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Four things we know about the Florida Gators after their Auburn win

The Gators defense is in the top 20 nationally in every major category.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (11) looks for a receiver as Auburn defensive end T.D. Moultry tries to stop him during the second half on Saturday in Gainesville. [JOHN RAOUX | AP]
Published Oct. 7
Updated Oct. 7

GAINESVILLE — Because of Florida’s mediocre schedule and some too-close-for-comfort wins against teams that have since struggled, we didn’t know a lot about the Gators through their first five games.

That’s no longer true after UF knocked off undefeated Auburn by double digits Saturday. Here are a few things we know as the No. 7 Gators prepare to play at No. 5 LSU this weekend:

RELATED: Where I put the Florida Gators on my latest AP Top 25 ballot

1. The defense is really good, if not great

The SP+ advanced metrics system ranks UF’s defense No. 5 in the nation, behind Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. In more traditional statistics, UF’s defense leads the nation in the red zone, ranks fifth in scoring (9.5 points allowed per game), ninth in passing efficiency, 16th in yards per play and 20th in yards allowed per rush. The Gators’ elite cornerback duo (CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson) is finally healthy, and the unit will get even better Saturday with the expected return of end Jabari Zuniga from an ankle injury. No matter the level, a good defense can keep you in almost any game. And these Gators have a very good one.

RELATED: Florida Gators: Kyle Trask, Jabari Zuniga expected to play this week against No. 5 LSU

2. The skill players are as good as advertised

Florida Gators wide receivers Van Jefferson (12) and Tyrie Cleveland (89) celebrate after Jefferson recovered a fumble during in the season opener against Miami. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]

“It’s got to be one of the best groups around because of the unselfishness…” coach Dan Mullen said. The proof: Seven Gators have between 12 and 25 catches. The top six receivers (including tight end Kyle Pitts) all have between 166 and 280 yards. That’s a testament to how deep and talented the unit is. Against Kentucky, it was Josh Hammond rushing 76 yards for the final touchdown. Against Auburn, it was Freddie Swain turning a 9-yard slant into a 64-yard score. And don’t overlook some of the little things, like receiver Van Jefferson making a key block that helped spring Swain’s touchdown, or Jefferson recovering a muffed punt against Miami.

RELATED: Florida Gators a lock for a College Football Playoff spot? Not just yet

3. The offensive line remains a serious concern

Running back Lamical Perine finished with 130 yards Saturday, but 88 of them came on the breakaway fourth-quarter touchdown. Perine’s run counts, of course, and it was a big play at a big time. But the Gators’ run game otherwise struggled, just as it has for much of the season. Against Division I-A teams, UF’s rushing attack is No. 93 nationally (3.58 yards per carry). The leaky line shows up on passes, too, like the three strip-sacks Auburn had on Kyle Trask. LSU’s elite secondary will challenge UF’s receivers, which makes the Gators’ run game (and offensive line) pivotal this weekend.

4. The Gators bounce back well

Trask called UF “one of the most resilient teams I’ve ever been a part of.” Trask is the obvious example of that. When starter Feleipe Franks fractured/dislocated his ankle at Kentucky, Trask slid in and led the double-digit, fourth-quarter comeback. When Trask sprained his knee against Auburn, blue-chip third-stringer Emory Jones finished the drive and led UF to a field goal. Add in UF’s gritty fourth quarter against Miami, and we know the Gators can rebound from mistakes and find multiple ways to win.

RELATED: ESPN’s College GameDay headed to Florida vs. LSU

Gator bits

• Trask said he’s “day by day” but will be ready to play against LSU. He wore a brace and compression sleeve over his left knee Monday.

• Mullen backed off his criticism Saturday that Auburn made a dirty play on the Marlon Davidson hit that injured Trask. “I don’t think that was being coached or there was intent to go injure him on that play,” Mullen said. “I think that’s something when you look at player safety, we’ve got to really pay attention.”

• Kickoff and TV information for the Oct. 19 game at South Carolina will be announced Sunday. The game will either start at noon, 3:30 or 6.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Florida Gators head coach Mike White, right, takes selfie photos with Gators fan Zev Goodman, 13, during open practice that was available to the public at the Madison Square Garden in New York City on Thursday. Tonight the Nov. 4 Gators take on the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
    Florida State wasn’t ranked but received votes.
  2. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp says he doesn't want to take anything away from Florida, but he doesn't want to keep quiet about the officiating either. MIC SMITH  |  AP
    The South Carolina coach says getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct was "gutless.''
  3. After years of complex Internet-to-TV setups and multiple streaming boxes, it seems the tech has finally caught up with the dream of cutting the cable cord, as several companies, such as Roku and TiVo, have begun offering devices specifically geared to cord cutters.
    Live sports without cable TV isn’t as different as you might think. And that can have serious ramifications across college sports.
  4. Florida's James Houston IV (41) and Umstead Sanders (42) jog through the tunnel before the start of the NCAA college football game against South Carolina Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Columbia, SC. (AP Photo/Mic Smith) MIC SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY LLC  |  AP
    There were two shakeups to Matt Baker’s top five this week, too.
  5. Florida's Kyle Trask throws a pass against South Carolina in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Columbia, SC. Florida defeated South Carolina 38-27. MIC SMITH  |  AP
    The quarterback’s three fourth-quarter touchdowns help UF put the Gamecocks away for good.
  6. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith watches as his team plays against Minnesota on Oct. 5 in Minneapolis. BRUCE KLUCKHOHN  |  AP
    Game-day guide: Plus a look at Penn State-Michigan and a game plan that’s crazy enough to (almost) work for the Vols this weekend.
  7. BYU linebacker Max Tooley (31) tackles USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) during the second half of last week's game at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Game-day guide: And Will Muschamp’s South Carolina tenure looks almost exactly like his time with the Florida Gators.
  8. Florida quarterback Emory Jones (5) throws a pass against Auburn on Oct. 5 in Gainesville. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Kyle Trask and Emory Jones are thriving at Florida, while Willie Taggart is being tight-lipped at Florida State.
  9. Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine runs against Tennessee during the first half of the Sept. 21 football game in Gainesville. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    The Pac-12 has some interesting games this weekend. Too bad no one will be able to watch one of them. Plus: Times staff predictions for week 8.
  10. Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson (12) celebrates his touchdown reception with wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (89) and tight end Kyle Pitts (84) in the first half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: Times college football writer Matt Baker discusses Florida-South Carolina, USF-Navy, FSU-Wake Forest and the conference already out of the College Football Playoff picture.
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