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College Football Matchup of the Week: All Eyes on Gainesville

With COVID-19 issues forcing the cancellation of a number of big college football games this weekend, there aren’t as many marquee matchups to highlight. But there is a great storyline in Gainesville, Fla., where a one-time Gators starting quarterback returns to seek his revenge.

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. 6 Florida Gators

The Razorbacks were hit with some sour news this week, as they learned their head coach and leader, Sam Pittman, tested positive for COVID-19. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom will serve as the interim head coach in Pittman’s absence.

The Gators, on the other hand, are coming off a huge division win over the Georgia Bulldogs that puts them in the driver’s seat for a spot in the SEC Championship. In this matchup, the Gators will be facing someone they are incredibly familiar with: QB Feleipe Franks, who began his college career at Florida before transferring to Fayetteville before the 2020 season. Franks’ return to Gainesville and his duel with current Gators QB Kyle Trask should be a great matchup to watch.

QB Feleipe Franks vs. QB Kyle Trask

QB Feleipe Franks will be facing his former team this weekend, a game he surely had circled in his calendar since arriving in Fayetteville. He has been sensational this season for a Razorback offense that struggled greatly against conference competition in recent history. When they defeated Mississippi State last month, the Razorbacks snapped a 20-game SEC losing streak. While most anticipated that the conference losing streak would continue through 2020, Arkansas now has three SEC wins this season.

The Arkansas offense has been resurgent under Franks and first-year offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. Franks has thrown 14 TD and he is completing over 67% of his passes, good for fifth and sixth, respectively, in the conference. The biggest issue for the Razorbacks has been protecting Franks, who has been sacked 18 times on the season, the most in the SEC. He has been sacked at least three times in each of their last five games.

On the opposite sideline, QB Kyle Trask has been incredible and has himself squarely in the Heisman Trophy conversation. Trask was an afterthought until Franks fractured and dislocated his ankle in the third game of the 2019 season; he finished the season 7-2 as a starter and effectively kept the job going into 2020. He currently leads the nation in TD passes (22) and is third in the conference in completion percentage among quarterbacks with at least 150 passing attempts (68.7%).

Something to keep an eye on as this game approaches is the status of TE Kyle Pitts, who is Trask’s primary target in the passing game. He was struck hard by a safety in the middle of the field last week against Georgia and was out for the rest of the game. Pitts currently has 8 TDs this season, which ranks third in the country and most amongst tight ends.

The pass catcher to watch for the Razorbacks is sophomore WR Treylon Burks. He has 23 catches and 4 TD in his last three games. Burks is the Swiss army knife for the Arkansas offense; he is utilized heavily in the pass game and even in the run game with jet sweeps. He is vital to the success of the offense and will be a name to watch heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.