Still suffering a hangover from last week’s debacle in Death Valley? Grab a beer and join the club.
Last Friday’s column asked a lot of questions about what we really knew about this team and postuled that we really didn’t know that much. Sadly, in a rare cosmic twist, I was actually right.
Or was I?
One could make the case that we knew exactly what the Gators were and are.
Was anything that happened all that hard to predict?
I asked if the Gator offense could play effectively from behind and erase a substantial deficit. I asked if the Gators could win if the defense wasn’t its normal, dominating self. I asked if the Gators could win if the offensive line didn’t improve and what would happen if the special teams unit was called upon to play a critical role.
Other than the special teams unit, which was probably all we could have hoped for it to be, we got answers we didn’t want from all other aspects of the team. I think most of us, deep down in places we can’t wash in the shower, knew what was coming.
So let’s talk answers today. Let’s talk about what we know. And what we can reasonably expect going forward.
Saturday, #22 Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC East) travels to Columbia, Missouri to take on the #14 Missouri Wildcats (6-0, 2-0 SEC East) at 12:21 p.m. Missouri is coming off a big but costly 41-26 win between the hedges last week that cost the Tigers starting quarterback James Franklin to injury. Backup QB Maty Mauk will replace Franklin. Vegas has UF as a three-point favorite. Where would you put your hard earned money? I’ll tell you where I’m putting mine, but read this first.
Here’s what we learned about this team last week.
This offense can not play from behind. Yeah, any team will need to negotiate a three to 10-point deficit from time to time. But this is not a group that can create second half rallies against larger deficits, especially in hostile environments. And Tyler Murphy did not play poorly. Not at all. Granted, he had a couple of passes that should have been picks dropped by defenders, but the coaches did not give him a chance to succeed with the conservative and predictable play calling. In every game so far, Tyler has shown himself to be a very calm, careful and poised quarterback. The coaches should have trusted him and allowed him to play football.
What would be the worst that could have happened? No touchdowns? Two trips to the red zone? Six points? Bah. Don’t want to be guilty of too much redundancy, but we saw what we saw and we learned what we learned. Don’t expect radical changes against Missouri, either. We’re either going to win with this rubric or lose with it.
As this defense goes, so goes this team. We asked last week if this team could beat a quality opponent with a less than dominant defensive effort. Although the defense hardly played poorly last week, it was not a dominant effort. LSU took
a double digit lead and then just cruised behind its defense which, prior to last Saturday, had been less than stellar. I have no complaints about the Florida defense. None whatsoever. In fact, this is the first time in my entire career as a football fan in which I can honestly say I enjoy watching my team’s defense more than its offense. Will Muschamp can coach up a D. These guys are going to keep us in every game. No offense we face can blow these guys off the field. But it’s clear now that this unit is going to have to exemplary for us to win. We’re staring 4-5 more losses in the face if these guys don’t produce dominant, lock-down efforts in every remaining game. And don’t tell me Georgia Southern is a freebie. The fine folks from Louisiana-Lafayette are waving hi.
The offensive line is what the offensive line is going to be this year. Bad. Offensive. This has been discussed ad nauseum and we all know it. We’re halfway through the year and to expect any real improvement from this unit is not optimism; it would be more accurately described as an overdose of Cymbalta. The venerable HalleyGator wrote a very interesting post about OL coach Tim Davis this week, extolling his virtues and his very impressive history of success. There’s no arguing with his resume. He has an enviable track record. But if it’s not the coach, it has to be the players, right? If we’re going to look simply at credentials, we can examine the qualifications of our players.
D.J. Humphries was a five-star recruit and one of the top five players in the nation coming out of high school. But he is the only current player on our line that was seen as a “can’t miss” recruit. Max Garcia and Tyler Moore were both highly-sought after transfers but, with transfers, as with boxes of chocolate, one never knows what one is going to get. Jonotthan Harrison, Jon Halapio, Ian Silberman, Trip Thurman, Kyle Koehne, and Trenton Brown were mostly three-star recruits, with the occasional four-star sprinkled in there. If one puts any credence in recruiting rankings, and I as much as anyone know how perilous that can often be, the fact is that we’re not loaded with guys who were blue chippers coming out of high school. Compare the line’s high school recruiting rankings with that of our defensive backfield. Or our defensive line. It has been proven time and time again that, although there is no guarantee that a five-star player will be a stud and a two-star won’t, a player’s star rating/ranking has a definite corrolation with his production as a collegiate player. The answer is simple. We need to recruit better talent.
Although we don’t know how well Kelvin Taylor is going to respond to the increase in workload he will now receive with the loss of Matt Jones, we all know that many Gators were calling for him to see the ball a lot more. We got our wish.
KT has a lot to learn about the intricacies of blocking but boy howdy – is it fun to watch that kid with the ball in his hands. I won’t sugarcoat or exaggerate but mark this down – Kelvin Taylor is going to be an absolute beast and will be one of the best running backs the University of Florida has ever seen.
As for my pick, I think there is a very good chance Florida wins tomorrow. I don’t see Missouri putting up more than 17 points on this defense with Mauk, even though he has perhaps the best wide receiver corps in the SEC. The question is, can Florida score 20? I don’t know, especially with a banged up Murphy. I’m thinking our defense will turn Mizzou over a couple of times leading to easy points and Tyler leads the boys down the field at least once to pay dirt.
My pick is Florida 20, Missouri 14.
As always, Go Gators.