As September comes to a close and another rough October looms on the horizon, national pundits and Gator fans alike have declared that September 2012 is different than September 2011. Being a cautious optimist by nature, I can't help but think we are getting ahead of ourselves a little. Numbers after the jump.
Defeated: FAU (1-11); UAB (3-9); UT (5-7); UK (5-7)
Total Offense (yds/game): 462
Total Defense (yds/game): 232
TO Margin: -1
Average margin of victory (ppg): 31
Defeated: BG (1-3); TAMU (3-1); UT (3-2); UK (1-4)
Total Offense (yds/game): 408
Total Defense (yds/game): 305
TO Margin: +5
Average margin of victory (ppg): 18
The following things jump off the page at me:
· The Texas A&M game certainly makes the difficulty of the schedule greater this year. However, outside of that game, I'd say the rest is a wash. Bowling Green is not appreciably better than Florida Atlantic or Alabama-Birmingham, Tennessee appears to show minor improvement, and Kentucky is appreciably worse than they were.
· Our defense has more bend to them this year than last. This is dangerous heading into October.
· Our yardage statistics are probably skewed for the worse this year because we are breaking in a first year starter. While he has shown remarkable improvement over 4 games, the first two games drag the yardage statistics down.
· Muschamp’s focus on turnovers is finally paying off. A +6 improvement from last year is very encouraging.
· While not reflected above, Muschamp’s coaching has improved greatly. His halftime adjustments this year have been incredible. Allowing 0 points in the 4thquarter is an amazing statistic no matter who you are playing. It is a real credit to Muschamp, Quinn, and Dillman.
As the statistics above show, 2011 was a good start. I remember being concerned about turnovers and penalties but being very excited about Weis’ offense, Muschamp’s more aggressive defense, and John Brantley’s seemingly major turnaround. It was only after our terrible October that we started looking back at September in a different light.
This October does not appear to be quite as daunting. We do not have the consensus #1 and #2 teams on our schedule. We do not have to play at Auburn where we have historically struggled. We do get a Vanderbilt team who is going backward in year 2 of James Franklin’s coaching tenure. That being said, we still have to play 3 of the top 6 teams in 4 games. Thankfully, 2 are at home and the other is a hop, skip, and jump away in Jacksonville. We end the year with a potential national title contender (who also happens to be one of our biggest rivals). There are plenty of challenges ahead but also plenty of chances to prove we are once again among the elite.
This article is long ways of saying beware of revisionist history. September 2011 only looked bad in hindsight. Many Gator fans saw a team loaded with potential talent with a couple of flaws that could be addressed. We saw a young coach eager to prove he was ready for a major college head coaching position, a well renowned offensive coordinator polishing a gifted QB who’d never been placed in the right system to maximize his talents, and a QB on the cusp of a breakout. This all sounds very familiar.
I’ll admit to being excited this year and that my expectations have also been raised. I had us as an 8-4 team coming into the season and now I have us as a 9-3 team with a chance to be 10-2 if the bounces come our way. But to guard myself from a major letdown, my approach is to wait to judge September until we complete October while being satisfied with a start to the season that exceeded my early expectations.