In 2011 an angry little man by the name of Will Muschamp took over as the head coach of the Florida Gators. The Gators rolled to a relatively uninspired 7-6 record that year and lost to every ranked opponent (Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina) that they played in the process.
Expectations for the program were mixed heading into the 2012 season. The 7-6 debut season was far from a source of relief for fans, but a tradition of winning was still demanded and most believed Muschamp was the man to continue that legacy. Sure enough, the Gators did a lot of winning last season.
Muschamp’s squad took down Tennessee (the Vols were comically ranked 23rd in the nation early in the season), LSU (ranked 4th at the time), South Carolina (ranked 7th at the time) and Florida State (10th in the nation). The lone setback for the Gators during the regular season: a 17-9 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. And of course, the Gators were defeated by Louisville in an ugly display at the Sugar Bowl.
When it was all said and done Florida was “back,” according to most pundits as Gainesville was once again home to a top-10 team (The Gators finished the season 9th and 10th respectively in the final AP and Coaches Poll.).
I don’t think Florida is back.
To be fair: I think Muschamp’s 2011 team was better than its win/loss record indicated. I won’t focus on that as the true objective of this article is to actually look ahead and a re-examination of 2011 is relatively meaningless. But, while I’m re-calibrating expectations for the Gators I think that is worth briefly pointing out.
Conversely to Muschamp’s debut season, I think his follow-up squad was not as good as its record. And, I would point to the following situational (and admittedly debatable) evidence to support that assertion:
- Yes, Florida defeated Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziell. But…this was A&M’s first game of the season. This was Manziell’s first outing of his collegiate career. He was the first freshman to ever win a Heisman Trophy, but this was his first time playing on a college field. And it showed in what he was allowed to do. Johnny Football was phenomenal in the game – he hit 76.7% of his passes. He didn’t turn the ball over. But his 23 completions went for just 173 yards. He didn’t look downfield, because they didn’t know he could. He accounted for 233 yards of offense – a respectable total. But in his other 12 games he averaged over 406 yards. Was this because of Florida’s defense? Maybe. Or maybe he wasn’t let loose yet.
- With ten minutes remaining in the Tennessee game the Florida Gators led by just 7 points. A 75-yard pass play and a 49 yard field goal opened that game up in the fourth quarter. This was a really bad Tennessee team – just ask Derek Dooley. Although that win came over a top-25 team, it holds little to no weight. (And for what it’s worth, I don’t give Georgia any credit for narrowly escaping with a win against Tennessee either.)
- Florida absolutely dominated South Carolina, winning 44-11. A few weeks earlier South Carolina had delivered a similarly impressive whipping to the Georgia Bulldogs. I don’t think South Carolina was truly 28 points better than Georgia. I don’t think Florida was truly 33 points better than South Carolina. I think all three teams in question were prone to very volatile performance results. Georgia was terrible against a South Carolina team that played its best ball of the season that day. South Carolina in turn was terrible against a Florida team that played its best game of the season. But if South Carolina played Florida nine more times there would not be another outcome that lopsided.
- As a Georgia fan I loved the Bulldogs’ win over the Gators. But if I’m looking at this from the outside in, Florida should be embarrassed for losing that game. If there is one fatal flaw for Georgia teams of the recent past it is the tendency to shoot themselves in the foot early on. Aaron Murray threw three interceptions in the first half (he threw a total of 10 all season). A team that was remotely opportunistic could have taken the Dawgs out early. Alabama would have. I think LSU would have. South Carolina did. Instead, Florida one-upped the Dawgs’ turnovers and in doing so breathed life into a defense that had just allowed 44 points to Tennessee, 35 points to South Carolina and 24 points to Kentucky in consecutive games.
- A 37-26 win over Florida State is nice. It’s cute even. But FSU still plays in the ACC. And FSU still struggled the following weekend against Georgia Tech (6-6 heading into the game with a black eye in the form of a 49-28 loss at home to Middle Tennessee State) in a game that meant everything – Conference Championship, BCS Bowl Bid, etc.
