GAINESVILLE, Mich. – New year, new quarterback, same result as Florida easily handled Tennessee 34-3 last Saturday for its 14th victory in the last 15 meetings with the Volunteers. Now the eighth-ranked Gators have to avoid peeking ahead and focusing on the wrong Tigers, as FCS foe Towson comes to town Saturday afternoon, one week before Florida battles SEC rival and current No. 7 Auburn.
TV: 4 p.m., SEC Network. LINE: Florida -33
"We talked to the team this week," Florida head coach Dan Mullen said. "Obviously, there will be a lot more hype on next week's game. National hype. It'll be the CBS game of the week. But for us to even have an opportunity to win that game, we have got to improve this week." The Gators continue to move in the right direction, winning eight straight games dating back to last season, and despite the injury-forced switch at quarterback from Feleipe Franks - out for the year with a dislocated ankle - to Kyle Trask, the team extended its streak of games with 24-plus points to eight last week, the first time they have hit that total in that many consecutive games since a 24-game stretch between 2007-09. "This is one of the best football teams I have ever seen on film," Towson head coach Rob Ambrose told reporters. "These guys will challenge for the College Football Playoff. They're really, really good." The Tigers come off a 52-45 overtime loss to Villanova that dropped them five spots to No. 10 in the FCS coaches poll and they will have to find their way at the Swamp without one of their best weapons, senior Shane Simpson, who ranked second in the FCS with 171.5 all-purpose yards per game last season but was lost for the year on Sept. 14.
ABOUT TOWSON (3-1)
Minus Simpson, the Tigers have been relying even more on senior quarterback Tom Flacco, the younger brother of Denver Broncos signal-caller Joe Flacco, and he has completed 77 of 134 passes (57.5 percent) for 1,092 yards and six touchdowns with one interception while also topping the team in rushing (34 carries, 227 yards). Towson is averaging 40 points per game while the defense, led by senior linebacker Robert Heyward (34 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two interceptions) and sophomore linebacker Christian Dixon (30 tackles, four for loss, two sacks) is surrendering 24.8, with the unit proving to be especially generous against the run, allowing 201.5 yards per game. "We don't go anywhere to lose, ever … ever," Ambrose said. "In the end, this will be a great test, a great experience for our kids."
ABOUT FLORIDA (4-0)
After leading the team to a comeback win over Kentucky following Franks' injury, Trask came back to hit 20-of-28 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns last week in his first start for the Gators, although he did lose the ball three times (two interceptions, one fumble). Running back Lamical Perine (team-high 182 yards rushing) continues to get bottled up behind a revamped offensive line and the Gators are averaging just 136.8 yards rushing per game, but they should find running room against Towson. The defense, ranked 10th in the nation in points allowed (11 per game), continues to get after quarterbacks and is tied with Virginia for most sacks in the nation with 20 (five per game), led by Louisville graduate transfer Jonathan Greenard (second in SEC with 3 1/2 sacks), while also producing 10 takeaways, tied for fifth best in the country.
1. This is the first meeting between these teams but the Gators are 4-0 against ranked FCS/Division I-AA teams since 1978.
2. The Gators have three 300-yard passing games in a season for the first time since they produced three in 2009.
3. Florida has given up just seven points in the fourth quarter (a touchdown in the opener by Miami).
PREDICTION: Florida 39, Towson 3