With SEC play in the rear view, and FSU still 3 weeks away, what can we hope to see from the Gators against 2 inferior opponents?
Because of the SEC's scheduling quirks this season, the Gators completed their conference schedule a week earlier than usual, setting up 2 games against non-BCS opponents. Louisiana-Lafayette is the tougher of the games, but Florida should be just fine in each case, barring catastrophic failure.
So, I had a little round-table discussion with the most die-hard Gator fans I know, my best friends and roommates from my own time at UF. We all spend a ridiculous amount of time, energy, and money on this wonderful game/social event/cultural experience that is SEC football, and they represent the best and worst of Gator fandom. I will have to say that even during the lean years of [name redacted], we never had to see the student section like this at a frickin' SEC game!
Here are 10 things Gator fans want to see against LA-Lafayette and Jacksonville St:
Plenty of stretching and mobility work this week for the Gators, and hopefully the starters jump out to a big lead and get out of the game. Anytime you step on to the field, heck, stepping out your door, you run the risk of injury. But these opportunities can, and should be minimized through crisp, hard play.
Rhythm in the passing game
There's no use ignoring the fact of Florida's poor passing offense this season. I think rumors of an up tempo offense would help Driskel get in more of a rhythm, and while the concern of little rest of the defense is valid, they are strong enough of a unit to contain opposing offenses. The Ragin' Cajuns offer a good opportunity, coming in with the nation's 114th rated pass defense. Sadly, this corresponds equally with Florida's 114th rated passing offense.
Mack Brown & Matt Jones getting carries
There have been positive signs from both Brown and Jones this season, and show promise for a great 1-2 punch next year. I believe Jones is the prototype big back that Muschamp would like to have wearing down defenses, and Brown is a fine receiver and cutback runner. I'm all for Gilly getting closer to his 1000 yard season, but want him to be healthy going in to FSU. These 2 games offer solid opportunities for Brown and Jones to play entire series instead of spelling Gilly for a couple plays.
Dante Fowler terrorizing people
Fowler has been the biggest impact freshman on the Gators this season. For the relative number of snaps he has played, Fowler has 5 tackles for loss this season, good for 4th on the team and 2nd among D-lineman. Gator fans would like to see Fowler be used more in the D-line rotation, and earlier on, especially with an opportunity to build confidence heading in to Tally.
Aggressive play calling by Brent Pease
While I generally have been quite pleased with the offensive design and framework of Pease's attack, the necessity remains for the Gators to open up the game plan and take more shots. The obvious look is in the passing game, but you can't just chuck the ball deep a few times a game and say "Well, we tried". I would like to see Pease call more mis-direction running plays, such as the Hines Sweep, Driskel Boot, and the Burton Zone-Read-to-Lead-Blocker (the play run for a TD against USC). There's a fine line between using those plays sparingly enough to make them effective, and overuse, but Pease has been firmly behind the line of sparse usage.
Caleb Sturgis healthy
Even if he doesn't kick in the games, Gator fans will be watching warmups to see how Sturgis moving around. He is one of the best kickers in the country, and our steadiest offensive weapon. We need him healthy for FSU.
Jeff Driskel throw for over 200 yards
Driskel has only thrown for over 200 yards twice this season, against Tennessee and Kentucky. The Gators need him to be on top of his game against FSU and the bowl game, and his ability to spread the field by passing is an important cog in making the Gator's bread-and-butter plays work. Florida is not set up to be a 300 yard passing team this season, but 200 yards is a reasonable and attainable measuring stick for the next 2 weeks.
Contributions from receivers not named Jordan Reed
And Jordan Reed isn't even a receiver! The Gator receivers have been underwhelming this season, to say the least. Quinton Dunbar leads the corps with 20 catches, and no receiver has more than 3 catches in a single game. I'm all for spreading the love, but Florida desperately need a receiver to step and be a true threat.
Jacoby Brisset getting snaps
Yes, there are transfer rumors, but this guy needs to get some playing time the next 2 games. 1, it will mean we have a comfortable lead. 2, you never know when you're going to lose a Quarterback, running or not (right Maryland?). It will pay off to have Brisset receive a quarter's worth of snaps.
Big Plays on Offense
While defense wins Championships and special teams can tip the scales in any game, the Florida offense needs to rebuild its reputation as a big play offense fueled by exceptional athletes. The downfield plays have been virtually non-existent (Driskel's 2 best deep balls were brought back by penalties), with our biggest plays coming from short passes and screens. This is what the Gators are this season, and it's fine. But, for recruiting's sake, we need to show the offense is capable of big plays.
This is a small sample of Gator fans, albeit a good sample. What does what the rest of nation say? Let us know in the comments below.