For every great game Florida had – the LSU game comes to mind (in addition to the Carolina game) there were a handful of, “Say whaaaat???” moments for Muschamp’s team. A 27-14 win over Bowling Green to open the season was oddly close. A 14-7 win over Missouri was almost embarrassing as a 27-20 win (off a blocked punt return, after trailing by 7 points with 1:43 to play in the game) against Louisiana-Lafayette.
And of course, there was the Sugar Bowl. Florida fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter before narrowing the margin to 24-10 at the half. Louisville then went up 33-10 with 8 minutes remaining before the Gators scored two TDs (one on a kick-off return) in garbage time.
So, was Florida a good team in 2012? Yes. The Gators, in my opinion, were a top-25 team. They were not, however, a top-10 team.
The 2013 Defense
The Gators’ calling card in 2012 was their defense, and that makes sense given Muschamp’s past as a Defensive Coordinator. Unfortunately for Florida fans, a lot of that Defense is gone:
- DT Sharrif Floyd (37.5 tackles, 13 TFL, 3 Sacks, 1 FF) – 23rd overall pick in the NFL Draft
- S Matt Elam (67 tackles, 11 TFL, 2 sacks, 4 INTs, 5 PBU, 1 FF) – 32nd overall pick in the NFL Draft
- ILB Jon Bostic (56.5 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR) – 50th overall pick in the NFL Draft
- OLB Jelani Jenkins (injured most of the year, 24 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT) – 104th overall pick in the NFL Draft
- S Josh Evans (66 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 INTs, 3 PBU) – 169th overall pick in the NFL Draft
In addition to those stars, Florida is losing 73.5 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INTs and 9 PBU from contributors Omar Hunter, Lerentee McCray, Earl Okine and De’Ante Saunders.
The Gators must replace production in mass – 325 tackles – and in highlights – 50 TFLs, 12 INTs. And, with the Gators taking on seven teams (Toledo, Miami, Tennessee, Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Florida State) that averaged 30+ points per game (FWIW: the national average was around 28 ppg) in 2012, stops will be needed. Compounding that demand is the fact that LSU, Georgia and South Carolina – all conference foes – return starting QBs and multiple weapons.
The 2013 Offense
Florida’s offense struggled at times in 2012, hence a 26.7 point scoring average against BCS Conference opponents. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to pin some of those struggles on quarterback Jeff Driskel.
The chart below compares team points and Driskel’s yards of total offense. As you can see neither figure is remotely consistent. Driskel’s yardage is all over the place as is the team’s scoring. And yet, even within that context there still isn’t always any sign of correlation. Case in point: Driskel accounted for just 88 yards when Florida scored 44 points against South Carolina. In his next game he racked up 187 yards en route to 9 total points.
In any event, both sets of this data need to stabilize and I think that starts and ends with Driskel’s performance. That might have been an overstatement in 2012, but in 2013 it is not. What’s changed? Driskel has lost the team’s leading rusher (Mike Gillislee had 1152 rushing yards and 10 TDs, no other player had over 408 yards rushing or more than 4 Tds) and his leading receiver (Jordan Reed accounted for 34% of Driskel’s passing yards. Take away Frankie Hammond (295 yards receiving, 3 TDs) and Gillislee’s catching (159 yards, 1TD) and 1,018 passing yards and 7 TDs need to be replaced. That might not be a big deal for an Aaron Murray or a Tajh Boyd, but that leaves Driskel with just 633 yards and 5 TDs of returning production (given his 2012 passing numbers).
General 2013 Outlook
Replacing defensive stalwarts will be difficult, but driving Driskel to consistency without key weapons from 2012 will be even more challenging. Take away place kicker Caleb Sturgis (340 career points, 14 of 16 on FGs of 30+ yards in 2012) and the Gators may really struggle.
Add a difficult away game early in the season at Miami (the Hurricanes return 11 starters on offense and 9 on defense from a team that went 7-5 last season) and trips to LSU and South Carolina – both hostile environments and potentially top-10 teams – and the schedule is less than favorable given the standard SEC slate and the typical neutral site Georgia game.
