Note: I'll finish this in the mid-morning. Didn't want to do it H-A.
Well, it's that time again. The team we hate the most comes to Tallahassee. It's our chance to ruin their dream season (well, I guess a dream season would involve going undefeated. Ole Miss ruined that chance). It's our chance to make John Mark Karr Urban Meyer make funny faces, whine, and cry.
Note: To my knowledge, Urban has never claimed responsibility for unsolved crimes in an attempt to get a free trip back to the United States. Still, the resemblance is striking...
TV (3:30 Eastern) Your announcers are Nessler, Griese, and Danielson. Your sideline girl is Stacy Dales. Let the debate over her begin. Remember that she can dunk on you.
The ACC CHAMPIONSHIP
Florida State sits one win away from the ACC Championship game. Unfortunately, that win is Maryland beating BC. Vegas says BC is favored by 7. That's insane. BC has a freshman QB who looked horrible last week. Maryland has nothing to play for, but they had nothing to play for last year when they went into Raliegh to face an inspired Wolfpack team needing one win for a bowl,and stomped the Wolfpack 37-0, in their house. I think Maryland has a great shot to win this ballgame. They've played much better against zone heavy teams like BC, and have the beef to match up with BC's DTs. Their game is at 3:30. Go Terps!!
Okay, so, yeah, the Gators. They are insanely good, having dominated every opponent they've faced except one-- Ole Miss. Let's start with the Florida State offense and the Florida Defense. Florida's defense may be even better than their offense. It is absolutely the unit that is getting disrespected on the Gators. FEI ranks them 4th overall. They are top 10 in Phil Steele's opponent adjusted pass efficiency.
Florida plays a 4-3 front. They have 2 stud athletes (though not yet studs in production) at defensive end. Their defensive tackle play can be very suspect, especially with starting nose guard Lawrence Marsh questionable for this contest, and mullet-wearing backup Matt Patchan out. They have good linebackers in AJ Jones and Dustin Doe. MLB Brandon Spikes is probably the best linebacker in America (except that guy at USC). Their secondary is very young, but very talented, and they make plays. Florida plays a lot of man coverage, but it is such a loose man they it often resembles zone. They have their safety's sit in cover-2 shell or cover-2 robber. This looks to be a very well coached defense, but it is hard to tell since they are usually playing with such a huge lead that they could almost do anything and have success since the opposition is almost immediately in desperation mode.
That said, I think Florida State matches up decently well against this excellent defense.
In order to beat Florida, we will have to hold the ball for a long time. Florida's defense is a defense that likes to play with a lead. You're probably thinking "wait, all defenses like to play with a lead." This is true. Some defenses, however, want to play the pass and only the pass. Not only does UF want to play the pass, they are conditioned on the pass. They've played with such a huge lead that the majority of their experience against the run has come against the occasional draw.
Florida State is clearly a running football team. Few teams stick with the running game like FSU does. The key will be patience and dedication. Even if the Noles get down early, they need to stick with the running game. The obvious goal is to score. The second goal, in actuality, is to survive and run the clock. If the Noles are down, they need to keep running to keep the score respectable. If the Noles are up, they need to run the ball to keep the ball out of the Gator's hands. The Gator offense gets about the same number of yards per play, so the key is limiting their number of plays.
This Gator defense is very fast and they struggle with overpursuit just as our own defense does. Florida State should be able to run on this team. We will need a very big game from McMahon and Spurlock. The middle must be dominated, allowing for a blocker to get on Spikes. Spikes is not unblockable. This is where the rain comes in. If the field is soaked, cut blocking works to our advantage even more, as the defensive player struggles to maintain and reestablish footing after avoiding the cut. This isn't a game to worry about QB health. Expect to see a lot of running plays from a variety of formations. I think we spread out UF. I do not expect to see a bunch of I-Formation in this game. Ole Miss was able to run out of a spread formation.
Ole miss also used a lot of reverses and non-traditional plays. They ran out of the wild hog as well. D'Vo is our wild-hog and I expect to see him in this game. Our game plan will strongly resemble what we ran against Miami.
As for the throw game, it's a different story. The Gators are very good against the pass. They should be, as teams throw against them all the time as a result of being down. The Gator's usually don't blitz more than 5 men, which is pretty smart if you ask me. I've reminded everyone all year that our OLine is good at run blocking and bad at dropback pass blocking. If we have to get into an all-out throw mode, with no threat of play-action, we are done. It is that simple.
So, how to pass against UF? First, make then play the run. Heavy use of play action. Bubble screens out of the zone action concept. Jump balls against their very short DB's (nobody over 6 ft.) If Florida must respect the run, they can't just go full-out at the passer.
UF is in an interesting quandary with the bubble screens. We run them as well as anyone in the country-- except TTech (in another universe). You really need to play press to guard against the screens. Our guys have been decent getting off press coverage. Will UF press? I would if I were them, but we will see. If they do not press, expect to see them get hit early by the bubble screens. I worry, however, that they will try to pick off a bubble screen.
