Brissett starts Saturday for Gators
Maybe, just maybe, No. 7 Florida will get to relax Saturday.
The Gators (9-1) have played three consecutive nail-bitters, losing to rival Georgia and then edging Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Florida returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the final seconds against ULL last week to avoid overtime and possibly stave off the biggest upset in school history.
The Gators return to Florida Field for their home finale Saturday - the last game at The Swamp for 18 seniors - against lower-division Jacksonville State (6-4). The Gamecocks, a middle-of-the-pack team from the Ohio Valley Conference and the Football Championship Subdivision, should be overmatched at every position.
Then again, Florida hasn't completely overwhelmed anyone this season.
The Gators have really struggled on offense the last three weeks, and now will be without starting quarterback Jeff Driskel.
Fellow sophomore Jacoby Brissett will make his fourth career start, his first since losing the quarterback competition in the season opener. Brissett also started two games in place of John Brantley last season.
"I've got a lot of confidence in Jacoby," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "It's his opportunity and I'm looking forward to seeing him play."
Brissett has completed 9 of 13 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown this season. He sparked Florida's come-from-behind victory last week against the Ragin' Cajuns, replacing Driskel in the second half and throwing a 3-yard TD pass to Quinton Dunbar to tie the game with 1:42 remaining.
Defense and special teams did the rest - no surprise since those units have carried the Gators most of the season.
"We don't let it bother us too much," safety Josh Evans said. "Sometimes in the game, it can be hard to deal with, but just worrying about what we've got to do and go out there and work on our adjustments and let it play its way out. That's the best thing we can do about that."
With Driskel uncertain to return for next week's game at Florida State, the Gators are hoping to gain some confidence against Jacksonville State with Brissett under center. The Gamecocks rank 108th in the FCS in total defense.
"For us, we have to handle what our matchups in the game," Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe said. "We are not overmatched, but we are challenged greatly. We have to play as good as we can play. The biggest part of these games honestly is play within yourself, play within your system. We have to make plays and execute, and I think a mistake in any game will cost you. I think a mistake has a chance to cost you more greatly in games like this."
Florida is paying Jacksonville State $500,000 to make the trip to Gainesville.
The Gators haven't exactly gotten their money's worth with recent pay-for-play games. Florida trailed lower-division Furman 22-7 last November before rallying, and played tight games against Bowling Green and Louisiana-Lafayette this season.
Given last week's close call, next week's huge matchup in Tallahassee and "Senior Day," Muschamp doesn't expect his team to have any sort of letdown against the Gamecocks. The Gators have won 50 consecutive games against teams outside the Bowl Championship Series and are looking to go 7-0 at home for just the third time.
"You don't have many opportunities to run out there and accomplish what we've accomplished," Muschamp said. "I think that's a lot of motivation. The last time a lot of these guys are going to come running out of that tunnel."
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