Florida State football opponent notes: Gators

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

10/25 Update

Alligator Army finally came to the realization Will Muschamp must go. I honestly wonder what took so long. It'll be interesting to see the list of candidates. The name I keep hearing is Dan Mullen (who was the OC in Gainesville under Urban Meyer). He makes as much sense as anyone...no, Gator fans, you're not getting Chip Kelly from the NFL.

SBN's Bill C. has this gem in The Numerical, Week 8:

"A .333 average is pretty good in baseball, but you typically want to be batting a little closer to .500 if you're an athletic director hiring coaches.

Jeremy Foley is one-for-three in hiring Florida head football coaches. He is generally regarded as one of the nation's better, more successful ADs, but one could say this has been a weak spot. If you're being particularly critical, you could point out that his one strong hire (Urban Meyer) was a no-brainer that any athletic director would have made. Still, he did keep Meyer from going to Notre Dame instead, and that's worth quite a bit.

The problem is, he preceded Meyer with Ron Zook and followed him up with Will Muschamp, who will almost certainly be coaching his final game(s) in the coming weeks."

Give the article a read, if you haven't already.

Are there any realistic coaching options for Go Gata that scare you?

10/22 Update

10/20 Update

Yikes. I'm not sure that could've gone much worse for Will Muschamp. Florida held Missouri to 119 total yards & still found a way to lose 42-13. If it didn't happen, I'm not sure I'd believe it. Incredibly, it's not the 1st time one of #KeepMuschamp's teams has allowed fewer than 120 total yards & lost (you might remember the other time):

Including this week, teams that have held their opponent to 120 yards or less are 147-2 over the last ten seasons. Both losses are by Will Muschamp-coached Florida teams. Saturday, Florida held Missouri to 119 yards of total offense and lost. The only other team in that span to lose while holding an opponent to 120 yards or less was Florida in 2011 against Florida State (95 yards).

--From ESPN Stats & Info

Marcus Murphy got the Tigers off to a hot start, taking the opening kickoff 96 yards for a TD. He'd later return a punt 82 yards for a TD early in the 3rd quarter. Markus Golden would later return a fumble 21 yards for a TD, before Darvin Ruise took an INT 46 yards for a TD, meaning 2/3 of Mizzou's points came courtesy return TD's. The defensive TD's were both the result of Jeff Driskel turnovers. He has 12 giveaways in the past 4 games.

Driskel ended the night 7-19 for 50 yards, w/ 0 TD's & 2 INT's. Treon Harris was 8-12 for 98 yards, w/ 1 TD & 1 INT. He also ran 8 times for 26 yards & a TD, while losing a fumble.

I can't even fathom how mad I'd be if my favorite team held the opponent to 119 total yards & lost. Florida didn't just lose, either...they got crushed. The Gators held QB, Maty Mauk, to 6-18 for 20 yards. Mizzou's leading WR had NINE yards. The Tigers only mustered 99 yards rushing on 31 carries (3.2 yds/rush). I'm still not sure how good UF's D is this season, but you certainly can't pin the last 3 losses on that unit.

One thing's for certain, & I've said it since the end of the Tennessee game. Jeff Driskel certainly isn't the answer, so Muschamp & UF should roll w/ Treon Harris at QB the rest of the way.

Up Next: UF has a bye until 11/1, when they face UGA in Jacksonville.

10/13 Update

LSU vs. UF basically came down to this: both teams deserved to lose, but one of them had to win. Florida led 17-14 at halftime, but they found themselves trailing w/ two minutes left in regulation. They had a chance to take the lead, but Tevin Westbrook dropped a sure TD on 3rd down in the end zone...for once, it wasn't all Jeff Driskel's fault. They had to settle for a short FG. On LSU's next possession, the Gators forced a 3-and-out, but Driskel threw an INT, leading to a game-winning 50-yd FG by LSU w/ just 0:03 left.

Florida only gained 306 yards on 57 plays (5.37 yds/play). Driskel completed 14-25 for 183 yards (7.3 yds/pass), w/ 1 TD & 2 INT's. He also ran for 71 yards & a TD on 21 carries, but he fumbled once, as well. A team w/ so many talent deficiencies can't afford 3 turnovers from its QB.

Matt Jones only ran it 4 times for 11 yards before leaving w/ an injury. Demarcus Robinson had a nice game at WR w/ 5 receptions for 104 yards & a TD.

I know Treon Harris missed the game due to the sexual assault allegations, but he needs to be UF's starter at QB. It's clear at this point that Jeff Driskel isn't the answer.

RB Leonard Fournette was the only offense for LSU. The freshman from New Orleans had 140 yards & 2 TD's on 27 carries. Otherwise, the Gators played pretty well defensively. In total, UF only allowed 305 yards on 72 plays (4.24 yds/play). Once again, it was the 3 Jeff Driskel TO's that cost Will Muschamp's squad a very winnable contest.