I am very worried about tipped passes in this game. Ponder is not all that tall, and sometimes uses too much knee bend when he throws. Florida is very good at tipping balls and intercepting them.
I think this offense is generally well coached. They must not lose their composure. There is something else they must do, however: GO FOR 4TH DOWN. Florida's special teams are so amazing, and their offense is so good, that they will probably score no matter where they take the ball. Smart teams understand the value of going for 4th down. Let's hope this is Jimbo and not Bobby's call. He's not in-tune enough to understand the concept. No field goal should be kicked unless it is 4th and 6+ from outside the 20 yard line. Gano is great, but we must shelve him for this game. The main goal is to keep the ball, grind the clock, and keep the Gator offense off the field.
FSU's FEI offense ranks 21st, Florida's defense ranks 4th. I expect FSU to run 70 plays, for 350 yards. Hopefully, this will be something along the lines of 50 runs (including sacks) for 200 yards and 20 passes for 150 yards. In that scenario, assuming we don't do mathematically unsound things like punting from the 50 with 4th and 3 to go, we should hold the ball for over 36 minutes. More likely, however, our scenario will be something like 38 runs (including sacks) for 145 yards and 32 passes for 210 yards, while holding the ball for less than 35 minutes. Florida State will not be smart enough to keep the ball (including 4th down), won't have the insane patience required, and will eventually get behind. The Noles offense will manage 24 points against an excellent gator defense. If the run game really works, or the offense gets short fields, I could see more points for the Noles. Don't call me a downer, I am trying to be realistic.
Maybe I should have talked about this area first. The Noles have the best kicker in America, by far, in Graham Gano. The most reliable kicking Metric, STSE, ranks the Noles kicking unit 1st, and the Gators 34th.
In terms of blocking kicks (not punts), the Gators are 15th, and the Noles 46th. I am very worried about getting a kick blocked.
The absolutely huge advantage in this game, however, and how the Gators have just murdered people (not literally, though it could happen with the thugs Meyer has), is field position. This is measured by FPE
Let's see what our friends at Footballoutsiders.com have to say about this.
The FPE metric divides the cumulative field position score expectations of each team's drives over those of its opponents. Punt, kickoff, interception, and fumble returns for scores are also added into the cumulative FPE score expectation total though they are not, of course, part of an offensive drive. A long return to an opponent's five-yard line is valued at 5.471 score expectation points. If the same return makes it to the end zone, the FPE score value is, like any offensive touchdown, 6.958 points. FPE is a combination of offensive success moving the football, defensive success in killing drives, and special teams kick, punt and return execution -- all of the parts of the game not already accounted for in OE, DE and STSE.
Florida's command of FPE is devastating opponents. In addition to four non-garbage return score touchdowns, the Gators have started 28 possessions in opponent territory this season, reaching the end zone on 23 of those drives.
This is how UF is killing folks. Seriously. TWENTY THREE TD'S OFF OF DRIVES STARTING IN AN OPPONENT'S TERRITORY?
Part of that is skill, part of that is playing some really nervous, really incompetent teams in the swamp, and part of that is sheer luck.
The Gators are #1 in this category. The Noles are 88th.
Basically, this plays right into my question the other night: can the Gates play straight up football, without having a ton of short fields.
If there is a game for Jodey Allen to save his job, this is it. If there is a game for Jodey Allen to lose his job, this is it.
Our punt team must be better. We can't have a punt blocked, and the Gators have blocked several. We can't be kicking field goals. A kicked field goal is another opportunity for a long return on the ensuing kickoff.
I argued with UNFNole this week about kickoffs. I said that to play to win, you must have Gano kick deep, even if they are line drives. Our kickoff coverage seems to be better with Gano. He argued for a more conservative squibb kick approach. You can't afford to give the Gators 30 free yards. I'd rather alternate touchbacks and returns to the 45 than give them the ball on the 35 each time.
In any case, the Gators have a monster advantage on special teams and that is not likely something we can overcome this week.
I've thought about this matchup a lot. Florida has a really good offense. They are incredibly efficient. I am not going to talk about them a whole lot. Let's clear up some misconceptions about the Florida Offense
- Florida is a high-flying passing offense
False. Florida is a running team. Their entire offense is based off the run. They do not want to sit back and pass the football. Their passing game is very much predicated on the run game.
So, how do you beat this Gator Offense? You don't. You can slow it, some. You can hit them and force them into mistakes, some times. This attack will get their yards, however, so the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IS LIMIT THEIR PLAYS. If they get 7 yards per play over 70 plays, they'll be at 490 yards. If you give them 60 plays, and keep them off the field, possibly make them lose their rhythm a bit, and give them only 6.5 yards per play, thats 390 yards.
Florida State has struggled against teams that demand disciplined, assignment football, usually in combination with misdirection. Florida does all that and they combine it with superbly coached world class athletes. Chuck Amato is a horrible coach and his complete failure at FSU should culminate in this game.
