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Can Florida’s defense defy gravity?

The Gators’ bright future has been dimmed by a dismal defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 LSU at Florida Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The bye week is a good time to look back and take stock — a great time for a little “quality control,” as Coach Napier likes to call it. After Florida’s game against LSU, it’s a great time to discuss expectations.

Before the season, I thought Florida was a seven- to eight-win team. I think a lot of the Florida fanbase was in a similar range. The big win in Week One gave many reason and hope to start pushin the season win total towards nine, with an outside chance at double digits. The latest loss to LSU certainly seems like it was a big reset on expectations. Now, with Florida sitting at 4-3 with upcoming games against Georgia and Texas A&M, seven wins would be welcome by most in the fanbase.

Eight might be regarded as a massive success.

A big reason for the change in expectations throughout the season is the poor play of the defense. The unit did just enough to win against Utah and played well against Kentucky. Since that game, of course, there has been a slow descent down the statistical charts. Third downs have been a particular issue, with the descent being more like a plummet and Florida now boasting the worst third down defense in the country.

The third down issues continued into the LSU game, and Florida’s faults on that down were a significant part of allowing the Tigers to score on their first six possessions. Without ever being stopped, LSU gained 100 percent of available yards on every drive for more than three quarters of play, until they finally had to punt with 12:57 left in the fourth quarter.

The third down failure isn’t due to one particular scheme or error in execution. The Gators are playing a variety of schemes and trying different things. Nothing has been able to stick thus far. There has also been a bit of a bad luck element, I believe, but not enough to excuse all the third down issues.

The most frustrating thing for the defensive staff has to be that the same calls that don’t work on third down are having some success on other downs. I go through a few examples in the video below.

Offensively, Florida has been fine outside of a couple early hiccups. One of the more surprising aspects of the offense has been its explosiveness. Florida is tied for 19th in the country in plays gaining 20+ yards — and the Gators are actually inside the top 10 when taking that threshold out to both 30+ and 40+ yard plays. That explosiveness, perceived as something this team would lack entering the season, showed up against LSU — and it will likely need to continue to be a strength for Florida if the Gators are to get to seven wins.

In the video below, I take a closer look at Florida’s loss against LSU. The offensive review is fun at times, while the defensive review is … well, not quite as fun for the non-masochists among us. But I do think there are a few interesting looks in there that could be positive signs for the future.