Well, well, well, wasn’t that something. If you thought that the Florida Gators would do THAT – you’re lying, but damn, it was exciting to watch.
The Swamp was LOUD. The Gators played incredibly. And no matter what Ole Miss tried to do – it was met with resistance and every time Ole Miss gained momentum the Gators were there to shut them down.
The Gators are now 5-0 and while Jim McElwain said on Monday that he hopes the Gators aren’t a one hit wonder, nearly every media publication has starkly changed their tune on Florida with a number of them saying they are playoff bound and Bill Connelly at SB Nation saying that the Gators will go 11-1 (and their one loss to LSU is a toss-up game).
If you would have said that the Gators would be 5-0, with a potential to win the SEC East, to any Gator fan five weeks ago, none of them would have believed you. Sure they would have wanted to believe you, but no one thought that the Gators would be this good, this quickly.
Just how good is this team? Let’s look at the stats below.
This past Saturday was my first game back in the Swamp this season and oh my, what a change over last season (and the previous four years before). The Swamp was so loud my ears rang after the game and Jim McElwain and Ole Miss both, credited the Swamp for keeping the momentum on Florida’s side.
Now, it’s not just that the Swamp is loud – it is PACKED.
The Gators are averaging 89,843 attendees per game, which is 101.46% of stadium capacity, which is good for…first place in the SEC. Yes, your Florida Gators, have the most packed stadium in the best conference in college football.
Last season, the Gators were at 96.93% capacity (9th in the SEC).
The Swamp is loud; the Swamp is packed; and the Swamp is feared, again.
If you look at the statistics that I collect weekly on offense, you will see some improvements across the board, no doubt, but you may be shocked to see that they aren’t drastically different across the board.
However, in the areas that matter the most, the Gators are improving drastically.
- As you all know, the stat that I think is most important on offense is percentage of plays that result in a first down or a touch down, and right now the Gators are doing that on 34.33% of plays. If you compare that number to last year, the Gators are more than six percentage points higher. They struggled to move the ball last year ranking 106th in said category and the fact that the Gators have improved so drastically is yielding big dividends on offense.
- Further, the Gators are ranked 12th in the country in completion percentage with a very strong 68% and average 8.08 per pass attempt. How does that compare to last year? Well, the Gators ranked 116th in the country completing just 52% of passes and only 6.66 yards per pass attempt (85th in the country). Hats off to Will Grier and the receiving corps who is doing a great job dealing with an offensive line that is not nearly as strong as last years, and yet he is doing significantly better.
- On Saturday, Will Grier went 24-for-29 for 271 passing yards completing four touchdowns and had a pass efficiency rating of 206.8, which is the best rating any quarterback has had against Ole Miss since 2012.
- Speaking of pass efficiency, the Gators struggled mightily last season as you know with a pass efficiency rating of 117.83 ranking 95th in the country. This season, the Gators currently have a pass efficiency of 156.76 and rank 20th.
- One area of concern, we highlighted a few weeks ago was that the Gators were struggling in the red zone. After the third game of the season, Florida ranked 106th in the country with a 74.67% red zone conversion rate. Since then, over the last two games, Florida has climbed to 63rd in the country with an 84%.
- The Gators still need to work on their rushing attack, which I think is more of an issue on the offensive line than the running backs, but they are still averaging only 3.95 yards per rush attempt, which is 91st in the country and rank 102nd in rush yards per game. While the Gators pass offense looks great; having a strong rushing attack will only make them more potent and require teams to keep more in the box.
- Finally, is it just me, or are the Gators still painfully slow on offense? No, it’s not just me, they rank 112th in the country in 28.8 seconds per play and rank 94th in the country in overall offensive pace. While the Gators are obviously successful on offense, you have to believe that the Gators could pick it up a bit and catch more teams off guard.
The Gators defense was once again stout and as Marcus Spears’ of ESPN said on Monday, that no team may be able to beat the Gators if a team gets behind because of the Gators defense.
- Again, you all know the two most important stats on defense are the two categories that the Gators are dominating in. Primarily, they rank sixth with 22.12% of defensive plays going for a turnover, sack, or tackle for loss. Secondly, they are only letting opponents get first downs or touchdowns on 25.96% of plays – 27th in the country and with two straight games against potent offenses – that is a helluva stat.
- As the first statistic insinuates, their defensive line and rush is incredible. In nearly every category that allows the Gators to rush or stuff, they are amongst the best in the nation: 30th best in rushing first downs allowed; 15th in rushing touchdowns allowed; 16th in rushing yards per game allowed; 7th in sacks per game; fourth in tackles for loss; 16th in yards per rush attempt allowed; and 13th in sacking quarterbacks on drop backs (11% of the time). I mean, are you kidding me? Those are incredible statistics this far into the season across the board and huge props need to be given to Chris Rumph and Geoff Collins’ defense.
- While the Gators do rank 81st in the country in pass completions allowed, they are holding opponents to just a 58% completion percentage, causing an interception every 1.2 touchdowns opponents throw, and are ranked 45th in the country in pass efficiency defense. All of this means, that while, yes, opponents are passing on the Gators because they cannot seem to rush the ball, the Gators are doing a great job of limiting their success through the air.
Quickly – Johnny Townsend has done an incredible job so far this year. So far this season, Townsend is averaging 45 yards per punt on 24 punts, with only two touchbacks. He currently has an astoundingly high percentage of punts that are fair caught or land within the 20-yard line at 45.8%.
After starting the season with an average of 40 yards per punt against New Mexico State, he has improved dramatically in each of the last three weeks.
Looking Forward to Week Six
The Gators are trying to become Bowl eligible this week against Missouri, where the Gators hope to avenge two straight losses to the Tigers.
The Tigers have a very stout defense that ranks amongst the best in the country, but has an offense, now led by a freshman quarterback, that ranks amongst the worst in the country.
Let’s look at a few interesting match-ups:
- The Missouri Tigers rank ninth and 13th in the two most important defensive statistics – 20.97% of opponent plays that end in a turnover, sack, or tackle for loss and limiting opponent to touchdowns or first downs on 23.1% of plays. As we talked about previously, the Gators are getting a first down or touchdown on 34.33% of plays – how this battle plays out will determine the pace and momentum of the game.
- On the flipside, the Gators rank sixth and 27th in those two respective categories, while Missouri is only getting first downs or touchdowns on 27.73% of plays – 106th in the country. In fact, the Tiger are ranked 50th or worse, in 27 of 30 statistical categories that I rank on offense; whereas the Gators rank in the top-50 in 28 of 36 categories on defense.
- It will be interesting to see how much Missouri can get going on offense. They rank 102th in the country in total yards on offense and 112th in scoring offense; compared to the Gators 22nd rank of total yards allowed and 20th in scoring defense.
- Finally, can the Gators continue to improve in red zone offense? If they are, the Tigers are only ranked 90th in red zone defense.
The super smart folks in Las Vegas have the Gators has a -5.5 favorite with an over/under of 40, which means they expect a 23-17, 24-17, or 22-17 final score. Outside of telling you to take the “over”, I am not sure what I think the final score will be. I think the Gators should win and should be able to dominate, but the Gators haven’t been in this kind of position in years and they are going to Missouri during homecoming. I think the Gators have a defense that will shut down the Missouri offense and I think the Gator offense will come out on top (barely) over the Missouri defense in a comparison. I think the Gators win, by a lot more than Vegas thinks they will.
Prediction: Gators 34 | Tigers 16