If you would have told me that the Florida Gators football team would be 7-1 at this point in the season – hell, if you would have told me that the they go 3-1 through the gauntlet month of October – many people, including myself, would have called you crazy.
For many, seven wins (maybe eight) was the ceiling and most folks thought that Florida would manage between five and seven wins. The outlook was cloudy for a team that had a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, five new starting offensive linemen, and a host of changes for a team that struggled to seven wins last season.
Now your Florida Gators are basically assured a spot (baring a melt down with losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina, along with Vanderbilt winning out) in the SEC East Championship, a place they haven’t been since 2009. Jim McElwain has this team playing with ferocity, grit, determination, and more importantly, they are having fun.
The Gators 27-3 win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday was just another chapter in the Gators defense keeping points off the scoreboard, while the offense was able to make big plays when they needed to and put the dagger in the opposing team. It wasn’t always pretty, particularly on offense, but it was good enough for the win and that is all that matters.
The Gators once again found a way to put points on the board despite an offense that seemed to sputter in at least one phase of the game, while excelling in the other. Florida’s win over Georgia yielded the second fewest passing yards of the season with 155, but had a season high of 258 yards of rushing yards, eclipsing the 200 yard mark for only the second time this season. We still have not seen the Gators put together a complete offensive game.
- The Gators continue to climb down, expectedly, in overall completion percentage, where it now sits at 63% on the season – from a high of 68% after week five. Treon Harris went 8-19 (42.1% completion percentage) on Saturday for 155 yards. Harris’ 42.1% completion percentage is his seventh game in his career with a 50% or lower completion percentage. In the SEC, Treon Harris is 53-105 (50.47% completion) for 843 yards with five passing touchdowns and one interception. While the Gators have made it work, they need to figure out how to improve Harris’ numbers because that is not a recipe for sustainable success. This, however, is a far cry from last seasons 52% completion percentage.
- The Gators continue to improve on third down – marginally, but it’s not enough. Saturday’s game was only their third time all season having a conversion percentage higher than 40% (66.67 against New Mexico State, 50% against Ole Miss) when they had a 43.75% conversion percentage. Ranking 71st in the country, the Gators are only 47-120 on the season and have a lowly 35.87% third down conversion percentage against Power 5 Teams.
- And finally, the Gators are still slow as molasses on offense and found a way to slow down even more against Georgia, as they dropped to 119th in the country in time (seconds) per play at 29:22. No further comment.
- The Gators finally had a breakout rushing game where they averaged 5.38 yards per run, which is the most they have had in a game against a Power 5 team since…Georgia in in 2014.
- The Gators improved their touchdown to interception ratio to five, climbing up to 13th in the country. This is a drastic improvement over their 1.29 last season that ranked 83rd in the country.
- Another huge improvement over last season and continues to improve is interceptions per game. Last season, the Gators threw 1.17 interceptions per game, which ranked 100th in the country. This season, the Gators average only 0.38 interceptions per game, which is 11th in the country. While they may not be flashy on offense, at least they are protecting the football.
- The Gators have held three SEC teams to single digits for the first time since 2012.
- The Gators rose to 20th in the country in limiting first downs or touchdowns as a percentage of plays
- The Gators rank in the top-30 teams in 32 of 37 categories and two of the categories that the rank the lowest in is simply because of the number of plays that get run against the Gators.
- Opponents are throwing one interception per every 0.73 touchdowns they throw – good for 15th in the country.
- They are 16th in the country is pass efficiency defense and 16th in interceptions per game.
- The Gators are fourth in the country in forced turnovers, averaging a turnover once every 25 plays on defense.
- They are 15th in scoring defense, 15th in total yards allowed, and 23rd in rush attempt allowed.
- Needless to say, these Gators are very, very good on defense – ranking fifth in the country in total defense, when you account for strength of schedule.
- Johnny Townsend is still pinning Gators opponents deep in their territory. While the number went down slightly this week, Townsend’s fair catch or inside-20 ratio is at 56.8% and when he does allow opponents to return a punt, the Gators are only allowing opponents to return the punt on average 3.75 yards – 18th in the country.
- Field goals – the Gators rank 123rd in field goal percentage. That is all that needs to be said.
Looking Forward to Game Nine
The Gators need a win against Vanderbilt and they will have won the SEC East. You could not ask for a better scenario.
Vanderbilt has a stout defense, which was to be expected under Derek Mason. They rank 17th in the country in defense, when considering strength of schedule. However, they rank in the bottom 25% in nearly every offensive category.
Let’s look at a few interesting match-ups:
- Only 25.68% of Vanderbilt’s plays go for a first down or touchdown on offense and the Gators only allow opponent plays to go for a first down or touchdown on 25.77% of plays against much better defenses. Vanderbilt will have to get creative or they aren’t going anywhere on offense.
- Vanderbilt is throwing 1.75 interceptions per game and the Gators are causing 1.38 interceptions per game on defense. After Florida’s ball hawking performance against a bad quarterback in Georgia, I imagine the same against Vanderbilt.
- Vanderbilt is only allowing teams to rush 3.45 yards a carry (24th in the country) and the Gators are only rushing 3.8 yards per attempt (101st in the country). After a breakout game against Georgia rushing, will the Gators be able to run against Vanderbilt or will they fall back to struggling?
The super smart folks in Las Vegas have the Gators as 21-point favorite with an over/under of 39.5 points, which means they expect a 30-9 (or so) win by the Gators. The 39.5 point over/under is the second lowest over/under of the weekend, meaning they expect a low scoring game, with a battle of two tough defenses. I think Florida comes out a little slow in this game, but pulls one out in the second half once the fans get to the game. I don’t think they quite cover, but it will be close.
Gators: 26 | Commodores: 6