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Florida vs. South Carolina: Personnel, performance — and the ruinous road

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Florida’s been rather good at home in 2021 — and genuinely rancid on the road.

NCAA Football: Florida at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t much to say about that one. But I’ll try!

Florida came out with a performance so embarrassing that it forced firings on both sides of the ball. It has been obvious that things need to change, but in most games this year Florida really was “a few plays away,” as Dan Mullen has both pointed out and rationalized all year.

Being that close, though, can cause you to rationalize losses in a way that can stifle progress. Florida was in that holding pattern — really since late last season. You could explain away a lot of the losses as fluky, and the Gators seemed to play the really good teams close when they tried. (The bowl game against Oklahoma? Not trying.)

However, those losses were, you know, still losing. And a loss to a bad South Carolina team in which Florida was about 50 plays away took away all inklings of rationalization.

Changes were obviously needed. Mullen has taken the first steps towards those changes by firing his offensive line coach and defensive coordinator.

Mullen has a chance to change the momentum of the program with his hires this offseason. I’ll delve more into that in this week’s video review.

For now, let’s take a quick look at personnel — and then a longer look at an interesting trend in Florida’s performance this season.

Personnel

There were no new wrinkles in terms of personnel, so we’ll just give the numbers this week without too much extraneous explanation.

Florida vs. South Carolina: Personnel + Performance

Personnel Plays Yards YPP Rushes % Yards YPR Passes % Yards YPA
Personnel Plays Yards YPP Rushes % Yards YPR Passes % Yards YPA
11 47 290 6.17 20 42.55% 69 3.45 27 57.45% 221 8.19
12 6 34 5.67 4 66.67% 6 1.50 2 33.33% 28 14.00
20 3 16 5.33 2 66.67% 7 3.50 1 33.33% 9 9.00
Florida Total 56 340 6.07 26 46.43% 82 3.15 30 53.57% 258 8.60

My one personnel note from this game is that I continue to want to see more two back personnel groupings. Florida’s best skill group is the running back group. Those guys are also extremely versatile. Florida got in some 20 Personnel with one of the backs in the slot. They motioned them into the backfield on one play and I believe left him in the slot for another. Nayquan Wright has the wiggle that has been missing at wide receiver this year. He could be a real weapon in the slot and in motion. I’d love to see some more looks with that group.

Florida Personnel + Performance: Year-to-Date Through South Carolina

Personnel Group Total Plays Yards Yards Per Play Total Rushes Run % Rushing Yards Yards Per Rush Total Passes Pass % Passing Yards Yards Per Pass
Personnel Group Total Plays Yards Yards Per Play Total Rushes Run % Rushing Yards Yards Per Rush Total Passes Pass % Passing Yards Yards Per Pass
11 433 2883 6.66 227 52% 1306 5.75 206 48% 1577 7.66
12 31 146 4.71 22 71% 75 3.41 9 29% 71 7.89
13 1 0 0.00 0 0% 0.00 1 100% 0 0.00
20 11 40 3.64 7 64% 13 1.86 4 36% 27 6.75
21 4 30 7.50 2 50% 9 4.50 2 50% 21 10.50
Emory Total 480 3099 6.46 258 54% 1403 5.44 222 46% 1696 7.64
11-AR 115 870 7.57 71 62% 561 7.90 44 38% 310 7.05
12-AR 13 140 10.77 5 38% 26 5.20 8 62% 114 14.25
13-AR 2 2 1.00 2 100% 2 1.00 0 0% 0 0.00
20-AR 8 20 2.50 6 75% 15 2.50 2 25% 5 2.50
21-AR 6 48 8.00 2 33% 3 1.50 4 67% 45 11.25
AR Total 144 1080 7.50 86 60% 607 7.06 58 40% 474 8.17
Total 624 4179 6.70 344 55.13% 2010 5.84 280 44.87% 2170 7.75

There’s no place like home

Dan Mullen mentioned multiple times in his press conference that Florida has been away from home for some time now. Not coincidentally, Florida has also been on a downward spiral in recent weeks. This team has not been able to consistently overcome the ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD — and when you go on the road the adversity gets ratcheted up.

I wanted to take a look at the difference in performance when Florida is at home versus on the road. There was some interesting data.

Before we get into the data, let’s discuss the schedule parity of the Home/Road split. Upon first blush, I think many would say that Florida is struggling on the road more than at home because they are playing better teams. That actually isn’t true, at least based on the SP+ rankings as of this writing.

The average SP+ ranking of the teams Florida has played at home is 55. The average SP+ ranking of the teams Florida has played on the road is 57.8.

You may also be thinking that the non-conference schedule is really making the difference. That, too, is not true: Florida’s three conference home opponents have an average SP+ ranking of 45.67, while the four conference road opponents have an average SP+ ranking of 45.

While average SP+ rank is not exactly a perfect comparison, the home and road opponents have been similar in terms of average quality. With that context, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Florida at Home

Category Florida Opponent
Category Florida Opponent
Rushing Yards 277 105
YPC 6.8 3.08
Passing Yards 174 244
YPA 7.29 6.77
Yards Per Play 7.01 4.98
Score 36 15

Florida at Home — SEC Games

Category Florida Opponent
Category Florida Opponent
Rushing Yards 236 109
YPC 6.05 3.3
Passing Yards 238 238
YPA 8.51 6.43
Yards Per Play 7.08 4.96
Score 36 15

At home, there isn’t a big difference between the non-conference and conference numbers. Florida is winning home games by a 21-point margin, averaging over seven yards per play on offense, and giving up fewer than five yards per play on defense.

That’s rather good football that’s been played in The Swamp: Florida performs like a top 10 offense and a top 25 defense, in terms of yards per play.

Things change quite a bit when the Gators go on the road.

Florida On the Road

Category Florida Opponent
Category Florida Opponent
Rushing Yards 183 209
YPC 5 5.47
Passing Yards 263 149
YPA 8.12 6.53
Yards Per Play 6.47 5.99
Score 24 31

With its non-conference meeting with USF included, Florida is losing road games by an average of a touchdown. That’s a 28-point swing from home games.

Florida’s yards per play drops to 6.47, as well, while its opponents gain an extra yard per play on the road. Beyond The Swamp, the Gators perform like the 30th-ranked offense and the 97th-ranked defense in terms of yards per play.

Unsurprisingly, the numbers get even worse when looking only at conference games.

Florida On the Road vs. SEC

Category Florida Opponent
Category Florida Opponent
Rushing Yards 138 234
YPC 3.97 6.23
Passing Yards 253 139
YPA 7.39 6.62
Yards Per Play 5.67 6.54
Score 19 34

In SEC road games, Florida is quite bad. The Gators are losing by an average of 15 points. The offensive yards per play drop to 5.67; opponents are averaging 6.54 yards per play. On the road in SEC play, the Gators perform like the 73rd-ranked offense and the 115th-ranked defense in terms of yards per play.

This Florida team has simply been bad on the road. Maybe it’s been the timing of the games or the quality of opponents, but this team desperately needs to get back home.

A game against Samford should help stop the slide. After that, Florida gets one last chance to conquer its road woes against Missouri, then returns home for the regular season finale against FSU.

Hopefully, we will see only the home version of the Gators for the rest of the year.