I have yet to take a good second look at the Tennessee game; I spent much of yesterday just trying to catch up on the weekend since I missed most of the games while out of town.
Much has been made about the offense so far. It struggled against a Miami defense that is better than most people thought it was (and some still think it is), and despite the results and relative lack of need for offense against the Vols, it didn’t feel crisp last Saturday. Urban Meyer has looked at the issue but doesn’t seem to be overly concerned:
“Clock rule is an issue. The stats are not where we’d like them to be. After looking at the playcalling, I believe we’re OK. We’re getting the tailbacks more involved. Tim is managing the game.”
Essentially, he’s saying that the new clock rules are part of the lower production, but the evolution in play calling and increased roles of the running backs have changed things. He estimated that Florida only had 46 “competitive” plays against Tennessee, with the other nine coming as they were just trying to run out the clock. It shows what can happen when two run-first teams go at it under the new rules.
During his Monday press conference, Meyer said the new rule changes are “wrong” and “awful,” and that Jeremy Foley has talked to the SEC about them. His attitude before the season was that he just wanted the NCAA to stick with this year’s rules from here on out to get them to be consistent rather than changing them every season, but obviously having coached under them he hates them.
Meyer also mentioned in the press conference that the Gators are scoring on 51% of their drives versus 54% last season, so that’s down some, but the competition so far has been stiffer than it was last season to this point. He also said that all three teams have been dropping four defensive backs into coverage to keep things in front of them, so running the ball a lot makes the most sense.
So anyway, here’s some statistical perspective of where the Gators are in relation to the rest of the conference. Keep in mind that Florida’s opponents so far have been pretty good, with only Hawai’i looking like a dog in the bunch. The following rankings are within the SEC, and results against I-AA teams have been counted.
Rushing Offense: 163.7 yds/game, 8th
Passing Offense: 167.67 yds/game, 10th
Total Offense: 331.33 yds/game, 10th
Those are the stats that everyone is getting all worked up about. How about instead looking at some others?
Passing Efficiency: 145.89, 2nd
Passing Efficiency Defense: 89.60, 2nd
Rushing Defense: 72.33 yds/game, 5th
Pass Defense: 140.67 yds/game, 3rd
Sacks: 2.33 sacks/game, 4th
Not a bad collection, eh? Now consider this. Florida is first in the SEC in all of the following categories:
Scoring Offense: 37.33 points/game
Total Defense: 213 yds/game
Scoring Defense: 6.33 yds/game
Net Punting: 40.58 yds/punt
Kickoff Returns: 27.60 yds/return
Punt Returns: 24.60 yds/return
Turnover Margin: +9
This team is getting it done of defense and special teams, and it is putting up points from all over. Miami’s field goal is the only time an opponent has scored when it was not garbage time. On average, Florida (really, Brandon James) gains more than a quarter of the field on every return. As I mentioned yesterday, the Gators are the only team left in the country without a turnover.
So no, the scoreboard is not lighting up like it was in 2007. Fortunately, that goes for both sides of it. Florida will likely be just fine, as they are already doing quite well for themselves already.