This is it, FSU-Florida, the big showdown. There is a lot at stake in this one, bragging rights, state title, and an edge in 2012 recruiting. It doesn’t get much bigger than this. UF has struggled mightily this year as expected by (mostly) everyone outside Gator nation. FSU is rebuilding and slowly starting to garner some national attention. Can the Noles get the monkey off their back and do what they routinely did in the ‘90s, beat the Gators? Could this be the year the pendulum swings back in favor of the Noles? Let’s take a look at the competition both teams have faced.
Florida’s opponents are a combined 74-46 and FSU’s opponents are a combined 65-56. It appears, rightfully so, that UF has faced better competition to date. Being that UF is in the SEC, one would expect this. The teams Florida lost to are a combined 34-10 while the teams FSU lost to are a combined 23-10. The Gators have lost by an average of 9 points and the Noles an average of 3.
[Note: To get a clearer picture of how both teams have done I only looked at conference matchups. I did not take Florida’s loss to Bama and FSU’s loss to OU into consideration in this analysis as I think both games were an anomaly.]
In FSU’s two (of three) losses they are averaging 376.5 yards of total offense with an average of 146.5 coming on the ground and 230 through the air. They are giving up an average of 337 ypg (did not include the loss of yards due to the bad snap by UNC) with an average of 132 on the ground and 206 through the air. It appears teams are moving the ball at will through the air, forcing Ponder and co. into a shootout thus, taking away the run game. It’s reassuring to know that in those games the Noles were at least able to move the ball, unlike Florida as we will see in a minute.
In FSU’s first five conference games of the year, they averaged 40.4 carries per game and since than they have struggled averaging only 31.5. The Seminoles are averaging 37 attempts in their wins while their opponents are averaging only 34, a difference of +3. In their losses they are averaging only 33 attempts while the opposition is averaging 43 attempts, a difference of -10.
In Florida’s three (of four) losses they are averaging 275 yards of total offense with an average of 90 coming on the ground and 185 through the air. That is 101.5 less ypg than the Noles in their losses. They are giving up an average of 350 ypg with an average of 213 on the ground and 138 through the air, 13 ypg more than the Noles in their losses. Keep in mind that all these games were at the swamp. It appears from a statistical standpoint that opposing defenses are shutting down the run and forcing them to pass while their defense is struggling to stop the run. 213 yard rushing is absurd! In all three losses, the least amount of running yards they allowed was 161 to LSU. The Tigers rushing offense is ranked 32nd and for comparison purposes Bama is ranked 31st and the Noles 33rd. FSU will be one of the three best rushing offenses UF has seen this year.
The Gators are averaging 45 attempts rushing in their wins (FSU giving up 43 in their losses) while their opponents are averaging 31, a difference of +14. In their losses they are averaging only 29 attempts while the opposition is averaging 50 attempts, a difference of -21.
UF is averaging 28 ppg in conference matchups. Of Florida’s eight conference games, they have scored more than 28 five times: 31 @ Tennessee, 48 against Kentucky, 29 against LSU, 34 @ Georgia, and 55 against Vanderbilt. Hanging more than 28 on LSU and Georgia is impressive, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt on the other hand, not so much. Those teams respective total defensive ranking: 71, 42, 5, 21, and 102, a combined average of 48.2. How does FSU’s defense stack up against those teams? The Noles are ranked 43, one spot lower than the Wildcats. Kentucky has given up 3 less yards than the Noles and an average of .27 ypg less, but they have given up 41 TDs compared to 22 by the Noles. Speaking of which there are only nine teams that have given up less TD’s than the Noles and they are all in the top 25 in total defense. Of those nine, six are in the top 10.
Florida is 4-1 when reaching 28 and 0-3 when not. When they reach 28 it’s the result of the Gator’s offense being more balanced. They are averaging 344.2 yards of total offense (69 more ypg than in their losses) with an average of 170 coming on the ground and 174 through the air.
FSU surrendered more than 350 yards in their two losses to NC St and UNC with the Tarheels racking up 264 yards through the air. The only other teams to gain 350 yards on the Noles and lose are Miami, Clemson, and Maryland. Their respective total offensive ranking is 31, 83, 89. Where does Florida stand in comparison? 73. Miami gained a bunch of yards in garbage time and FSU repeatedly shot their self in the foot against Clemson. If you take away the TD we handed Clemson on a silver platter (penalties) we held both Miami and Clemson to two TDs in 61:29 of play. I won’t comment on the horrible officiating in the Maryland game, but that is damn impressive. I think 350 is more of an anomaly.
