Florida Gators 2014 Football Game Previews: Idaho Vandals

It’s never too early to start thinking about football, even when most people reading this are fans of the Florida Gators, which I still believe is the best school to be a fan of- even coming off the worst season since my parents were in college. I’ll say that again, just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding: even though this team drove me nothing short of completely insane last year, it’s still great to be a Gator, and I am still incredibly excited for the upcoming season.

I’m sure many of you who read me on here are aware of my game by game preview series last season when I was working over at Alligator Army. Yes, I did project the Florida Gators to go 13-1, beat FSU by two touchdowns and win a national championship. That didn’t go very well with FSU fans, or even most Florida fans, and they were all right: FSU smashed Florida 37-7 (though to be fair to myself, I did revise that preview several days before the games, and projected FSU to win 41-7, and coming just four points off, not to mention correctly predicting that the Gators would give FSU fits early, wasn’t a bad silver lining). Rest assured, though, I plan on doing much better with my projections this year.

Good or bad, these are just projections. I hope from the bottom of my heart that the Gators will win a national championship this year, but… well, how about you just read my projections each week and wait to see how they all unfold.

It all starts with Game One… so let’s get to it!

Idaho Vandals

2013: 1-11 (independent)

(First meeting)

Coach: Paul Petrino (1-11)

Who Are You?

The Idaho Vandals, a football only member of the Sun Belt (yeah, that’s not geographically off or anything) that happens to be banned from the postseason this upcoming season because their football team has failed to meet the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate every year under Rob Akey since 2009. So think, the last time they actually met the APR standards before Paul Petrino took over last year was the same year the Gators won their last national championship. Alright, so that comparison was designed to make the problem seem inherent with the program’s inception, because it does seem like forever since Florida has last been good, even with the 11-2 record in 2012… well, you get the point.

Anyway, aside from being stocked with geniuses, this team sticks out in another way. Without the possibility of a bowl game to cap the season, and without other marquee programs on their 2014 schedule (and if you’re a Georgia or FSU fan reading this, don’t you dare make some brilliant comment about how Idaho plays Georgia Southern in October), the Vandals are going to make the Gators their personal bowl game. And while I don’t think Idaho has anywhere near the talent to match up with Florida’s scout team for more than a drive or two, I didn’t think Georgia Southern could either… and look how that turned out. Remember, Georgia Southern, like Idaho, was ineligible for the postseason when they played Florida, giving them that extra motivation to make the perfect send off into the offseason.

Having said all that.. all of it… Idaho was 1-11 last year. Florida may have been bad, really bad, at 4-8, but 1-11 is a record that not even Rodney Dangerfield could respect. They promise to be little better this year with several holes to fill on defense.

Offensive breakdown

Returning Starters: 6

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 5.50.39 PMPaul Petrino appears to building from the ground up here, and it all starts with the Vandals’ QB position. Chad Chalich (16-of-27 for 306 yards) and Matt Linehan (30-of-46 for 373 yards) each drew praise from Petrino in their last scrimmage of the spring. It appears as if the job belongs to Chalich right now. Whoever wins the job will have a couple of decent weapons to work with. 2013 first team FBS Independent receiver Dezmon Epps and tailback Richard Mongtomery both impressed in that same scrimmage, and together were responsible for 287 yards.

But let’s keep things in perspective. That was a scrimmage, against their defensive teammates- many of who were responsible for Florida State dropping 80 on them a year ago. Those numbers mean nothing. Read on.

In their 12 games last year, the Gators put up a 18.8 points per game. That’s bad, certainly, but I’ve seen worse. Like Idaho. The Vandals had virtually no injuries compared to the mini Shands Hospital installed in the Gators’ locker room last year, and yet they only managed 18.2 points a game last year against a schedule that included Temple, Texas State, Wyoming, North Texas, Old Dominion and New Mexico State. That’s not even horrible, that’s just hilarious.

So Petrino can compliment anybody he wants, whether that’s his QB tandem, or his offensive line that returns four of five starters from a year ago. I’m not scared of this offense.

Offensive Grade: D+

And that’s being generous, though I am a bit wary of Epps or Montgomery breaking off a big gain if the Gators fall asleep on defense.