The earliest set of Vegas “Over/Under” lines have been put out by 5Dimes and has the Gators pegged at 9.5 wins. My gut says take the “under” as I’m doubtful that Florida will be better than LSU, Georgia or South Carolina and I think Miami or FSU could surprise them.
In any event, a 9.5 over/under on a team that went 11-1 with one 8-point loss during the 2012 regular season seems to be indicative that I am not alone in my theory that the Gators will take a step back in 2013.
That’s all I got/
Florida contributor Brett Goeringer looks at the Gators on Phil Steele’s All-SEC Teams.
Now before I begin to ramble on about the Florida Gators, I am going to jump out in front of the haters and explain that this post is exactly what the title says: A not-so-complete breakdown of Phil Steele’s 2013 Preseason All-SEC team. So what does this mean for SEC fans? It means relax and ask the Dude about the other SEC teams, because my main focus will be placed on the only team that matters, Florida.
I can honestly say when it comes to college football, I have never seen single person get all fanatical, statistical and in a flap quite like Phil Steele (DudeYouCrazy is a close 2nd). For those of you who don’t know or have never heard of who I am talking about, Mr. Steele is what some may call a statistical freak maniac enthusiast. Each year, Big Phil (thought it was a good idea at the time) offers multiple preseason countdowns, all-conference teams, projections, and previews to his readers. Let this be a warning: if you have problems with numbers (i.e. can’t count, hate math, etc.) then I suggest that you just look at the pictures because PHIL STEELE WILL SQUEEZE STATS IN PLACES UNIMAGINABLE. The “Real Deal” Steele has also been known to make many precise projections, earning him the title of Phil Steele: College Football Medium (the title I gave him). With that being said, here’s my take on one of Steele’s many preseason projections: the 2013 all-SEC teams.
The majority of The Man of Steele’s selections seem to be accurate (if you even consider preseason teams accurate), but after taking a few days to look over his choices and reading comments from other hyped analysts, I have just a few thoughts (specifically, Florida Gator-related).
Gators Post 11 Players on Phil Steele’s All-SEC Teams
The Florida Gators chosen by Phil “Cornmeal” Steele were: P Kyle Christy, KR Andre Debose, DL Dominique Easley, DL Ronald Powell, CB Marcus Roberson, C Jonotthan Harrison, LB Antonio Morrison, QB Jeff Driskel, RG Jon Halapio, CB/WR Loucheiz Purifoy, and S Jaylen Watkins.
Numerically speaking, Florida came up just five players short of matching Alabama’s 16 total players on the list and one short of Georgia. Technically speaking, they are tied with Georgia because Loucheiz Purifoy received both offensive and defensive preseason team honors. Does any of this matter at all? Absolutely not because it’s PRESEASON, but I’ll go along with it to please my readers. So, here you go:
The One Player on this List I’m Most Excited About: Punter Kyle Christy
As DudeYouCrazy knows, and others will soon discover, I am a big fan of the kicking game. There’s really nothing quite like a dependable field goal kicker and punter when your offense just can’t get it going. Caleb Sturgis and Kyle Christy were just that for the 2012 Florida Gators. In fact, I strongly believe Florida would have lost several of their closer games last year had Sturgis and Christy not saved the day with their clutch football kicking skills and pinpoint accuracy. Even though it does not matter, Christy belongs on the preseason 1st team all-SEC. As for Sturgis, he will be greatly missed.
Biggest Surprise: CB/WR Loucheiz Purifoy
In no way am I surprised Loucheiz Purifoy made this list both offensively and defensively. So what’s the biggest surprise? He didn’t make at least defense preseason 2nd team all-SEC. Standing at 6’1” 189 pounds with a low 40 time of 4.35, Purifoy is an absolute beast of an athlete that will help familiarize the young defensive replacements with SEC football. And even though he only recorded one catch last year for a total of five yards, be prepared to see Muschamp work Purifoy into their offense a LITTLE more this year.
