Gators Better Equipped To Handle Worldwide Attention This Time Around

When I worked at the sleepaway camp this summer, I met another instructor from England. So, to find some common ground I asked him if he liked sports, and he said football. Fine, I’m thinking, at least he likes sports, even though I don’t really like soccer. I asked him his favorite team, and he said the Cardinals.

I’m no English soccer fan, but I was pretty certain there is no team called the Cardinals. Seeing my confusion, he added, “Arizona”.

Sweet! So this guy likes American football. I asked him how many games he gets a year, and he said about three a week in the pros and two a week in college. Seeing my Gator t-shirt, he added, “Wow, you guys really got smacked if I remember right, to Alabama I think.”

And to make things worse, it was ESPNAmerica- which goes worldwide. It wasn’t just BBC or EuroSport; no, it was a global telecast. ESPNAmerica gets to pick the two best games of the weekend, which is usually the ABC Primetime and either a 3:30 ABC game or the CBS game, and then put them up all over Planet Earth. In this case, since it was primetime, Florida-Alabama was broadcast WORLDWIDE.

Well, how about that. It wasn’t just the entire nation Steve Addazio laid an egg for; no, it was THE ENTIRE FREAKING WORLD.

So let’s reiterate: in an attempt to broaden the worldwide appeal of American football, ESPNAmerica chose to put Florida-Alabama on worldwide TV. Since Florida was horrible last year, they embarrassed themselves in front of up to 6 billion people. Even if Chinese businessmen or Saudi Arabian spice traders didn’t know the first thing about football, they do know numbers and all they had to do was flip to ESPNAmerica, read the scoreboard, and see that Florida was losing BADLY.

But let’s put that whole ugly mess behind us, because this is a new year. The Gators were also 4-0 last year, (and ranked #7 coming into this game) but unlike 2010, this time around I believe the Gators are better equipped to actually look like a 4-0 team (and to make their #12 ranking look legitimate) in front of all of Earth.

How?

The first and most obvious thing the Gators corrected from last year was the offense. Addazio was horrendous throughout the season (really? Gee I didn’t know that) but like Tim Tebow to the negative one power, he was at his worst in big games. In pivotal games against Alabama, Mississippi State South Carolina and Florida State (the FSU game was also an ESPNAmerica worldwide selection, along with Alabama-Auburn and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, so thanks again, Stevio!) Addazio was absolutely blunderful, compiling a grand total of 27 points in four games.

This year, Charlie Weis has at least somewhat awaken John Brantley’s confidence in himself and has ressurected the offense to some degree. By no means is this a fearsome offense, but it’s not exactly the one Weis is really planning on using. He’s just using Rainey and Demps to the fullest until they graduate. But it does use one of Weis’ biggest pet peeves- creating mismatches and exploiting them time and again.

So the first difference is that we have a brain behind our offense, not a stick of celery.

The second big difference is kind of a subtopic but then it’s also not- John Brantley.

A year ago, Brantley was a mess, throwing timely interceptions, hitting wide open fans in the third row, and sulking, when he wasn’t playing shortstop and taking ground balls from Pouncey. But that was then.

He’s never going to be the Tom Brady gunslinger we all expected him to be, but that’s OK. He’s doing a great job in playing the game-manager role that Greg McElroy played two years ago at Alabama- and rode to a national championship. You know, hand the ball off, throw swing passes, and occasionally make a big play. Basically, if he makes one or two Tom Brady plays and does not turn the ball over, he’s done his job in that game. And to this point, he’s done that well.

The third major difference is the playmakers- or lack thereof.

The lack of playmakers making big plays a year ago was astonishing. To see a Florida Gators football team coached by Urban Meyer be so gun-shy was really incredible, for all the wrong reasons. This isn’t all Addazio’s fault, though, since Chris Rainey made a less then perfect and more than frightful decision, but some of it is. Why was Brantley throwing two yard hitch routes and running the option? Why was Jeff Demps running dive plays? Why was Emmanuel Moody running sweeps and tosses to the outside? Why was Deonte Thompson running 3 yard out patterns? Where was prized commit Mack Brown all year? Why did they never play aside from the end of a 38-14 blowout of South Florida? Why why why?

Back to here and now. To date, Demps has TD runs of 35, 21, 20, 84 and has multiple other runs of 20+. Chris Rainey has simply been phenomonal, highlighted by a blocked punt and an 83 yard catch and run TD. Mike Gillislee, who was also hidden by Addazio, has a 60 yard TD run and an 18 yard TD run. John Brantley has done his game manager job very well so far, getting these guys the ball and getting out of the way.

And the final difference is the defense.

It wasn’t quite as obvious as the offensive deficiencies, but the defense failed to generate anything even resembling a pass rush the entire year. Teryl Austin’s unit did snag a lot of picks but also got burned deep a bunch of times, and absolutely could not stop the run to save their lives.

This year, the secondary has struggled some, drawing a barrage of pass interference calls and only picking off four passes through four games, but the front 7 has been dynamite. It’s almost as if the front 7 and secondary swapped; now the front 7 will have to pick up the defensive backs. But the secondary is really young; Matt Elam is a sophomore, Josh Evans is a sophomore, Marcus Roberson is a freshman and Pop Saunders is a freshman as well. The front 7 isn’t exactly veteran, but this is for the most part the same unit that took the field last year, so they do have a year of experience. So this is a baby waiting to grow into a monster.

So: are the Gators equipped to deal with the big stakes this time around, in the Swamp, with the guy that knows Nick Saban better than anybody in the world, with a much improved team?

I say yes.

But time will have the final say.

More specifically, the time between 8:05pm to about 11:30pm will have the final say.

11 thoughts on “Gators Better Equipped To Handle Worldwide Attention This Time Around

  1. This isn’t the same Gator squad that Bama faced last year. They’re gonna have a whale of a fight on their hands.

  2. Exactly. The QB this year is going to be a stationary target in the pocket all the time, instead of running draws and options.

  3. Styles make fights and all that, but I look at UK’s pressure and think “what the hell is going to happen when Bama and LSU show up ?

  4. I think he just wants Brantley to look as bad as possible so he can have something to rub in our noses

  5. LMAO

    Wow, man.

    Driskel isn’t ready for THIS year. Getting him ready for NEXT year means taking the lumps THIS tear.

    I’ll try one more time. Florida is not winning fuck all this year. Brantley is gone. One of the kids should be playing NOW, taking the lumps NOW, so he’s not doing his OJT next year with a battle hardened team waiting for him to catch up.

  6. Not gonna start this argument with you again, but putting Driskel in now is just stupid, like your ideas to put him in. Like you said, if he has “IT” like you talk about, he can take his lumps next year with the cupcakes we start with. Right now, NO ONE BUT YOU, is ok with losing. JB is our best chance to win and has shown promise as at least a good game manager. His biggest test will be this game, I think we can win and hope we do, mainly b/c I want the swamp to have that “tough environment” fear to return to teams.

  7. Who said anything about losing ?

    I said take lumps. You’re the one talking about losing.

    Not much faith in Weis ?

  8. I was with Coach but when I thought Brantley was hurt I got very nervous and when Driskel stepped in and stunk it up my heart dropped into my stomach. We need Brantley we can take our lumps next year.

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