I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I don’t think Florida has much of a chance in this game.
Oh, they won’t get embarrassed, they won’t get sledgehammered like they did the last two weeks, but they won’t win.
Not like this.
Face it, Gator fans, Florida is a young, talented but sometimes downright stupid football teams. They’re little boys against men in the trenches, and commit the dumbest of penalties at the worst times imaginable. This team has me screaming at the TV even more than last year because the penalties are just so pointless yet so detrimental to the team.
Will they return to the top? Can Muschamp bring them back to glory? Sure. But first, we’re going to have to endure another 2010 type season, and this week is Mississippi State. This has an eerily similar feel: two losses to Alabama and LSU and then a major dropoff in talent….
But they haven’t lost yet. It hasn’t become official yet. So: how can Florida pull the upset?
I swear on my love for Tim Tebow, the first stupid penalty the Gators commit and I will turn my back and root for Auburn to mercilessly smash the Gators into sawdust. They would absolutely deserve it. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before a penalty directly costs this team a game, and Muschamp lights into his team for a loss with penalties as the main factor and forces them to get it straightened out. A third straight manhandling could do some good long term and we’ll find out how Muschamp handles his favorite problem, adversity as a head coach.
Florida is the worst in the country in the penalties department and with Muschamp coaching as aggressively as he does, expect more for late hits and pass interferences. I don’t like those at all, make no mistake. I like procedural penalties even less because they are completely avoidable. If Florida wants any chance whatsoever, they must turn the lights out on the penalties.
Invade Auburn’s backfield
Lost in the Gators’ blowout in Baton Rouge was the fact that this was actually an improvement over the week before. The Gators did make a few nice stops. The only problem was, they didn’t make enough of them. Auburn’s offensive line is much weaker than LSU’s and Alabama’s but Mike Dyer is even better than Spencer Ware and very close to Trent Richardson’s level.
Not giving him any room to run is going to hurt his chances of a big gain, and it’s what Florida must do to win. At the same time, getting into the backfield also means that Barrett Trotter will not have adequate breathing room to throw. A strip-sack could instantly change the momentum in this game, and maybe even be the difference.
Make open field tackles
This wasn’t as glaring of an issue for Florida but it’s something they simply must do if they want to win. One broken tackle can be the difference between a 20 yard run and a 75 yard run. Especially with guys like Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb that are very slippery.
This can also be translated as simply “make tackles”. Don’t go for the gigantic hit, just wrap up and bring the ball carrier down and if you have enough help from your buddies then go for the strip. Just bring guys down, however you can. I know that’s a foreign concept for this young defense that’s used to laying Major Wright type hits on every play but they have to stay focused.
Better blocking up front
I’ll be frank. I can’t remember ever seeing the Gators do a worse job of blocking in a long time. Not even under Addazio was the offensive line this awful. At least they picked up a blitz here and there. This offense is more explosive since Charlie Weis has a brain and Addazio does not and knows to get his guys open in one on one matchups.
Problem is, if there’s no blocking, it doesn’t matter how explosive the offense is, it will never get started. This is magnified in importance because we will be starting a true freshman at QB- the o-line better block or the offense will go nowhere. The good news is, this isn’t LSU’s defense, or Alabama’s. It’s not even a Nick Fairley led defense. It’s a so-so defense.
Special Teams must be special
Blocked kicks are the most beautiful thing in my world since I work with special teams, but I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about kickoff and punt coverage and kick/punt return teams. The return game been pedestrian even since Demps got hurt against Alabama. Here’s a clue. Use Mike Gillislee more. He nearly took one to the house against Miami Ohio last year, and has not really returned kicks since then.
But what’s even more important is to diffuse the big return for Auburn before it even gets started. Use all the speed guys to get down there and drop the return man before he reaches the 25. As for punts, David Lerner isn’t doing a bad job, but his rugby kicks are tricky. If the coverage doesn’t hightail it downfield, a punt return TD could be in the works.
Get off to a great start
Auburn’s composure in tight games is frightening considering this is not the same team from a year ago. They remain eerily calm in the fourth quarter and it actually makes me wonder just how old they are. To put it simply, the Tigers win close games with scary ease. An easy way to avoid a situation like this is to blow the game open early. Come out with the intensity Muschamp is so fond of showing, and score a few big touchdowns.
I am willing to bet, if Florida wins the first half by 20 or more points, they will not lose. Auburn is not equipped to pull off such a huge comeback against a team that employs Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, Andre Debose and numerous other speedsters. They cannot do much more than trade scores since their defense is not very good (to put it mildly) and cannot hold up their end.
Set up the one on ones
Don’t be discouraged by the Gators’ inability to get Rainey and Demps in space, that was against Alabama and LSU and the blocking was horrendous against a great front 7 in each case. Auburn’s defense is, again, frighteningly inept, and that’s just the tonic for Charlie Weis and this once explosive offense. If Rainey and Demps each have a game like they did in their first four games, the Gators will not lose.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, but Florida’s offense is better than they’ve shown. Auburn is a team waiting to get a big number hung on them… Florida can be that team if they exploit the holes in their defense.
Auburn doesn’t lose close games at home, simple. And Florida will not blow the Tigers out. I’m disgusted with the Gators, not because they lost their last two games, but because they make so many dumb penalties. I hope this team will grow up and cut them out, and while they’re at it, man up in the trenches.
The Florida Gators will be back and eventually contend for the national championship. In 2012. Which is not this year. Just endure another aggravating season, including another 3 game losing streak, and the goods will come.
Auburn 28, Florida 13.