In two games, it has felt like the Florida Gators have done almost all of what they want to do as a team — just not in the span of one game.
Against Utah, the Florida offense showed that it is to be feared on the ground and could be better than adequate through the air, with Anthony Richardson sprinkling on the magic he is best known for. The defense, however, played a lot of bend-but-don’t-break ball, needing Amari Burney’s late interception to stave off what had been a half of unstoppable offense from the Utes.
Against Kentucky, the Florida defense shut down marked-for-the-first-round Will Levis and a running game that has been historically strong for most of the 60 minutes of play, breaking only at game’s end. The offense, however, sputtered all night, with Richardson’s play being maddening rather than magical and the running game that mauled the Utes getting managed by loaded boxes and superb linebacker play.
Combine the best of the Gators’ first two weeks, and there is a vision of a surprisingly competent and competitive SEC contender. Combine the worst, and the vision is of a team that will struggle mightily to make a bowl.
The truth, as with most things in life, is probably somewhere between the extremes. Richardson likely won’t convert two-pointers as a whirling dynamo every week; neither should be consistently complete just 40 percent of his throws. Florida’s defense might be more stout than scary or subpar.
What we probably won’t get on this Saturday is a lot more of the truth — not against a USF team that seems like it will get run over.
The Bulls have bled yardage on the ground like hemophiliacs to BYU and Howard — and given up 250 passing yards to each of those teams, too. The tally in the loss to the Cougars — currently being thrashed by Oregon — was 50-21; the score at half against Howard was just 14-7 in USF’s favor, and the Bison scored first. There are ample good reasons that the oddsmakers have Florida favored by more than three touchdowns tonight.
And that renders anything but a shock — a very close win or loss or a blowout that defies expectations — unlikely to stir the heart on this evening. Maybe Richardson does something amazing, as is the hope for his every touch of the ball. Maybe Florida’s defense builds on the good it did against Kentucky. Hopefully, no one gets hurt.
In the end, this one is about getting things righted — putting players in positions to make plays, and having the place erupt if and when they do. After two sea battles with stalwart crews, this is a chance for Florida’s ship to plunder painlessly.
Or so we think and hope.