Following Florida's loss to the Miami Hurricanes, I looked into some statistics. I didn't have to dig very deep to discover some glaring problems in this year's Gators (specifically on offense). But the statistical domination that comes with Will Muschamp's Gator defense has continued as expected — and, in some ways, is better than before.
Using statistics collected from cfbstats.com, I found that UF is among the worst in two game-changing categories: Turnover Margin and Penalties (both yardage as well as total number of penalties). The turnover margin as stands following Miami is -4.0 , or -2.0 per game, compared to +15 or +1.15 in 2012. As you all may know, the Gators have continued their trend in the category of penalties, but the major shift in performance in terms of turnovers proved catastrophic in the game against Miami much in the same way we saw with the performance against Georgia in 2012. Turnovers and penalties can each alone ruin a teams chances at success, but if they are distributed in such a generous manner in the way the Gators did this past Saturday and last year in Jacksonville, it leaves almost zero chance at victory. Will Muschamp and staff stressed in the offseason the importance of not committing penalties, which is a pursuit that continues to be fleeting for the Gators as they have kept up an average of 10 penalties for 70 yards this year.
If you solely judge the 2012 season based on last years game against Georgia in the same manner many are judging this years matchup with Miami, the two games appear oddly similar:
- 1/11 Opponent 3rd Down conversions (Miami) vs. 1/10 (Georgia)
- TOP: 38:20 to Miami's 21:40 vs. 33:41 to Georgia's 26:19
- 2/6 Redzone chances against Miami (TD, FG) vs. 2/4 against Georgia (2 FG)
- Four fumbles with three lost against Miami vs. 6 fumbles and 4 lost against Georgia
- Costly interceptions in/near the end zone in both games
- Demoralizing long pass plays for touchdowns in both game
- 3 Interceptions against Miami vs. 3 interceptions against Georgia
This statistical comparison should be enough to keep at least some Gator fans from trashing this season all together in sheer disappointment. The box scores for both games have nearly identical comparisons across the board with the only differences being positive with overall offensive production in terms of yardage in the Miami game far exceeding that of the Georgia game in 2012.
Obviously it can be argued that the abysmal performance against Georgia occurred after several convincing victories like LSU and South Carolina and against a much better opponent, however this season still has very much in store that has yet to be determined (where Miami could remain undefeated) and by no means is there any sure evidence that this season has ended as a failure for the Gators with a clean conference slate ahead, ready for the taking.
Defensively the Gators appear as good as ever under lead of Muschamp, posting an unrivaled 2 conversions on 24 third down attempts. The Gators are currently ranked 4th in the country in rushing defense despite facing two highly touted running backs in David Fluellen and Duke Johnson. The pass defense also remains sound sitting at 26th in the country allowing only 158.5 yds passing and 46.0% completion percentage. The points allowed remains at a low 13.5 pts/g despite two of the drives in the game against Miami starting in Florida territory, something that can be partially credited to poor play by the offense. The only clear blemish on the defense at this point is a lack of turnovers being force compared to last season.
Upon review, all if the issues faced by the Gators in the game against Miami can be fixed as they were last season, except possibly the penalty problem. The breakout performance of Vernon Hargreaves and return and acclimation of players like Antonio Morrison and Loucheiz Purifoy into the lineup can easily bolster the number of takeaways. There is no reason why Jeff Driskel cannot return to his level of ball security in the 2012 season, especially as the running game settles and a clear starter emerges. As the offensive line develops a higher level of chemistry and starts to gel a bit more from experience (also being helped by the return of Jon Halapio from a leadership standpoint) I can see the running game having a leaping improvement. Overall there is nothing to be worried about Gator fans, unless this type of performance continues for at least 2 more games; so you can continue to relieve yourself of the grief that stems from losing to a rival in such a grinding fashion and move on to focusing on the next opponent heading into the Bye week, just as you can be sure the coaching staff and players have, as this season is only just getting started.