2012 Recap: Not for the aesthete, but it worked. Florida finished 90th in yards per play offense. They countered that by having the 4th best yards per play defense, ending up 8th in turnover margin and going 4-1 in one-score games. Finishing 11-1 in the regular season, they were, potentially, a Jarvis Jones strip away from a shot at the SEC title. Beating four of the SRS Top 15, they amassed what may have been the most impressive regular season resumé in the country. Against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, they played like a team that would rather have been somewhere else.
Offense: Florida last saw one in 2009. The Gators have a deep and experienced offensive line (albeit with injury concerns). The jury is out everywhere else. There is no proven, competent contributor at receiver. Mike Gillislee is gone. The best thing they did offensively last year was run Jeff Driskel. With so little depth at QB, they may not be able to do that.
How does Florida get better? Since the Gators can’t bring in anyone else to #COMEPLAYWRFORTHEJOKER until 2014…They need big sophomore RB Matt Jones to debut strong as a starter. They need to get better at mundane things. Florida was 111th in sacks allowed, 90th in third down conversions and 96th in Red Zone touchdown rate. Just being average (or not horrific) in those categories would yield substantial improvement.
Defense: Stuff the run. Force offense into passing downs. Make plays on the ball. That methodology tends to work well. The Gators lost three Top 50 draft picks (Shariff Floyd, Matt Elam, Jon Bostic) from last year’s defense. That said, they should still be formidable. A lot of touted depth across all three lines of the defense. They have a hyper-athlete in Loucheiz Purifoy. They should weather the undoubted fallout from Antonio Morrison’s irritating a cop arrest. The worry here is the defense declines from great to very good and the offense does not progress.
Ceiling: 12-0. Matt Jones is a stud. Driskel and the offensive line stay healthy. The defense does not miss a beat. The Gators enter each season needing to beat Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and LSU. They do that.
Floor: 6-6. The offense is in shambles, again. The defense takes a step back. A moderate decline has major ramifications with a tough schedule. Will Muschamp drifts back to the hot seat.
Prediction: 9-3. FSU is the one of the four big games at the Swamp. Vanderbilt, Miami and Missouri could get interesting as well. Florida obliterates some earnest Big Ten outfit in a second-tier SEC bowl.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]
25. USC Trojans 24. Miami Hurricanes 23. Northwestern Wildcats 22. Oregon State Beavers 21. Nebraska Cornhuskers 20. Texas Longhorns 19. Louisville Cardinals 18. Baylor Bears 17. Michigan Wolverines 16. TCU Horned Frogs 15. Oklahoma Sooners 14. Clemson Tigers 13. Florida State Seminoles 12. LSU Tigers 11. Boise State Broncos