No pdf this week, still working some stuff out. Typed this bad boy in Notepad so I feel like I’m typing an old college paper and trying to figure out how to stretch it out. Hint: Courier New font as large as allowed and double spaced and you can turn a paragraph into a page in a hurry. Back to the football.
UK Game -
Good: We beat a pretty darn good UK team that had given lots of folks more trouble than what we faced. We continued our string of forcing turnovers. Let’s keep that up for at least one more week. Ealey ran with some serious conviction.
Bad: 3rd down defense was once again awful. Ealey got banged up pretty good. I had to hear the name Chris Doering again. We executed about the worst onside kick defense I’ve ever seen.
Interesting: This really is nitpicking, but as much as I enjoyed the drubbing of UK in a game that most thought was going to be much closer, I still feel like we lack a bit of killer instinct. The late TD we gave up in the first half allowed UK to battle back to the exact same score as they had the week before when they came back to beat SC. There were so many opportunties in that game to really drop the hammer on the Cats yet we managed to turn a romp into something way more interesting and I don’t think it was necessary. Against a team better than UK, we’d have been in real trouble.
Overall – These aren’t numbers you expect to see for the “Mighty” Gators: 10th in the SEC in rushing offense, 8th in passing, 9th in total offense and 9th in scoring offense. That’s still out of 12 teams. It used to be those were their national rankings. They haven’t sniffed any kind of rhythm all year and have struggled mightily. After putting up 31 or more in their opening 4 games (all wins), they haven’t put up 30 in the 3 games since (all losses) and failed to score more than a TD twice.
QB – In the absence of the all-world Tim Tebow, UF fans were assured that John Brantley was going to yield just as productive an offense, just in a different look. 7 games into their season, I think they’re still waiting for that production from him. He’s got all the measureables you want but he’s kind of the anti-Tebow in the motivation department, where Brantley is much more reserved, etc. He’s more a pocket passer than Tebow was and doesn’t run the ball nearly as much. He’s got a great arm but the results haven’t been there yet, where he’s only managed 6 TDs to 5 INTs and barely 6 yards per attempt (compare that to Murray at over 9, which is exceptional). WR Trey Burton is the x-factor, where he runs more of the Tebow offense and you’ll see a good bit of option and straight runs while he’s taking snaps. He’s the guy who had 6 TDs (1 receiving and 5 rushing) against UK this year.
RB – A bit of a question mark, Tebow was as much a RB as anyone else and with Brantley being more of a QB only you’re looking at a position that’s trying to define itself a bit in this offense. Jeff Demps is the dangerous one. He legitametly lays claim to the fastest man in college football title after winning the 100m title in a nasty sub 10.00 effort. He’s a dangerous man with the football in his hands and can take it the distance although injuries have slowed him a bit. Moody is more of a traditional RB, as is sophomore Mike Gillislee, but all 3 of their top guys have battled injuries a bit this year. All eyes will be on Chris Rainey, who is eligible to return after spending some time away from the team following a poorly thought out text message. Rainey is as dangerous as Demps and while he’s actually listed as a slot receiver he could see time at RB this week. He’s nearly as fast as Demps and when the two of them are on the field together they can cause all kinds of issues as they’ll line up in the slot, in the backfield, split out, etc.
WR – With the departure of Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez, it was expected that any one of the seemingly dozens of HS all-American WR recruits would emerge as the star of the Gator passing attack. To date that hasn’t really happened yet. No Gator has caught more than 1 TD on the season and none is averaging 4 catches per game. Heck, only 1, Deonte Thompson, is averaging 3 per game. To their credit, the absence of Rainey has hurt them a good deal as he’s the kind of guy who catches a quick pass and takes it 70 yards. In addition to Thompson, Carl Moore is a threat and Burton gets a lot of touches but they are typically underneath type things. In a decidedly un-Gator stat, UF has only completed 2 passes over 30 yards all season, and one of those was Trey Burton’s only completion of the season. By comparison, Murray has completed a pass of at least 33 yards in every game this season.
OL – The Gator OL is a beastly looking bunch. They average 320+ across their front 5 and start 4 seniors (only So RT Xavier Nixon isn’t a senior). They’ve got great size and experience, so you have to wonder why they’ve struggled as much as they have. One very large reason has been the play of OC Mike Pouncey who slid over to replace his twin brother Maurkice who was drafted last year. Twin brothers should have similar skillsets but apparently Maurkice was the one gifted with the ability to snap the ball as Mike has struggled massively with snaps this year. Their rushing yardage has dropped significantly, from over 220 per game last year down to 142. That’s lower than Meyer’s first year with the immobile Chris Leak at QB. They’ve done a solid job of protecting Brantley though, as he’s only been sacked 10 times through 7 games.
