It has been referred to as “noise in the system” by a previous coach. After winning eleven games during the regular season in 2012, the noise was a mere whisper if not completely silent. There was still some unrest about the style of offense that the Gators were playing. After an embarrassing loss in the Sugar Bowl, a slight murmur could be discerned if you listened closely.
Florida entered the 2013 season ranked reasonably high but there were clearly questions. Enough questions, in fact, that one television “expert” picked the Gators as the most likely team to drop out of the top 25. He turned out to be correct. A loss to Miami in the second game of the season increased the noise in the system but Florida was in control of the game statistically and lost simply because of turnovers. That fact tempered the volume of the noise because most felt it was a correctable aberration and could be overcome. A few good wins over SEC opponents in Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas and the volume was reduced back down to a pesky buzzing like that one mosquito in your tent. Then came the loss on the road at LSU where the offense looked completely inept. The volume rose considerably. This was followed by a pathetic showing by every unit on the team in a blowout loss to Missouri and the “noise in the system” suddenly sounds like you are sitting next to the largest speaker at an AC/DC concert. This can no longer be classified as a noise. It is a cacophony.
Historically, it is difficult for a head coach to survive this much noise in the system unless he has stored up some “get out of jail free” cards with previous accomplishments. An 11-2 season is just such an accomplishment but it is not as much collateral as say a championship. It will only buy Will Muschamp so much time. Muschamp needs some good things to happen and he needs them to happen pretty soon. This is quite problematic for the head coach. The factors that have led to such poor play are not easily corrected. The most glaring deficiency is the offensive line play and it is not just bad it is horrible. It truly appears as if not a single player on the offensive line understands his assignments. Normally, if you have a lineman struggling to block his man you give him some help by putting a tight end next to him or a running back on his side to help chip a defensive end. In Florida’s case it would take an entire second offensive line because everyone is struggling. Some of the problems can be assessed to injuries but that excuse only goes so far. There simply must be concerns about both the talent level of the players involved and the blocking schemes they are being asked to perform. I have watched a lot of football over the years and the offensive line play I have witnessed this season with the Gators is about as bad as I’ve ever seen. It is only rumor that Tyler Murphy asked an official if he could call for a fair catch in the shotgun formation.
Things do not get easier for Muschamp and the Gators. After a bye week, Florida faces a UGA team that has problems of its own but does at least score points. Georgia’s defense is quite suspect but I heard that about LSU and Missouri too. I have grown skeptical that the Gators can score enough points to keep pace with Georgia even with all of the injuries to the Bulldog offense. It doesn’t seem to take much to shut down the Florida offense. After Jacksonville there are still games remaining with South Carolina, Vanderbilt (which just beat Georgia) and an extremely impressive Florida State team that is currently ranked #2 in the BCS standings. The only game left on the Gator schedule that seems like a sure win is Georgia Southern. At least I hope that game is a sure win. Sitting at 4-3 it is at least remotely possible that this Gator team might not become bowl eligible. If that were to happen the noise in the system might well drown out any efforts by Muschamp to right the ship.
There was a thread in the Den a few weeks ago asking if the Georgia game was a must win for Will Muschamp. At the time, I thought it was a ridiculous question. Now I am not so sure. I keep coming back to the unbelievable number of key injuries and common sense would seem to dictate that Muschamp gets a mulligan on this season. But, is that even enough? It is hard to watch this offense and still have a lot of faith in Brent Pease as offensive coordinator. Naturally, there are a lot of Gator fans calling for Pease’s termination. However, if this season ends up at 7-5 or, God forbid, 5-7 Muschamp may find himself in a win or get fired situation in 2014. Can he really risk a brand new offensive coordinator and a brand new offense in a make or break season? Can he risk NOT making a change? I am glad I am not in his shoes although it might be worth it for a few of his paychecks.
The best case scenario is to finish this season no worse than 8-4 and retain a little more leeway going into hopefully a much more healthy 2014. To do that, Muschamp and his staff will have to make almost miraculous use of this bye week. I don’t pretend to have answers. However, if asked for advice my suggestion would be to turn loose the freshmen playmakers. Get Kelvin Taylor twenty or more carries a game. Find ways to get the ball into the hands of Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fullwood. Freshmen are making huge contributions on good college football teams all over the country. Why are Florida’s offensive freshmen not making a splash? I get the concept of wanting your young players to earn their playing time and I grasp not wanting to risk freshmen mistakes on offense. However, before you can take the safe route you must have a viable alternative and that simply does not appear to be the case in Gainesville. Release the kraken.