt senior defensive back Brandon Stanley. He leads the team in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles. If he forces a couple turnovers, EKU has a chance to keep it close.
If he's relatively quiet, I don't see anyone else on this defense having enough of an impact to make it a ball game. The Colonels have given up 20 points in each of their last six games, and 30-plus in five of them — including 29 points in the fourth quarter of a loss to Tennessee Tech that EKU led by 21 entering the final period.
Will Muschamp's Florida still probably wants to grind out wins. The Gators could grind one out today, even if they come out flat.