Florida State football news 09.09.13: What did you learn from Florida-Miami?

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest thing going on in the world of Florida State football over the weekend happened in Miami between the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes.

What an awful game to watch. I don't mean the result, one which was good for Florida State and the ACC, but rather just a lot of bad football.

Make no mistake, Florida was clearly the better team in the game. If they lined up to play again this Saturday, I'd again pick Florida. Why?

Florida's offense outgained Miami's by 200 yards, 413 to 212, amassing a 16-minute advantage in time of possession in the process, but also committed five turnovers in a 21-16 upset. In nine losses under coach Will Muschamp, the Gators have turned the ball over 29 times, compared to 18 giveaways in Muschamp's 19 wins. In 12 games in the red, his teams are 3-9.

But turnover luck, and yes, luck is a huge component of turnovers, will kill a team. Miami won this game despite gaining 4 yards/play and going 1-11 on third downs.

What did we learn from watching this game?

Miami's run defense is improved. Before the game, I said that Miami would have to gamble and load up against the run. If Driskel could take advantage by passing, Miami would lose. But if they didn't gamble and load up against the run, the Hurricanes would lose anyway. And they played good run defense.

Removing sacks, which are for some reason counted as run plays in college football, Florida ran for only 3.3 yards/carry, on 42 rushes. That's not good. More impressive to me, however, is that Florida's longest run was 12 yards. That's living to play another play -- a play on which the defense could force a turnover. Give Miami's defense a lot of credit for staying in there and fighting.

Those who were covering the game and saw the angles the TV cameras don't give, said that Driskel had multiple opportunities to burn the Hurricanes on bombs because Miami had turned receivers loose deep over the top. He didn't see them or didn't feel comfortable taking those shots. And thus, Miami's plan worked.

Florida's young safeties were a concern of mine going into the game, and Miami took advantage of it once in a huge way, hitting a bomb to Phillip Dorsett. Miami got Dorsett singled up on Marcus Maye, a freshman who is basically a linebacker, and Maye compounded his lack of coverage skills with poor technique and angle. TD Miami.

The major problem I had with Florida's plan is the lack of designed runs for Jeff Driskel. Driskel is an awesome runner on designed runs, and Miami's defense struggled against the QB read game (zone read, veer, etc.). Driskel had only four designed runs by my count. Someone who knows Florida's personnel very well told me that the Gators' backup quarterback situation is so bad that if Driskel couldn't play for some reason this year, Florida might lose six games. Did the risk of injury cause Florida to not run Driskel?

Florida clearly misses tight end Jordan Reed. Last year, Reed was Florida's go-to target on third down. He would get open and catch the football. This is especially evident over the middle. Trey Burton is OK, and Florida's receivers are not as bad as some think, but there isn't a different maker in this group when a play must be made.

Speaking of Driskel, he was not near as bad as some believe. He actually outplayed Stephen Morris, though neither were good. His yards/attempt was 8.8, while Morris' was 6.5. Adjusting for interceptions, Driskel was 6.1 and Morris was 4.7.

Luckily for Miami, Florida did not come down with any of those four other throws.

Granted, Florida's defense is a lot better than Miami's. Competition does matter. But Morris completed less than half of his throws, missed easy throws for first downs when he was not pressured, and was just bad. I bought in to the Morris hype this year, because he did improve as 2012 dragged on, and that was coming off a big back injury. with a full off-season, I expected better from him.

Did either quarterback look better than they did in 2012? Not for my money.

I also wonder if Florida's injured offensive linemen hurt the Gators in a way that some didn't notice -- how many extra-OL sets did UF run Saturday? I didn't see many. That's been a staple of Florida's offense, and I'm sure they would have liked to run those. Missing three, and then four linemen, maybe it wasn't a feasible option?

Speaking of Florida's offensive line, I was not impressed. They did not communicate well and turned guys loose too frequently.

There were some players with whom I was impressed Saturday -- Florida defensive lineman Easley is maybe the best DT in the country, and the DE Gilbert transfer that Miami got from Wisconsin played well. I was also impressed with Miami's offensive tackles, relative to the awesome competition they were facing. Oh, and I really liked what I saw from Ronald Powell.

Has your opinion about either team after watching the game?

Mine really has not all that much. I still don't think Miami's offense is this special juggernaut, and I expected the defense to be better thanks to added depth and experience. Florida's offense is still not explosive, and its defense is still awesome. I cannot remember the last time a team won while committing five turnovers.

Florida's tradition is offense, offense, offense. Muschamp's style does not play well there.

Can Florida still win the SEC East? It's possible. However, Georgia has the leg up, with its win over South Carolina. Both Georgia and Florida must play LSU, but the Dawgs get them at home. Oh, and Florida must also go to South Carolina. Georgia does have road games at Tennessee, Auburn and Vanderbilt, which are not totally automatic, but Florida is still an underdog to win its first division title under Muschamp, who is now 19-9 as a head coach.

Both sides seem to be overreacting to the game. Miami thinks it is a top-15 caliber team thanks to turnover luck, and Florida fans are about to go nuclear on Muschamp.

Elsewhere

LSU is the best team I have seen this year. The defense seems to have very little drop-off from the excellent 2012 unit, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has worked wonders with Zach Mettenberger. And getting Jeremy Hill back at running back is huge -- a good LSU source told a friend of mine that Hill is the best running back they've had since Miles has been in Baton Rouge.

Speaking of running backs, what a battle of running backs in Athens this weekend. I tweeted that watching Todd Gurley and Mike Davis made me realize just how far FSU's backs are from being elite. That was meant not as a slight against FSU's backs -- which are very good, but just a comparison. Gurley is the best back in college football in my opinion. Big guys with that footwork between the tackles, and the ability to bounce outside, are rare. He would start for a whole lot of NFL teams right now, and it's sad that the labor laws are such that he has to take a pounding and lose one of the most profitable years of his football career by staying in college. And he'll have to do the same next year, too.

Texas is going through its "lost decade" of sorts, and is now throwing coaches off the deck, literally, mid-season. Manny Diaz is out as defensive coordinator after Texas gave up 500+ rushing yards to BYU in a loss. Diaz may have been part of the problem, but the problem that permeates the whole program is Brown. His teams are undisciplined and soft. He is totally washed up, and if Texas has any sense, will be fired.

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