Enough with ripping Chuck and Jodey, for now, though. How do you slow this UF offense?
Sell out against the run at all costs
Assuming the Noles can control the ball on the offensive side, the Gator's offense could get a bit impatient. The Gators dropback passing game isn't good. There is a reason Tebow is not being seriously looked at as a first round NFL prospect. He's not a good drop-back passer. Their entire offense is run-based. FSU must sell out against the run game. This is what Ole Miss did, holding the Gators to 124 rushing yards in their own building. This is what Miami did, holding the Gators to only 89 rushing yards. Tennessee did it as well, "holding" uf to 147 on the ground.
Those 3 teams are the only 3 to hold the Gators under 5 TD's. In every other game, the Gator offense has rushed for 200 yards. Hmm, do these teams have anything in common?
Yes. Good front 7 play. Check out these tackle for loss numbers by Gator opponents!
Rank Name Gm Solo Ast Yds Total PG
1 Florida St. 11 77 36 424 95.0 8.64
2 Mississippi 11 67 50 334 92.0 8.36
27 Miami (Fla.) 11 57 32 304 73.0 6.64
30 Tennessee 11 63 18 262 72.0 6.55
35 Kentucky 11 53 34 285 70.0 6.36
51 Vanderbilt 11 53 24 275 65.0 5.91
57 Georgia 11 50 24 240 62.0 5.64
71 Arkansas 11 49 20 239 59.0 5.36
75 LSU 11 40 36 233 58.0 5.27
80 South Carolina 11 51 12 246 57.0 5.18
Hmm, could it be that the teams with the best tackle for loss numbers do well against this team?
You can't sit back in zone against this UF team. Our defensive scheme matches up well with their offense. You must aggressively attack their ground game. You have to get pressure in the backfield. UF is lethal on non-passing downs, due to the threat of PA.
I expect the Gators to use a lot of 2-back and TE sets. These guys are worried about getting Timmy hurt. They will use a lot of misdirection. We've struggled against this.
Miami and Tennessee attacked UF in a similar fashion. They blitzed the living S^%@ out of these guys. They blitzed from the outside, in hopes of being right and running into the run.
Ole Miss did something entirely different, spreading out their DLine and occasionally blitzing through the middle.
NOTE: These are run blitzes, not pass blitzes.
We need to use a combination of the two approaches. We will play a lot of cover 0 and cover 1. This is probably the first time I've argued for this approach all year. Go all out against the run. The keys will be solid tackling and good angles. The other key will be defensive tackle play. Our DT's are not good, but they aren't bad. This is really a key for both teams, but if either team controls the A Gaps on both sides of the ball, they should win. Our DT's guess a lot. We shouldn't make them play timid. Let them keep guessing and shooting gaps. It's the only way.
If you hit UF for tackles for loss, their run game loses some of its potency, and more importantly, the secondary no longer must respect play action.
Blitz UF's 5-wide look on 2nd/ 3rd and long; sit back against their TE 2RB look. UF has some hot reads in their offense, particularly when you blitz tebow in the face. That said, these guys take bigger splits than most. Evertte Brown should play on Tebows front side and we should blitz him from the back side. Tebow isn't special at reading coverages when he has to drop back and pass. He's great with reading single coverage off play-action. In long situations, force him to throw quickly and use your speed to make the tackle. I would for zone blitzes as well, bringing back visions of the Miami game.
Make UF hit the low% plays They'll score either way, but making them go the difficult route could be key here. What does this mean? High pressure, press coverage, selling out for the run, forcing UF to hit high-risk high- reward passes. This really plays into the idea of the limiting UF's touches by holding the ball on offense. If you make UF go for the tough plays, they might make some mistakes and might not get enough opportunities to hit them. NOTE: this is exactly what we did not do last year as we sat back and tried to play passively.
I think we have the personnel to match up with the Gators (as much as any team can). Ingram, Watson, and Verdell are all very quick and should help when facing this team. Ole Miss's DLine gave UF fits, and ours can as well.
In the end, I think UF gets 60 plays. They'll score 35 points as Meyer is smart and understands the value of going for 4th downs. FSU will not give them excessive short fields. My guess is that they get 34 runs (including sacks, if any) for 170 yards and 26 passes for 205 yards.
35-24 is my best guess. FSU can win this game if they catch a few breaks, be that hurting Tebow from a clean hit, or by forcing fumbles from the Gator players. What Mickey did last year will not work. Ironically, he needs to be hyper aggressive against their spread attack. That's exactly what he likes to do. In the end, though, UF has earned their spot as the best team in America. FSU is still digging itself out of the hole that Bobby created 7 years ago. It's a lot to for this team to beat UF.
4PM Central Update
Scattered T-Storms HighLow Precip: 50% Last Updated Nov 28 04:06 p.m. ET Wind Impact: Medium SSW at 15 mph
Game Day Forecast
HighLow76° F 60° F
Last Updated Nov 28 04:06 p.m. ET
Wind Impact: Medium
SSW at 15 mph