Overall – Our defense has really come on lately and all of a sudden we find ourselves in pretty heady territory in terms of defensive stats. 12th nationally in rushing defense was a stat I would’ve thought impossible after the debacle in Columbia, but as Grantham’s scheme has started to settle in, we seem to be more at home. The secondary is still surrendering too many yards (over 200 per game) and 3rd down conversion percentage allowed has to improve (last in the SEC). This UF offense isn’t like any we’ve faced this season though. They have more team speed than anyone we’ve seen and Brantley has far more talent than he’s shown to date. They are waiting to bust out in a big way at some point. I think. I just hope it isn’t this week. I expect Meyer to line it up and try to gash us running the ball with Demps and a lot of Burton lined up at QB, exploiting the interior of the 3-4 with his massive OL, then as we wear down he’ll unleash Brantley. It’s similar to the approach Miss State used against us. Where we’re most vulnerable (downfield in the secondary) isn’t an ideal place for them to attack as that opens them up to Houston off the edge and the fact they’ve struggled throwing the deep ball.
Matchup to Watch- Justin Houston has been on an absolute tear these last few games. UF has so much speed at RB, they’ll try to isolate our OLBs on wheel routes (have we successfully defended one of those this year?) and the like to try and slow the pass rush. If we can slow UF down and force them into passing situations, I love Houston going against just about anyone.
Overall – I was anxious to see what the UF defense looked like in the post-Charlie Strong era and it’s largely been a mixed bag. To their credit, most folks would struggle losing the talent they did, putting a ton of All-SEC guys into the NFL. Haden, Dunlap, Spikes, etc. They had top shelf talent at every level. The talent is still there it just didn’t see the field as much and the new scheme is a bit slower to adapt. They still probably have double digits in guys who will play in the NFL so it’s not like the cupboard is bare. They just don’t have the Charlie Strong mind control over us anymore. I hope Charlie didn’t leave like a notebook about that or something.
DL – The Gator DL is solid. It’s a bit banged up but still dangerous. They’ve really got some serious talent, specifically in this past signing class but it’s going to be a year or two before they take over. True frosh DE Ronald Powell is already making a mark. DE Justin Trattou is a playmaker on the edge but hasn’t been much of a pass-rush threat, he just seems to find the ball. Inside, Jaye Howard is the dominant player, tied for the team lead in TFLs and leading the team in sacks from his DT spot is an impressive stat.
LB – Jelani Jenkins was the star of the UF recruiting class (not an easy position to attain) a few years back and he’s cracked the starting rotation as a RFr. Fast and smart, he’s a gamebreaker that is 2nd on the team in tackles. A.J. Jones and Jon Bostic round out a starting LB corps that’s as good as any in the SEC.
DB – UF sports a deep safety rotation with several 5-star athletes. Will Hill was as highly rated as they come and while he hasn’t quite lived up to the considerable hype, he’s been pretty darn solid. At the other safety spot, What Ahmad Black lacks in size he makes up for in instincts, with nearly double the tackles of the 2nd guy on the team. His 3 INTs are tied for the team lead and he’s also managed to force and recover a fumble on the year. At CB, starters Janoris Jenkins and Jeremy Brown are both good players but the depth is all true freshmen. Jenkins is a top 15 pick according to ESPN. What sets these guys apart is their knack for INTs, with 5 INTs so far amongst the two starting CBs and another 3 from Black. Murray will be put to the test this week.
Overall Defense – Florida’s been pretty solid on defense this year, and like our recent turnaround, much of it has been turnover driven. In their first 4 games they racked up 12 INTs. In their last 3 losses they’ve only managed 1. We’ve been the exact opposite of that. Most teams’ defenses tend to play better when the opposition hands them the ball, see last week’s UGA-UK matchup for evidence. I think UF will try and figure out a way to shake Murray. The kid is good, but can we really expect him to not throw an INT the rest of the year? Odds are he throws one this week, Lord knows we’ve had more experienced guys do it down there. I think Stafford threw as many Gator TDs as he did UGA ones down there. The key will be how we as a team (including the coaching staff) responds. As the coaches have opened the offense up with AJ’s return, Murray has really blossomed. If they get a bit gunshy, how will we respond? I imagine UF will throw all they’ve got in terms of new looks at Murray, the question is can he respond as well as he has all year. I’ve seen nothing to date that says he can’t.
Matchup to watch – Sooner or later our TEs are going to make an impact and I’d love to see us use them on drag routes with Murray on a bootleg or sprintout. Charles and White are both such great weapons and with teams keying on Green and now Ealey and King, I’d like to think they’ll produce soon. I have visions of Leonard Pope catching two TDs from Greene early in a Florida game and just gashing the UF defense before they knew what happened. The more likely key though will be the success of Ealey/King and our OL against the Gator front. The OL has started to come around some finally after being pretty bad to start the season. Our last win against UF saw us dominate on the ground early to set the mood. I’m up for that again.
Overall Thoughts -
This is such a weird game. UF has dominated us the last two decades and you’d figure that fact coupled with a .500 record through 8 games could never result in UGA being favored, but guess what? We are. It seemingly defies all logic and reason, but while some in the SEC (and many in Georgia) are still skeptical because the current winning streak has been against the weak sisters of the East (yes, that menas you Tennessee), Vegas apparently thinks either we’re good enough or Florida is bad enough to install us as a FG favorite. I never thought I’d see the day. Honestly though, it makes sense. We both lost to Miss State, we just managed not to do it at home.