Muschamp’s Secret Weapon: NOT QB Jeff Driskel
As others (EVERYBODY) continue to hate on him, my faith in QB Jeff Driskel grows stronger. So, what’s the main factor of my newfound confidence in what some (MOST) consider a mediocre quarterback? Chris. Leak. Florida coach, Will Muschamp, recently announced to the Gator faithful that former Florida QB Chris Leak will be returning to Gator Nation as the Quality Control Assistant for defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. This announcement was made after Leak approached Muschamp about a career change, mentioning he was ready to coach and never saw the game from the other side of the ball. I didn’t really see it happening that way, so here was my interpretation of the good news. Muschamp thoughts àLeak = 2007 BCS National Championship MVP. Driskel = Hates dropping back and will not throw the ball away. Driskel + Leak = A match made in heaven. I can’t express my true feelings about it because everyone will discover my secret so I’ll just stick Leak in a “secret room” and tell him to watch game film all day; which really means become a one-on-one coach for Driskel.
Conclusion: Muschamp looks like a genius because Driskel does a 180 from last year. Driskel becomes a Heisman candidate and leads the Gators to a SEC Championship game thanks to a Quality Control Assistant. Chris Leak makes more money than he ever would have playing football wherever he was playing.
The SEC is distributing 289.4 m-m-m-m-million dollars to its 14 member distributions for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. This does not include the $14.1 million retained by the schools who participated in bowls or NCAA academic enhancement payouts. This doesn’t include local media revenues either.
This is the richest conference’s new record for richest payout.
This is just like Richie Rich…
That’s all I got/
For the rest of the SEC Domination Countdown, go here.
100 Days of SEC Dominance: Day 90 – The Big Ten is Bad at Math and at Reading and at Writing and at Football and Ohio State President Gordon Gee is an idiot
“You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing wrong.”
That was Ohio State President Gordon Gee’s response to half-hearted (but true) accusations that the Big 10 (a conference with 14 member institutions) can’t count. You’re all adults and I’m sure with a little effort you can track down the audio recording in which he also blasts Catholics.
Oh how I love Ohio State. I’m so giddy over this quotation that I’m going to skip over making jokes about Gordon Gee’s appearance (I would have commented on how he looks like a more feminine version of the Six Flags dancing man) and Ohio State football as a whole. I’m just going to talk academics.
For starters, there is conclusive evidence that the Big 10 has 14 schools and there isn’t conclusive evidence that the SEC can’t read or write.
So I had to dig a little deeper. Upon further examination I offer this: Ohio State would be the SEC East’s fourth best institution at reading and writing. Using those two testing areas (and the SAT as the measure), here’s how Ohio State stacks up within reported data for “admitted students” and their SAT results.
|School||Reading 25th Percentile||Reading 75th Percentile||Writing 25th Percentile||Writing 75th Percentile|
*Bold = as good as Ohio State or better than Ohio State
For giggles, I did some math on the entire SEC East and added Ohio State. Now, keep in mind I’m allowed to do math because I know 14 does not equal 10. Here’s what I did: I combined all of the figures above and found a happy middle-point for students admitted. Example: Ohio State’s Reading and Writing Score = (540+650+550+650)/2. So, Ohio State scored 1195. Practically speaking, a student with an 1195 on the Reading and Writing portions of the SAT likely was accepted into the Ohio State University.
Here’s how it worked out for the rest of the field…
You keep doing you, Gordon Gee. We’ll be counting, reading and writing down here.
And winning National Championships.
That’s all I got/
For the rest of the SEC Domination Countdown, go here.
Joker Phillips is ridiculous. While trying to make the Twitter Hashtag #ComePlayWRForTheJoker a “thing” (I’m being serious) he’s making the University of Florida the #LaughingStockOfTheSEC.
His latest attempt at being cool: the iJoker. This fake phone features apps ranging from Sports Illustrated and Yahoo Sports to Famous Gators and Pease’s Plays. The real high-point, however, is the “2008 National Champions” background that comes standard on the iJoker.
Now, in case you happened to forget Joker Phillips’ role in the 2008 Florida Gator National Championship, here is a reminder: he was the offensive coordinator when Florida defeated Kentucky 63-5 that year. Wait, I forgot to mention that he was the offensive coordinator at Kentucky for that game.
Now that’s bad offense coordination. Is there an app for that?
That’s all I got/