Possible Chinks #1:
1. UF run defense may have trouble with Knowshon again. I saw the little back from Arkansas run the ball well against them, but I think they stopped Charles Scott. So, what can we expect?
Here is what I discovered digging into the numbers: Florida's improved 2008 defense is allowing 3.36 yards per carry this season. Their porous and youthful 2007 defense from a year ago allowed a whopping 3.0 yards per carry. Hmmm. Apparently, their run defense is not improved at all. They did have a monster day in stopping LSU's Charles Scott, holding him to a 2.9 ypc on 12 carries.
Here are the notable rushing performances against the Gators this season:
Arkansas: Team had a 5.64 ypc in the game but is only 3.98 ypc for the season. RB Michael Smith (5-7, 173lbs) went 20/133 for a 6.7 ypc.
Kentucky: Team had a 4.27 ypc in the game but is only 3.97 ypc for the season. It was running back by committee for the Cats.
Ole Miss: Team had a 3.68 ypc in the game and has a 4.44 ypc for the season.
McCluster (5-8, 165lbs) went 11/60 for a 5.5 ypc. and Bolden (5-11, 220lbs) went 13/55 and a 4.2 ypc.
The Gator run defense had their most impressive games against LSU (3.08 ypc for the game with a 4.91 ypc for the season) and Miami (1.65 ypc for the game and a 3.98 ypc for the season.)
Of the 7 games Florida has played, they have allowed only 2 teams to attain a higher ypc against the Gators than they have averaged on the season (Ark. and UK.) Those are two of the last three opponents. However, you have to include the whopper of a performance against LSU in the past three outings as well.
Coming into this game, as a team, UGA is averaging 4.95 yards per carry. Knowshon is averaging 6.2 ypc and averaging almost 19 carries per game (this includes only 8 carries against GSU and 9 carries against Alabama.)
WHAT TO EXPECT?
Last year, UGA entered the game with a 4.53 ypc and had 4.45 ypc in the game. Knowshon was 33/188 for 5.7 ypc. I don't think we should expect to have a better performance against Florida than we have averaged on the season, which is 173 yards per game. But, I also don't see any reason that we can't come close to our average performance either. My guess is that we will rush for somewhere between 150 and 175 yards in this game on about 35-40 attempts. We should average at least 4.5 yards per carry. To do that, Knowshon would need to average more than 5 ypc. All season long, I have posited that the magic number for Knowshon is at least 23 carries. He had only 21 against LSU, but I still say 23 is the magic number for a UGA win. If he has 23 carries with a 5.0 ypc, that will be 115 yards. If he has 33, like last year, that would be 165 yards.
We will have to take whatever their defense will give us. If they commit to stop the run and we can still have some success running, then everything else should work. If they stack the box like LSU did and we can make great blocks at the point of attack (like we did in Baton Rouge), then Knowshon will get into the secondary with some space. If they stack the box, it will make it easier for Stafford to throw to our tall receivers. What was a key in our rushing attack against LSU, was that they would commit safeties to stop Knowshon but we often ran the opposite way from where they sold out - which resulted in big plays. Same thing on a few of the long passes.
I think that having seen that, Florida will not sell out their safeties like LSU did. They will play us straight up with a few blitzes early to see how we are responding. We need to be able to establish the run early on so we can utilize play-action passing. This means our O-line will have to be up to the task on the opening drive like they were last year. They will need to recognize blitzes (Stafford too) and work us into good down and distance situations in the first quarter. Down and distance killed us in the first half against Bama. We have been much better since.
To answer the original question posed... I think Knowshon will have a good day running, but maybe not a great day. I will be shocked if they can shut him down completely without exposing themselves to a heavy dose of Stafford to Green/Massaquoi/Durham/Harris et. al. For Knowshon to have a great day, our O-line will have to play their best game of the year so far.
Can we win if Knowshon only has a "good" day - like 115 yards rushing? That will depend on the answers to the questions raised in points #2 through 4. Stand by.