No. 7 Florida plays ULL, then pulls for Auburn

No. 7 Florida plays ULL, then pulls for Auburn

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) No. 7 Florida has one final shot to get to Atlanta.

And the Gators have no control over the scenario.

Coach Will Muschamp's team, which hosts Louisiana-Lafayette for homecoming Saturday, needs Auburn to upset Georgia later in the day to win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division and clinch a spot in next month's league title game.

So Florida (8-1) plays, then watches. That could be a recipe for trouble against the Ragin' Cajuns (5-3). But the Gators insist that won't be the case, especially when they recall what happened last year against lower-division Furman.

Florida came out flat last November and fell behind 22-7 at home before rallying. The scare still resonates with players.

``We definitely can't overlook them,'' Gators linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. ``Looking at the Furman game last year, it kind of reminds me a little bit of them. But I don't think we're looking past them.''

The Gators have won 49 consecutive games against teams outside the six Bowl Championship Series conferences. The streak started after a 17-11 loss to Memphis State in 1988 and includes two wins against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Rajin' Cajuns are 27-point underdogs in this one.

In the program's first ``paycheck game,'' Louisiana-Lafayette lost 65-24 at Oklahoma State in September.

``We'll need to play much better against the Florida Gators, I can promise you that,'' ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said. ``They're a much better football team, obviously, than Oklahoma State. It'll take a great effort by a team, great preparation. We'll need to take care of the ball.

``We didn't take care of the ball at Oklahoma State. You can't go down to Florida and turn the ball over and not play sound and hope to have a chance. They'll smother you.''

Maybe, just maybe, ULL can surprise the Gators. After all, their players are coming off a grueling, eight-game stretch against SEC opponents, have rival Florida State in two weeks and certainly know they need help from Auburn against Georgia.

``We're definitely going to watch the game when we get done, just like we did last week,'' Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ``But you've got to worry about what you can do and kind of stay focused on what we can control.

``It is tough, but at the end of the day, you've got to put what's in the past in the past and worry about what you can do. And what we can do is play well this week.''

The Gators have played well most of the season. It hasn't always been pretty because of offensive struggles - Florida ranks 102nd in the nation in total yards - but defense and special teams have bailed the team out in several close games.

Florida lone loss was a costly one. Had the Gators beaten rival Georgia two weeks ago, they already would be making travel plans for Atlanta. But they turned the ball over six times and lost 17-9.

Now, the Bulldogs just to beat the Tigers to win the East.

Muschamp is trying to turn his team's attention elsewhere, reminding players that the new goal is to remain unbeaten in The Swamp. The Gators lost two games at Florida Field last year and have a shot at running the home slate for just the fourth time since 2000.

It essentially would be a consolation prize if Florida fails to get to Atlanta.

``I think we have one of the great arenas in all of sports,'' Muschamp said. ``We've got a great following. It's very important. We talk about you want to have a special season, it starts at home. It starts with winning at home.

``Having been a visitor here before, I understand how difficult it is to come in here and play well and win a game. So, I've tried to stress it since Day 1 with our players the importance of playing well at home and defending The Swamp.''

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 


— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.


PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.