SB Nation's Bill C. pretty much agrees w/ my first sentence in his Study Hall of LSU vs. UF:

"And in the end, whoever lost this game was going to feel like they threw one away."

Up Next: UF stays in Gainesville to host a Mizzou team coming off an embarrassing loss to Georgia.

5:15 pm Treon Harris Update...Will not play vs. LSU

4:30 pm Treon Harris Update...Suspension Lifted

I doubt Treon Harris plays vs. LSU with all that happened this week. This gives Jeff Driskel another week to make a positive impression on the coaches. I still expect Treon Harris to be the starting QB when the Gators come to Tallahassee in late November.

10/10 Treon Harris Update...Charges Dropped

Just another reminder why America's legal system says you're innocent until proven guilty. It's a shame so many in the media & elsewhere rushed to judgement in this case.

10/6 Update

U-G-L-Y...there's no other way to describe Florida's 10-9 win over Tennessee Saturday. The teams COMBINED for 465 total yards on 143 plays! That's a measly 3.25 yds/play. The good news for the Gators: they held the Vols to 233 yards on 68 plays (3.43 yds/play). The bad news for UF: their offense was even worse: 232 yards on 75 plays (3.09 yds/play). The Gators only allowed the Vols to convert 5-17 (30%) on 3rd down, but they weren't much better, going 7-20 (35%). Each team turned the ball over 3 times.

Jeff Driskel continues to be terrible at QB for Florida. He completed 11-23 for 59 yards (2.6 yds/att), w/ 0 TD's & 3 INT. That means in his last 2 games, he's 20-51 for 152 yards, w/ 1 TD & 5 INT. You can't get that type of production from your QB & expect to win, especially in today's SEC (all offense, no defense). Fortunately, for the Gators, Will Muschamp finally decided to insert one-time FSU commit, Treon Harris, at QB w/ 0:19 left in the 3rd quarter. While his numbers weren't great (2-4, 17 yards passing; 4 carries, 24 yards), he gave UF a much needed spark & led the Gators on their only two scoring drives of the day.

Matt Jones continues to be the only consistent performer on Florida's offense, w/ 114 yards & a TD on 23 carries. He was also UF's leading receiver w/ 4 catches for 19 yards (ouch)! Demarcus Robinson, who seemed such an integral part of the offense after his outburst vs. UK, was silent for the 2nd straight game, w/ only 2 receptions for 19 yards.

While there most likely was some optimism in Gainesville after Saturday's win (due to Treon Harris), that all stopped abruptly this afternoon when it was announced the Freshman QB was suspended in light of a sexual assault investigaton, stemming from a complaint early Sunday morning. This wasn't an athletic department decision, as it came straight from UF's administration. They obviously decided to move very swiftly on the matter, I'd think in large part because of the current climate in pro/college football as it relates to treating women.

Here's the University of Florida's full statement from UF beat writer, Richard Johnson:

Up next: Florida hosts LSU this weekend. The Tigers opened a 1-pt. favorite. Vegas knows what the media can't seem to figure out: LSU isn't good this year.

9/22 Update

UF traveled to Bama & got up 14-7 early. The Crimson Tide scored the next 14 points, before the Gators tied it early in the 3rd on a Jeff Driskel TD run. From there, it was all Bama, as they scored the final 21 points to win 42-21.

In all seriousness, Florida was fortunate this game was so close for so long. Alabama turned it over 4 times, or it would've been a blowout (UF scored all 21 pts off TO's).

Let's look at the numbers. Alabama had 28 first downs. Florida only had 11. Bama had 645 total yards to UF's 200. Blake Sims threw for 445 yards & 4 TD (Jacob Coker came in to throw a TD, as well), while Jeff Driskel was a woeful 9-28 for only 93 yards with 1 TD & 2 INT. Unfortunately, for UF, Driskel was the leading rusher, as well, with only 59 yards. Heisman candidate, Amari Cooper, had 10 catches for 201 yards & 3 TD. Demarcus Robinson, who went bananas last week vs. UK only had 2 catches for 14 yards.

At least the Gators have a better punter (Kyle Christy) than FSU...

Up next: UF has a week off before traveling to Knoxville to take on a young UT squad.

9/15 Update

UF played UK. It was 3-3 at half. It got much more interesting from there. The teams each scored 17 in the 2nd half, sending the game to OT. The Gators finally outlasted the Wildcats in the 3rd OT period, but not without some controversy, as many folks contend Florida should've been called for delay of game on their 4th down play in the 1st OT.