Defensive breakdown

Returning starters: 8

Idaho is going to have to replace a healthy percentage of its defensive production (term used very loosely) from last year. Strong safety Trey Williams and defensive end Quayshawn Buckley are gone, and they led the Vandals’ defense in picks and sacks, respectively. In the front seven, Idaho will return linebacker Marc Millan and defensive end Maxx Forde, who combined for 9.5 sacks last year. In the secondary, the Vandals will get their two safeties back (Bradley Njoku and Tom Hennessy), and Jayshawn Jordan, who had 77 tackles last year (which isn’t necessarily a good thing- remember, he’s a corner) will likely secure one of the corner positions that’s been left vacant. That’s not nearly enough production to merit calling this defense anything good. And again, when I say production, that term is used very, very loosely.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 5.53.13 PMIf such a thing as “a part of the Idaho Vandals football program worse than their offense” exists, it’s their defense. In all but two of Idaho’s twelve games last year, they surrendered 37 or more points, and in four of those games, gave up 59 or more. It all comes out to 47 points per game, which is more than Florida scored in their final three games of last season combined, and an equally embarrassing 528 yards per game, including 80 and 645, respectively to Florida State.

So yeah, this is going to be a pretty rough year for Idaho on defense.

Defensive Grade: 

F. Really, F- if such a grade was available. Idaho’s going to give up enough ground to form a new continent in this game alone.

Florida Key: Offense

It sounds generic, but: don’t do anything stupid. Should the Gators heed this piece of advice given by every Pop Warner coach, this game is over by halftime. Kurt Roper just has to establish Kelvin Taylor in the run game early to give this offensive line some confidence, get Jeff Driskel warmed up with some early swing passes, and the rest will work itself out naturally. Idaho turned it over 27 times last year, and three of those were taken back for touchdowns. Translation: they’re going to help Florida’s point total plenty.

Florida Key: Defense

Initiate Operation Kill Chalich the first time he takes a snap. Any good offense will crumble if the defense is able to consistently harass the quarterback. The only way to beat consistent pressure, other than having a good offensive line, is with quick passes to speedy receivers in space. But Florida’s defense is filled with sure tacklers, and if the Vandals want to try to pick up a guaranteed yard every play, Florida’s defense will happily give it to them. You need ten of them on four plays to be able to keep the ball, you know.

Key Matchup: Idaho Offensive Line vs. Florida front seven

If Idaho’s going to have a chance, they have to block for their QB. Have to. Florida’s defense is loaded with talented, hungry players who would kill for a highlight reel sack. Dante Fowler in particular will be looking to step into a leadership role, and all leaders must do so by example. If Chalich consistently gets three seconds to throw, Idaho’s got an ever so slight chance to win.

What Does This Game Mean?

Don’t worry, the tone of this section is going to change drastically when I start to preview the good teams.

As recently as a few weeks ago, I did not believe that Will Muschamp deserved to be Florida’s head coach (and yes, there’s still some lingering doubts). But now that the new season is here, I say it’s time to support the team- which means the coach- regardless of whether we wanted him fired last year or not, because it’s a new year. He may or may not find success in his fourth season in Gainesville, and he may or may not get fired this year. I am not going to state my prediction now, because there are eleven more games I have to preview.

But in any case, I know what’s coming right after this game, and I’m having none of it. Florida’s going to obliterate this Idaho team, and while Florida does have a generally smart fan base, there’s undoubtedly going to be a small percentage of the fan base who sees it as the rebirth of the program. Florida’s back. They crushed Idaho. Look at the new offense. This is the year Florida breaks through and gets to Atlanta. Etc.

Let me remind those of you who are going to say that… FOUR MONTHS IN ADVANCE… that this is IDAHO. You think 2013 Florida was bad? 2013 Idaho was exponentially worse. Picture last year’s Florida team, but with a defense that was even worse than its offense. This is essentially the exact same team, except now, what little production they did get on defense last year is gone.

To summarize all that: Florida can beat Idaho by 30 points, and probably will, but it means absolutely nothing more than not topping last year’s Georgia Southern debacle for the worst loss in program history. It does not mean the Gators are a national title contender, and suggesting that they are based off this game is downright stupid. And while 99% of what I write in general is tailored to the more intelligent part of Gator Nation, I know some fans will be going crazy over what’s probably going to be the largest margin of victory since Urban Meyer prowled the sidelines. Here’s your warning: don’t do it. Save it for if we beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Because while we’re all starved for a win of any kind, this one’s about the size of a sandwich to a starving man. It’s a good start. But good starts don’t constitute success. Good starts can be built off of, and can lead to success, but let’s see Florida finally raise a trophy before we declare Will Muschamp’s job safe, and his status that of folk hero.

