Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Second Thought on Florida

In my efforts to dismiss Florida’s chances to win the East a third straight year, I forgot a little something about the Gator offense: it always starts slow:

The offense still feels arrhythmic, schizoid, and lacking any real identity, but it showed signs of coherence with the run, and everything else can--in a perfect world--build off that. We might see some very bland playcalling as a result, but it might make really nice crushing noises if the defense holds up their end of the bargain.

It follows the pattern of most Urban Meyer teams at Florida: open auditions on the field for games one through five, then upward trend in overall offensive improvement. Sometimes that goes to Manageable Chris Leak Placeholder-style production, and sometimes that becomes the 2007/2008 Quarkback Blowtorch. The point is that this follows the pattern for most Meyer-era offenses, and the South Florida game is right in line with the usual scatterplotting.

I have the memory of an elephant when it comes to irrelevant details, but I had forgotten that the Florida offense struggled in the first month of 2008, a season that ended up with the Gators winning the national title with an attack that put up phenomenal numbers.  Florida scuffled against a bad Arkansas team before putting them away and lost to Ole Miss at home. 

It bears mentioning that Urban Meyer has the luxury to take the month of September to find an effective offense for two reasons.  First, Florida never leaves home to play non-conference games in September.  They are reliant on Florida State to provide the meat of the non-conference schedule (although kudos, I suppose, for playing USF, which is not a bad opponent at all).  Florida would not be able to wade into the pool of offensive competence gingerly if they played in the Georgia Dome against Virginia Tech to open the year.  (OK, this might not be the best week to make this point.)  Second, Florida would not be able to take the gradual approach if Tennessee were still Tennessee.  Steve Spurrier’s Gators faced the unique situation of their season-defining games typically coming in mid to late September against the Vols.  With Tennessee in the tank for most of Meyer’s tenure in Gainesville, there is no pressure on Florida to find its best offensive mix off the bat. 

In short, I am not writing this Florida team off.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see this team winning the Cocktail Party, holding off South Carolina in Gainesville, and winning the East again.  The defense is good and the offense has the potential to be decent, even if it was aptly described as "two offenses poorly sutured together."  We should have an entertaining race in the East for the first time in a while.

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