The Gators had 532 yards on 94 plays for an average of 5.66 yds/play. The Wildcats totaled 450 yards on 78 plays for 5.77 yds/play. UF only had one turnover, while UK had three.

Florida's offense was all about two guys: Matt Jones on the ground, & Demarcus Robinson through the air. Jones had 29 carries for 156 yards & a TD, while Robinson had a staggering 15 catches for 216 yards & 2 TD's (Robinson's obviously a tough matchup, but FSU has 2 great CB's). No other Gator had more than two receptions. Florida shut down Kentucky's running game, but their secondary struggled, giving up 369 yards through the air, although they had 3 INT's.

Up next: Florida travels to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. If they play like they did against Kentucky, they have no shot of winning.

9/9 Update

UF blasted Eastern Michigan over the weekend. But how did they do it? By being competent on offense and nasty on defense.

From Bill Connelly

Eastern Michigan's defense ranked 123rd in Def. F/+ last season. If a healthy Florida offense couldn't move the ball against the Eagles, then it just wasn't going to happen. Still, Florida did move the ball against EMU, and it had to feel all sorts of cathartic. Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones, and Mack Brown combined for 191 yards and three scores on 22 carries, and quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 69 percent of his passes in an easy, breezy, 65-0 win.

Granted, there were warning signs. Driskel's 31 completions averaged just 8.0 yards a pop, and his per-attempt average was still a terribly mediocre 5.5 yards. Plus, as good as the running game looked, the Gators did stall and settle for three field goals in the first half. So yeah, there's improvement still to make. But in terms of happy first steps forward, after the debacle of 2013, it doesn't get much happier than this.

TSK

Here is where the offense looked completely different. The Gators frequently lined up more than three receivers, and they weren't all the same four or five every time they did it. Florida has some receiver depth finally, and it plans to use it.

As is customary with many spread attacks these days, Roper uses some throws as an extended run game. I don't know of a formal definition of what constitutes an "extended run" pass, but the one I used here was: an immediate pass that didn't involve reading the defense that went to the perimeter and no more than three yards past the line of scrimmage. I used my best judgment in identifying these throws, but it was hard sometimes as Roper has plenty of passing plays with short routes on the outside.

The Gators used ten such passes, with five coming on their first drive. Before garbage time, the success rate on them was a dismal 16.7% (one of seven). The entire passing game wasn't terribly efficient early, as it had a success rate of just 28.6% before the 27-0 lead.

It wasn't quite as bad as it sounds, though. The success rate could have been 30% if not for a drop, and if two passes that came up one yard short of being a success (seven yards on first-and-15, five yards on second-and-eight) got just one yard more, it goes up to 40%. The success rate for the whole game was 46.8%, so things did get better as the game went along.

Driskel seemed comfortable, and his accuracy was mostly fine. He only short armed one pass and had only three big overthrows. He attempted six deep passes, and five were on the mark. Only one was complete, though, as two more were drops (Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose) and the other two were defensive pass interference penalties. Driskel is no Russell Wilson at Wisconsin, and he did have his customary should've-been-an-interception throw, but he will do a lot of positive things in this scheme.

Alligator Army liked the offense a lot, and that it wasn't embarrassing, but Jeff Driskel still needs work.

Because we are a picky fan base, and will be trying to find reasons not to believe in this team this week, we will focus on what Jeff Driskel didn't do on Saturday. He didn't impress with his command of the offense on a consistent enough basis to think he's assured of a great season. He locked onto receivers. He let players get to spots on the field and hit them with bullets rather than leading them. He didn't run like he could've.

He set a few career highs as a passer, though, and made no major mistakes, and was pretty clearly still going at less than full speed, at least to me. If he needs improvement, the most important ones will probably come from cranking up his level of play as the season demands it.

Original

Tomahawk Nation is setting up preview pages for each of Florida State's football opponents. This is the page for Florida. FSU hosts the Gators on November 29, and there are quite a few questions about a team that went 4-8 in 2013 after a 11-2 year in 2012. Will Muschamp is just 22-16 in Gainesville, and seems to be entering the year on the hot seat.

One thing that has never waned, when healthy, has been the defense played by Muschamp's teams. UF has a new coordinator on offense -- a hire I like a lot, but any turnaround will be keyed by the defense giving the offense a lot of margin for error in its improvement bit. I think

Florida has recruited at a very high level -- 54 percent blue chips over the last four classes (FSU is at 56 percent). And that always makes a team scary, because if things come together, they could come together in a big way.

I have a few questions about this offense.