There’s just no point in rehashing the issues we’ve faced down there with turnovers, dumb penalties and bad decisions (red facemasks? really?). This UF team isn’t as good as ones we’ve faced in past years but they are still dangerous because of who they have on the sideline. If we can get Urban making the Urban face early, jacking his belt up to his armpits and wearing his headset like a headband then I like our chances. This Gator team isn’t so good that we have to play mistake free to win, but I do think the team that makes fewer mistakes wins, and both teams have shown they can play some pretty mistake-heavy football this year.
In looking back to Florida’s last game, the UF defense got run over by MSU in a game where Mullen attempted 1 pass the entire 2nd half and that was completed for a loss of 5. Miss State essentially just ground them down. That was without threat of the pass at all. That’s the thing I keep looking to and thinking maybe we come out a la 2007 and just pound it now that we’ve shown what AJ and company are capable of.
-It was so nice to see Kiante Tripp start to produce last weekend. Having him be productive at that DE spot is a huge benefit. He’s certainly ideally suited for that role. If Grantham can get similar results out of some other guys who have seemingly been buried on the depth chart, I’ll be thrilled.
-We get King back, which is great from a depth standpoint if nothing else. My one concern with Ealey has always been blitz pickup (see the Arkansas game) and the fumbling thing but he’s really come on in both departments. King was really hitting his stride prior to his suspension so I’m anxious to see if he comes in with a fire.
-While AJ will certainly garner all the publicity (and rightly so), Kris Durham could have a big game. UF will likely put Jenkins on Green and while he’s not huge (5’11″), he’s still taller than Brown (5’10″). That’s a great matchup for Durham.
-It’s a great thing that Commings is playing well at CB now because Vance Cuff is struggling. Getting back Branden Smith might push Cuff further down the list there.
-Alec Ogletree is going to be as good a safety as we’ve had here under Richt before he leaves. He already looks like an upperclassman and I love how we’ve worked him into special teams and allowed him to ease into more playing time, which is great because we’ve had some hiccups back there also.
-I’m anxious to see Branden Smith back, especially if he can add something to our punt return game. He won’t likely get a chance though as UF has the nation’s best net punting and rarely allow a return at all.
-I’m going to go ahead and assume that whatever was going on with Blair Walsh last week was an isolated incident but he’s missed several FGs now and frankly, I’m starting to not consider him the lock he once was.
-If you remove the ULL game from the stats (let’s just focus on the BCS teams here) and count the 2nd half of the Colorado game as being without AJ (he was hurt, remember? I certainly do) then we’ve played 14 quarters with AJ and 14 quarters without AJ this season. Without AJ we manage 3.71 points per quarter. With AJ we average 10.35 per quarter. That’s per quarter. The guy is worth nearly a TD per quarter? I knew he was good, just not that good. He’s certainly not scoring 28 points per game but I think this points out the impact he has on the rest of the offense. I have to give credit to Jim Garland for that stat.
-Chris Doering was a horrible choice as it just got all the UGA fans even more ready for this weekend ahead of schedule. As soon as I heard his name mentioned I started looking ahead to UF. Actually, I threw up, then I started looking past UK. I was surprised they didn’t have Travis McGriff as a sideline reporter. I was also surprised Doering wasn’t wearing jean shorts although I don’t think I ever saw a waist-down shot. It looked a little chilly there, maybe some zubaz were in effect. Are they just trying to find the most hated guys in the SEC? Maybe get Steve Taneyhill and Kelley Washington in the rotation.
-Umm, Cameron Newton looks pretty good. That guy just glides along like it’s nothing. If Auburn’s luck goes like ours though, he’ll get hurt prior to either our game or the Bama game a la DJ Shockley in 2005 going down and missing the UF game. Whenever one guy is that much of your offense you have to worry (if you’re them). Seriously, how different would their team be without him right now? How much better would UF be with him running their offense right now?
-OK, based on the way college football luck works, Ohio State will somehow get a shot to play for the national title. No idea how they move up from 11 to 2 but watch, it’ll happen. They always work it out like that. In fact, I’ll go on record as saying in the year of the upset, the two teams with crazy luck will play for it all. You heard it hear first: Ohio State vs. LSU.
-If you look back at our schedule, the only loss that looks particularly bad is Colorado and I really don’t know what happened there. SC is much better (although clearly still SC). Arkansas is dangerous and Miss State is ranked for the first time in a while (actually all three of those teams are ranked). We’ve still lost 4 games, but you know what? We’re still in the thick of the East race and I don’t want to hear crap about it being down if we win. If SC wins the East then it’s down.
-Let’s get up on them early, and on the ground apparently. Under Meyer, FLorida is 46-1 when they score first. They are also 54-3 when leading at the half but a pedestrian 7-10 when tied or trailing. In games where the opponent scores 20 or fewer, Meyer is 51-3. If the opponent is held to less than 100 yards rushing they are 43-1. If Florida outrushes their opponent they are 59-5 under Meyer but merely 2-8 when outrushed.