Is Florida vs. FSU the Jabari Zuniga Game?
That's all you've seen edge rusher Jabari Zuniga play this season. A lingering ankle sprain pulled Zuniga out of the Kentucky game, had him playing well under 100% against LSU and Georgia, and ruled him out of six other contests.
And let's be honest, does anyone care about how he performed against UT Martin? Does an impressive performance against the Skyhawks matter? No.
But against Miami? Yes.
And I get it.
Was Miami's offensive line bad? Yes. Is Florida State's worse? Yes.
Zuniga's only healthy performance in meaningful football so far this season came against the Hurricanes. He had a sack and a half in that game along with three solo tackles and three more assisted tackles.
Also, Zuniga has been disruptive in every game he has played, 100 percent or not. Despite missing half the season, Zuniga ranks fifth on the team in total quarterback pressures with 13, on only 88 pass-rushing snaps (per PFF). So, we know he is efficient when he's on the field, especially when he plays healthy, and especially when he plays against embarrassing offensive lines such as FSU's.
Zuniga hasn't played in a month. He has had two games off plus a bye week to recover once again from an ankle injury that has plagued him all year. So, the fifth-year senior should be as healthy as he has been all season outside of the first few weeks. Also, he is going against one of the worst Power 5 offensive lines in his last home game ever in orange and blue.
And he has now had ample time to heal. He was not truly ready to go against Georgia or LSU. An early exit in the LSU game and a poor performance in the Georgia game, recording no sacks and only one solo tackle, proved that.
Ankles are tough. Once you get one bad ankle sprain, you're far more susceptible to more. Plus, in a position like Zuniga's, it is pivotal to cut and plant your feet in the ground often and that obviously puts plenty of strain on an area that's already not totally right.
Is it time?
To me, yes. That's my main prediction for the final home game against a hated rival: This will be the Jabari Zuniga game. I see Zuniga almost closing in on his 2018 season sack total in 2019, which would be absurd.
In 11 games in 2018, he recorded 6.5 sacks. Right now in four games, he has three. Can this be a two, or two and a half sack game for the NFL Draft prospect? Can he make some NFL money this weekend?
The ingredients are certainly all there, barring no further injury. The explosion should be there, the physicality and violence should be there. The hunger and motivation should most definitely be there.