Overview:

Want a prediction? Here: Florida’s going to have at least five different players account for a touchdown. Idaho’s offense is only slightly more competent than its defense, and lacks the firepower needed to give Florida’s strong defense much of a contest. Three or more different Gators will record a sack, and at least two more will pick off a pass. Oh, and I’m sure most of you thought you saw the last of Skylar Morninwheg? Well, no you haven’t. He’ll log some minutes in this game, and may even pick up a touchdown or two. That’s after Will Grier is done carving up this pitiful defense like a Thanksgiving turkey, which he’ll have plenty of chances to do since Driskel, Taylor, Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose and Ahmad Fulwood will be done by midway through the third quarter.

This is going to be a huge opportunity for (insert name of player here: ______) (and again: _______) (one more time: _______) and (sorry, last one: _______) to really break out. I structured that last sentence that way because trying to pick which Gator will break out is like picking a national championship winner in the preseason. You just don’t know. Will DeMarcus Robinson grow up and have a huge day? Maybe Bryan Cox is the one who wows the crowd? Or could it be Michael Taylor who has a monster game in his first game in a leadership position?

Point is, I don’t know. But I do know this. Florida’s going to win. Big.

Projection: Florida 45, Idaho 3

27 thoughts on “Florida Gators 2014 Football Game Previews: Idaho Vandals

  1. Anything to get our minds off that awful 2013 season!

    But really, thanks for this. No matter how bad Florida might be, football is far and away my favorite sport. I’m going through some serious withdrawal right about now, and this is the closest thing there is to a cure.

    I know Idaho sucks defensively, and I know that our offense is supposed to be much, much better with the up-tempo. But do you really think Florida can put 45 on them?

    1. No problem! Glad to see you enjoy it.

      I don’t think Florida’s offense is capable of putting up 45 points on its own this early in the season. But like I said, Idaho’s offense has a history of turning the ball over. FSU’s defense cashed in two picks for scores, and Ole Miss took back a fumble for six as well. This year’s Florida defense should at least be comparable to those two teams’ if not better. And even if Florida doesn’t directly turn a pick or a fumble into a touchdown by returning it all the way, Idaho’s bound to give them great field position by turning it over deep in their own end.

      Combine those two (remember how bad Idaho’s defense is) and yeah, I think Florida gets 45.

      1. Fair enough. It’s just that Florida’s incapable of putting up 45 without a ton of help from the other team. What South Carolina did two years ago was a major aberration. You can’t count on getting that kind of help in a preview done in April.

        1. But this offense is (supposed to be) better than that offense from 2012. And Idaho averaged more than two turnovers a game last year. Against a Florida defense eager to force them, I’m betting they’ll get several. I say four. And they all lead to scores.

  2. Excellent! I can’t wait for the season. Good thing you’re starting this early. How often will these pieces run?

  3. Great read as usual Neil, im supporting the team im just in I gotta see it to believe mode. 40 points for us would be a huge confidence builder that we really need. Something in me feels like Muschamp wouldn’t let us score that many points before he shuts Roper down.

    1. That’s pretty much exactly my feeling on Gator football. See it to believe it.

      But this Idaho defense is comically bad, and what little bright spots they had on it last year are gone now. Florida can generate 31 points with its offense (meaning driving 50+ yards to score) and the defense will force two turnovers that are either taken back for scores or give the Gators great field position. That’s how I come up with 45. I don’t think Muschamp is really against running up the score; he just hasn’t had many chances to do it because the offense has been so bad throughout his tenure. But I remember the late field goal against Florida Atlantic, too, and remember that FAU’s coach at the time was Howard Schnellenberger. Yup, the same Howard Schnellenberger who ordered a meaningless field goal to run it up against Florida when he was coaching Miami… 30 years ago.

      Trust me, if Florida CAN get 45, they WILL get 45.

  4. Don’t sleep on Treon Harris, he was born to run Roper’s offense. Roper plays at least two QBs and with Harris’ skill set he will definitely see the field. He’s going to have a package just for him.

    1. I doubt Harris sees the field this year unless a game gets way out of hand or Driskel and Grier both get injured.

    2. Sorry, just saw this comment now.

      Treon Harris will probably see the field some this year, but not in the first game of the season. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll beat out Skylar Morninwheg eventually, and maybe even Will Grier, but not before the first game of the season.

      You’re right about him, though. He’s a Russell Wilson type QB who could really do some damage once he gets his feet wet and learns the offense. I’m very excited to see the QB battle between him and Grier in the offseason leading up to 2016. I wouldn’t be upset with either guy as my starting QB once they get acclimated to the offense and the speed of college football.