The Noles have only let three teams run for more than 170 yards: Miami (189), BC (171), and NC St. (189). Those teams are ranked respectively 25, 92, and 93 in rushing offense and UF is ranked 48th. BC gained ~ ¾ of their yards on two plays in the first five minutes of the game. After that their running game was shutdown. NC St. has a scrambling QB that gave the FSU defense fits all night. He was the first time this year FSU saw a dual threat QB with Wilson’s athletic ability. One common denominator with UF that I noticed is that they are averaging at least 170 yards through the air in both their conference wins and losses. The method behind FSU’s defense is bend, but don’t break. UF’s offense hinges on big plays and FSU will be content taking away the big play as that has been their modus operandi all year. They will force UF to dink and dunk their way down the field with Brantley. FSU puts the clamps on teams when they reach the redzone. UF is ranked 114th in redzone offense. There are only 6 worse teams in the nation. FSU’s redzone defense is tied for 27th in the nation. Gators have not had success with Brantley in the redzone. IIRC, they have scored 7 of their last 10 touchdowns in the redzone when a dual threat QB was in the game. How I interpret that: Brantley can’t get the job done, so they have to resort to option B and C. That is good for FSU, because their weakness on defense is their inability to stop the pass.
Aside from the OU debacle, FSU has surrendered more than 28 points only twice and lost both games. NC St. and UNC’s defense are ranked 30 and 39 respectively, a combined average of 34.5. The average defensive ranking we have faced is clearly better than what UF has faced.
Teams that have had success against Florida have shut down the run and forced the Gators to beat them through the air. The problem with the Gator offense is two fold: they have an average offensive line and a very poor QB in Brantley. FSU’s pass rush has been almost nonexistent down the stretch. They are managing to get sacks, but the consistent pressure is lacking. They are thin and look worn out, but rest assured they will give 110% on Saturday. The defense needs to jump on Florida early and put them into long 2nd and 3rd down situations to negate Florida’s run game. This means the defensive tackles need to bring their lunch pales and knock the snot out of the offensive guards.The defensive ends need to maintain gap assignment and not let Demps squeak through. The only way for an offense to counter teams with a dominant defensive line is with an effective passing game that can keep the defense honest and move the chains. Luckily for FSU the Gators lack the quarterback to do that. The Gator offense is 73rd in 3rd down efficiency and 83rd in passing efficiency. Not a good combination, especially when FSU’s third down defense is 37th in the nation and 29th in passing efficiency defense. FSU’s 3rd down defense is better than every team UF has faced except for LSU, USF, and Bama. UF must establish the run to win this game. In their four conference wins they are averaging 45 attempts rushing compared to 29 in their losses. G5, Xavier Rhodes, and Mike Harris will have the secondary on lock and Moody and T-Parks will be headhuntin’. A few big from our safeties (and corners) and the Gator WR’s will be shook.
On the flip side, UF will be the best defense FSU has faced this year. The Noles are a very balanced offense averaging 175 yards rushing in conference games and 202 yards passing. FSU must, I repeat, MUST establish the run. If they fail to do so they are doomed. Ponder has demonstrated he has the patience to beat good, disciplined defenses (BC, Miami), but has also shown the tendency to make costly decisions by staring down receivers and making poor throws. He is not to blame for everything. The receivers need to do a better job of running the correct routes and hanging on to the ball (I am speaking to you Reed), because UF is ranked 11th in passing efficiency defense. If Ponder gets pass happy I can see the UF defense forcing him into a mistake. Florida has some playmakers on defense that can easily take an interception back for 6. The Seminoles are expecting WR Haulstead back in the lineup, and if Jenkins is ruled out, that will be a huge blow to the Gator’s pass defense. Florida will need to pick their poison, stop the run and force Ponder to beat you with his arm or stop on the pass. I expect Floria to focus on the run. The UF redzone defense is ranked 36th and FSU’s redzone offense is ranked 33rd. The Noles are tied with LSU for the best redzone offense the Gators will see. Couple that with UFs bad redzone offense (114th) on the road and I like the Noles chances at home with a rockin’ Doak Campbell.
Here is a breakdown of points scored by each quarter in conference games:
1Q = 44
2Q = 106
3Q = 48
4Q = 58
1Q = 49
2Q = 90
3Q = 65
4Q = 59
I broke down how their opponents did by each quarter and here are the results:
1Q = 37
2Q = 37
3Q = 54
4Q = 26
1Q = 25
2Q = 37
3Q = 34
4Q = 69
As you can see from the point differential, both FSU and Florida are dominating in the 2Q, but the Gators are getting the job done in the 3Q. In both of FSU's losses they laid a gooseegg in the 3Q. If FSU can hold the Gators under 28 points and 340 yards total offense on less than 43 attempts rushing, they have a good chance of winning, but they must win the third quarter. If FSU lets Florida hang around it could come down to a FG which FSU has struggled with down the stretch.