Numbers are funny. Tilt them one way and you get one answer. Tilt them another way, and you get something different. Such is the case with the increasingly frustrating Gator defense.
UF is 27th in total defense (307 yards per game) and 34th nationally in scoring defense (19.5 ppg). Not surprisingly, these high numbers can be attributed to the Gators' atrocious passing defense which allows 252.5 ypg, 82nd in the nation.
But, almost incredibly, UF is 13th in allowing third down conversions (28.7%). How is that possible? One theory is that because UF is so bad on the pass rush is that they'll drop eight on third down, so there is no room to throw. Think about it; how many times does UF blitz on third down? I can think of one play in the Ole Miss game and that's it.
Or there is this; since opponents know UF struggles in the air, they will pass on first and second down. Since UF is trying to follow the `bend-don't break' model, the opponents will gain about 4 yards on each of the first two plays. Then with third and short, the opponent runs the ball, straight into the teeth of the 5th best rushing defense in the nation. If it was third and medium or long, maybe that 28.7% would be a lot higher.
Among SEC teams, UF is third in first downs allowed. But UF has allowed 65 first downs, with LSU (45) and Vandy (53) leading the pack easily. In red zone defense, the Gators are 5th in the SEC. But that is determined by how many series result in points allowed over total series. Let's break it down into touchdowns. In 15 red zone defensive series, UF has allowed four touchdowns. That works out to about 27%, which is best in the SEC. Vandy would be next at 30%. (To be fair, LSU has allowed TDs on three of four total red zone drives. Vandy has allowed three TDs as well.)
So what does all this mean? (It's a good question, that's why I asked it.) The most important thing is that we can have some faith in the defensive unit. I think the Ole Miss game proved that the team is exposed on the big plays, 20 yards or more. But every team is like that. However with LSU and Kentucky in the coming weeks (second and third in SEC pass efficiency), the Gators cannot keep allowing teams to throw at 60% against them. There aren't enough good luck charms in my closet to keep a team at the top of the conference with a pass defense like that.