  5. So you don’t think Idaho is any good, huh? 😉

    I don’t think Florida’s going to get 45 even with help from their defense, and I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed about. Florida’s got Alabama in their fourth game, and they’re not going to want to tip their hand to Nick Saban and his defense. Remember how Florida wore down Bowling Green a couple of years ago? Stacking the line and slamming Gillislee up the middle time and again?

    How many points do you think that type of clock killing offense is worth on a good day? 24? 28 maybe? Because that’s what Florida got against BGSU, 27. The only help from they got from the defense was a pick by Marcus Roberson on a tip drill that got taken back to midfield. That’s decent field position, but it wasn’t like Florida got to set up shop at BGSU’s goal line. Course, Frankie Hammond busted one loose right after, but that’s not the point.

    But let’s say Florida forces two turnovers that get cashed in for a touchdown and a field goal. Say Florida only generates 24 points on offense. That’s 34. I agree the defense will keep this from being a game, and I’m not saying Florida’s offense will be bad next year. They just won’t try to be particularly dazzling in this one. I say 34-7.

    1. Damn dude. All that to argue 34-7 against 45-3?

      Kidding. And you bring up a good point, albeit one that I don’t totally agree with. No, I don’t think Florida’s going to come out guns blazing with some wacky fun machine gun offense in the first game of the season, but I do think that Muschamp’s got a lot to prove this year, particularly with this hire of Kurt Roper. Look for less vanilla, and more firepower in this game, though I do think Florida will be holding something back for Alabama.

      1. Point taken.

        I just don’t hold out much hope for our offense this year. C’mon, even if Roper is the genius Muschamp thinks he is and not a bust like the last two OCs Gator fans were salivating over, you can’t just install a totally new type of offense and expect it to work in year one. Remember 2005? I know, it’s just a different tempo but it’s still something these players are not used to so it’s going to take time to master.

        Now, that said, I don’t think our season is going to be a lost cause, or that Muschamp is a dead coach walking. We’re still going to have a dynamic defense that’s probably worth eight wins on its own without the offense fucking it up. So don’t write me off as a negative nancy just because I don’t believe in the offense, or in Roper without having seen it in real live action. That point in time may come, but it’s not now because we haven’t played any games yet.

        1. I agree with you about Roper, though I do have a bit more confidence than you do. He did have success at Duke. OK, yes, most of the defenses he faced were terrible but Florida’s faced some bad defenses over the last few years and have done horribly as well. Let’s save the opponents argument for when there’s any type of comparable success between two coaches or teams. Florida’s offense has sucked ever since Muschamp came aboard. By “sucked”, I mean “finished outside the top 100 teams in the country.” At this point, I couldn’t care less if Florida put 50+ on a middle school girls’ team. I WANT TO SEE FIFTY POINTS. PERIOD.

          I think Roper will make the problem better. That’s not saying much, but the offense should be better this year than it’s been since 2010.

          1. I’m at a point with Gator football where everything has to be proven. I’m tired of words. Promises. Handshakes. Press conferences. Players only meetings. They’re all great, but let’s see some fucking results before we praise anybody for doing anything. Like I said in the original comment, I suppose it’s possible that our offense is good this year. But let’s see it.

  6. Idaho plays Georgia Southern in mid October 🙂

    Good stuff though. I don’t think Florida has too much going for them this year, but it’s always fun to hear what the Gator sites and writers have to say. Usually, it’s delusional nonsense, but still… I always believe in keeping my friends close, but my enemies closer, and, well, you know…

  7. Has Florida ever scored 45 under Will Muschamp? I know they got 44 against South Carolina a couple years back, but as far as I know, that’s the highest point total since Urban Meyer was still coaching.

      1. That was back when we still had Demps and Rainey. Since we lost the last of the really good Urban Meyer players, our high is 44- and of course that came with a TON of help.

  8. Thanks for bringing back football coverage. Florida 49, Idaho 7.

    On a different note, I finally get to wear my “Idaho? No, YOU da ho!” t shirt! I bought it a long time ago when I was visiting colleges, and took a trip to Boise State. They hate the Vandals for some reason even though they suck (same state, I guess).

  9. I think if we jump out early and have a good lead in the first half that this game will turn into practice for our back ups. If we go up by 20 expect to see our second and third string players. The first two games will be about establishing the offense and building depth. Even still I think Florida goes over 30 in both games and holds each opponent under 10. That’s good for me as long as the offense looks fluid and the depth gets progressed.

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