  1. Quarterback: Jeff Driskel has a big arm, and very underrated wheels. This new spread offense does seem likely to use him better than other offenses have. However, I don't know if Driskel will be able to read coverages, throw with anticipation and deliver footballs in stride that allow the receiver to run after the catch. I've never seen him do those things. Using his legs more could help to simplify some coverages. But running Driskel a lot also puts him at risk of injury. Given the hotseat Muschamp is on, I anticipate UF rolling the dice and running Driskel a lot. This is no time to play it safe. Driskel running often and staying healthy would be a big help to the offense.
  2. How much will the lack of offensive skill position player development from previous years hamstring the 2014 group? Will Demarcus Robinson have his mind right? If so, he could be a big playmaker for the Gators, and a nice piece to add to the steady, reliable Quinton DunbarReports so far seem promising.
  3. Just how sketchy is the offensive line depth? I look at the starters and think this can be one of the better groups in the SEC. Then I look at the backups and cringe a bit. Is the depth as bad as I think it is? Can the starters stay healthy? Remember, Florida State won a national title in 2013 with quite sketchy offensive line depth thanks to suffering no serious injuries. It can be done, but it's an obvious cause for concern.

Given that there are exactly 91 days between the start of football season and when UF rolls into town, we'll have our answers about this team before the game. I could conceivably see Florida anywhere from 9-2 to 6-5 when it comes to Tallahassee. With great recruiting and many questions comes the potential for great variance. But 8-4 seems like the key mark to hit. Vegas seems to think that the odds of 8-4 or 7-5 are about the same, but that 9-3 is a lot more likely than 6-6.

I tend to think 9-3 is an absolutely safe zone for Muschamp, while 8-4 will probably save his job as well, assuming the offense becomes a watchable product.

FSU is currently favored over Florida by 17.5 in futures wagering.

The excellent Bill Connelly has a very fair preview of the Gators. Please do click over and read it all.

Not that this was intentional, but Florida's schedule is set up rather perfectly for a bounce-back. Well, "perfectly" might be an overstatement -- there's nothing particularly rosy about a schedule that features five opponents projected 12th or better -- but at least three of the four toughest opponents show up in the final five games, and at least the Gators start the season with three of the four easiest.

If the Gators are anything but 3-0 heading to (gulp) Tuscaloosa, then this is almost certainly Will Muschamp's last season in Gainesville. But yeah, they'll be 3-0.

This is an odd time for Florida. Even in 2012, fan interest in Muschampball seemed to wane at times (it's certainly not particularly pleasant to the eye), and in 2013, when injuries forced him to get creative to avoid disaster, he couldn't do it. It's hard to be too pessimistic about a program that was 11-2 just one full season ago, but it's hard to be particularly optimistic about a team that looked as bad as Florida did for much of last year.

Thanks to recruiting and 2012, in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2014 the Gators get a faithful No. 30 projection, with a likely record of 7-5 (29 percent chance of 8-4 or better, 38 percent chance of 6-6 or worse). That's as good a starting point as any for expectations, but the odds of another 2012 are small.

And will 7-5 be enough to earn Muschamp a fifth year in Gainesville?

Here's Paul Myerberg's prediction. Again, please do make sure to click on over and read the preview in its entirety.

In a nutshell: Guarded optimism. It's only fair to be pessimistic: Florida was a struggle under Muschamp even when the going was good – all the way back in 2012, which seems ages ago – and is fresh off an eight-loss season, so this staff and current program haven't earned the overwhelming benefit of the doubt. Yet the theory behind a projected rise into the SEC East division race is built on a simple premise: If you add even an average offense to this defense – just an offense that doesn't punch itself in the face weekly – you have the basic outline of a team balanced enough to place its full weight on divisional foes and bleed the clock for 60 minutes, eventually pulling out enough close wins to earn a shot at the conference championship. This is Muschamp-era football, for better or worse, and it can't get any worse than it was a season ago.

It can get markedly better. The defense is better if healthy and productive in the secondary, though that unit is going to need a little time in September to find a rhythm. If the Gators can locate adequate depth, the front seven will stand up with any in the SEC. In total, the defense has the tools, weapons and motivation to control and limit the majority of teams inside and out of conference play, with Florida State the likely exception. It's all about the offense: If a top-six unit in the SEC, the Gators are going to bash heads; if a bottom-four unit in the SEC, it's going to be another struggle. But no one said it was going to be easy.

I'll guardedly suggest that Driskel stays healthy, the line improves, the backfield finds three solid options, the receiver corps flourishes and Roper's system finds a way to get the ball in space. These are all possible scenarios, individually speaking, if hitting all the high notes seems unlikely. Florida's offense needs to be electric to compete for the national championship; Florida's not competing for the national championship, so that's fine. But the Gators are in the thick of things in the East, if stymied from making much national noise due to the schedule: Alabama and FSU on the road, Georgia at a neutral site and South Carolina and LSU at home. A guarded projection: If the offense is merely average, explosive at times, the Gators should still win eight games during the regular season.

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